Desperate Dairy Industry Tries to Win Back Customers With Semantics

Published by Alisa Mullins.

If almond milk were called “almond beverage,” would you still buy it? Of course, you would. But the dairy industry, in a desperate bid to reverse nosediving sales, is appealing to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to ban almond, soy, and other plant-based milk from using the term “milk” on their labels, because it believes that they don’t adhere to the FDA’s current “standard of identity” for milk.

We think the real milk dud is dairy, and we’ve responded by urging the FDA to expand its archaic definition to include beverages made from almonds, cashews, coconuts, hemp, rice, soy, and other plant-based ingredients, which are known as “milk” all over the world.

We’re also reminding the agency that milk obtained from cows with mastitis (udder infections) and other illnesses commonly found on dairy factory farms shouldn’t be called “milk” under the existing definition, either. Government regulations currently allow pus from infected cows in every jug of cow’s milk.

In our letter to FDA Commissioner Robert Califf, we pointed out that not only are people not confusing plant-based milks with milk from cows, they are also purposely choosing these items over dairy products for a variety of reasons:

Given the increased global demand from people who suffer from dairy allergies and lactose intolerance as well as those concerned about their health, the environment, and animal welfare, it’s no surprise that nondairy products are flying off the shelves. . . . Consumers have spoken, and there are many reasons why ever more people are ditching dairy milk in favor of healthy, humane plant-based milks.

While low prices and even lower demand have prompted the dairy industry to grasp at straws, plant-based milks now represent a booming $1.3 billion industry. Forcing plant-based milk brands to change their labels just to help the failing milk industry does a great disservice to U.S. soybean and nut farmers. Dairy farmers facing a loss of customers should consider converting to plant-based operations instead, as some already have.

What You Can Do

There is a huge variety of nondairy products available, making it easier than ever to choose nut milk, not cow’s milk. Need help breaking your addiction to cheese?

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 Ingrid E. Newkirk

“Almost all of us grew up eating meat, wearing leather, and going to circuses and zoos. We never considered the impact of these actions on the animals involved. For whatever reason, you are now asking the question: Why should animals have rights?” READ MORE

— Ingrid E. Newkirk, PETA President and co-author of Animalkind