As a dairy farmer, you know the hard work that goes into making that gallon of milk in the grocery store dairy case. Wholesome and nutritious, that gallon of milk represents the culmination of generations of hard work expanding and growing the family business. Milk is what your life revolves around: milking the cows, working the fields, caring for the animals. So, as members of the dairy industry, we take that word “milk” seriously.
However, many manufacturers have sold their integrity to cash in on the latest dietary craze of fake “milk.” These manufacturers know their product lacks the nutrition, consistency and wholesomeness of milk. A small amount of nut paste can be mixed with water, fortified and sold for far more than a gallon of milk. However, this lack of integrity is killing the American dairy industry and posing a risk to public health.
Nut juice is not milk
Milk provides 30 percent of the daily recommended calcium intake for most of the U.S. population and is the primary source of three of the four under-consumed nutrients of public health concern, as identified by the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Furthermore, milk contains 8 grams of complete, natural protein per 8-ounce serving. While plant-based alternative products often fortify their beverages to appear more nutritionally sound, the bioavailability of fortified nutrients is not equal to those that occur naturally. Bottom line: Our bodies know the difference between naturally nutritious, wholesome dairy milk versus plant-based beverages containing a slew of additives, gums and flavorings.
How do we fix this?
If you are a member of the dairy industry, you know the problem. But how do we fix it? The answer to this is, first, we decide we are no longer going to stand for the clear mislabeling of products.
The FDA has in place federal standards of identity for all the various products that sit on the grocery store shelves. These are in place to help consumers understand what they are buying simply by the name it bears. You can’t call an orange an apple, for instance. However, despite the clear definition that milk must come from a lactating cow, the FDA has allowed manufacturers to call any sort of fluid that resembles milk “milk.”
Push back on the FDA
It’s time to let our legislators know this mislabeling is putting family farms out of business. It is making it harder for consumers to determine which products best meet their dietary needs. It is allowing product manufacturers to put profit above integrity. Ask your legislator to demand the FDA put an end to nondairy alternatives being allowed to brand their products as milk.
On behalf of the American Dairy Coalition, and the 30,000 producers we represent across the nation, we are asking the FDA to immediately ensure consumers can quickly, clearly and accurately compare and contrast the nutritional content of the products they choose to feed their families. Plant-based alternatives are not milk and cannot be used as a replacement for milk in the American diet in order to yield the same fulfillment of dietary needs.
Learn more and help the cause
To learn more about how you can help, to find talking points to discuss this topic with your legislators and to donate towards the American Dairy Coalition’s Protecting Milk Integrity Initiative, we welcome you to visit our website.
Laurie Fischer is president of the American Dairy Coalition. Email Laurie Fischer.