Big Dairy Attacks Alternative Milk

dairy milkSomeone’s a little defensive.

Big Dairy has unleashed a new ad campaign as a blatant attack on its newest competitors: non-dairy milk. Joining the ranks of Coke vs. Pepsi, the “Real Milk Comes From Cows” campaign is laden with language aimed at showing consumers how terrible milk substitutes are for them. Brought to you by The California Milk Processor Board, the ads lined up several milk alternatives next to “real” milk, with labels highlighting the ingredients of each.

"Real Milk Comes From Cows" ad, from

What comes out on top? According to the campaign, milk from a cow is the clear winner, with not a blemish on its bottle. The ad indicts coconut milk, hazelnut milk, almond milk and soy milk for having less than honest ingredients like:

  • Carrageenan – a seaweed extract found in some commercial non-dairy milk (and some good old fashioned cow’s milk, too).
  • Carob bean gum, guar gum, and xanthan gum – Carob bean and guar gums are made from “dehusking and milling” each bean into a powder. Xanthan gum “is the end result of sugar fermentation,” according to

Coupled with adjectives like “spooky” or “funky,” these ads make milk alternatives out to be pretty terrible for consumers; the ads resort to comparisons of color and texture to make sure everyone knows these aren’t the real thing. But, do you know what is the real thing?

Certainly not the plain jar that is pictured., who originally wrote about the ads, points out the milk portrayed is skim. Milk alternatives aside, “real milk” definitely doesn’t look like skim, and in fact, will probably not look “milky white” at all, but will instead have an inconsistent texture and color, with a creamy film rising to the top. Interesting, since non-dairy milk is supposed to be bad if you have to shake it or stir it.

Additionally, despite what the ads want us to think, real milk is not the norm at your local grocery store. Today’s real milk, that is the homogenized, processed stuff that comes out of a CAFO rather than an organic dairy cow, has its own secret ingredient list which doesn’t even have to be included on a nutritional fact label.

The cows which produce most of the milk sold in America are not happy cows. They are genetically engineered and pumped full of antibiotics and hormones. A cow from a few decades ago would typically produce two or three gallons of milk per day. Now, cows are forced to produce three or four times that amount.

This high output is achieved by the use of growth hormones to “help” cows achieve their marathon quotas. When cows’ bodies get overworked and they get ill, disease prone because they are weak, antibiotics are administered to push them along. Because this is the industry standard, antibiotics are often preventively given before signs of illness, which some worry is leading to antibiotic resistance in humans.

Concerns are also forming regarding the side effects of bovine growth hormones on humans and the potential for cancer. Other studies suggest additional counterintuitive problems associated with milk, like osteoporosis, high fat content, lactose intolerance and contaminants like pesticides. The pasteurization of milk also destroys necessary enzymes.

Last year, The New York Times even began writing about these issues, which were previously relegated to niche vegan or sustainability sites. As it turns out, the FDA is worried there might be illegal levels of antibiotics found in our milk and meat. Guess that explains the new ad campaign by the dairy industry. Whoops.

As for those aforementioned “bad” ingredients found in milk alternatives? No big deal. You can make your own non-dairy milk at home from almonds or coconuts and a good blender (or a Vitamix!) But for store bought versions, if you’re really worried, just read the labels and research the brands.


Image Credit: Flickr Creative Commons, Muffet

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