There’s a long list of benefits for switching to plant-based alternatives, so it’s no wonder this market is a rapidly growing industry.
The dairy industry has undeniable repercussions to both our animals and our planet. A report from the NSW Parliament states that the dairy industry is highly damaging to the environment due to land clearing, water usage, and greenhouse gas emissions. Supporting this, a study published by the University of Oxford found that dairy milk produces almost three times the amount of greenhouse gas emissions compared to non-dairy milks. When we think of greenhouse gas emissions, we often visualise factories billowing out smoke, or cars and trucks releasing clouds of dirty fumes. So it may be surprising to learn that the livestock sector actually produces more greenhouse gas emissions than transport, as reported by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation.
When you walk down the milk aisle at your local grocer, you’ll probably see cartons of milk plastered with images of happy cows wandering in fields of lush grass. The sad reality is, these images could not be further from the truth of what really happens on dairy farms. Just one tragedy that occurs as a result of dairy farms is the slaughter of calves. Newborn calves are usually separated from their mothers within hours or days of their birth, and most of the time they are considered to be a surplus by the dairy industry. These newborn calves are referred to as “bobby calves”. Because bobby calves are considered to be a waste product by dairy farms, hundreds of thousands of calves are slaughtered in Australia each year.
So how can you help? Aside from supporting animal welfare organisations, one way you can live a more sustainable, cruelty-free lifestyle is by switching to plant-based milks. “But dairy milk has the most nutrients!” Everyone’s dietary needs are different, but if you’re worried about not getting enough calcium or vitamins with dairy alternatives, there are plenty of plant-based milk products out there with enough nutrients to satisfy your needs. It’s common for dairy-free milk brands to add extra nutrients to their products. For example, many plant-based milk products include fortified calcium, vitamin D, and vitamin A, while some plant-based milk products have similar naturally occurring nutrients found in dairy milk. So which plant-based milk is best for you? To help you find out, here’s our summary of the most popular dairy-free milk options.
Many people agree that soy milk is the most nutritionally similar plant-based milk to dairy milk. Soy milk contains a comparable amount of protein as dairy milk. On average, there is 3.4g of protein per 100ml of soy milk, while cow’s milk contains around 3.5g of protein per 100ml. Many manufacturers of soy milk also fortify their milk with calcium and vitamins.
In terms of water conservation, soy milk requires the least amount of water to be produced compared to the other popular milk options.
Almond milk is one of the most common plant-based milks on the market. It is much lower in calories than milk from cows, where one cup of unsweetened almond milk contains around 20-50 calories, versus 146 calories in a cup of cow’s milk. Additionally, almond milk is typically higher in vitamin E than most other milks.
Almond milk has one of the lowest carbon footprints of all milk options. However, it is also worth noting that producing almond milk requires significantly more water than other dairy alternative milks, but still less water than milk from cows.
Oat milk has emerged as a trendy alternative to dairy milk. It can be a great source of vitamins and minerals, and is particularly known for its amount of fibre. Oat milk is also typically fortified with vitamin B12, vitamin D, vitamin A, and calcium.
Similarly to soy milk, oat milk requires a tiny fraction of water to be produced compared to dairy milk. Oats are also considered a low-input crop, meaning that it can reduce soil erosion and lower the risk of plant diseases in their crop.
Coconut milk is a popular milk alternative for people with food allergies, as it is naturally free of soy and gluten. For those looking to avoid carbohydrates, coconut milk is a great option as it contains less carbs than nut or grain-based milks, while being higher in fats.
Coconut farming has a much lower impact on the land than dairy farming, partly because it requires planting trees to produce coconuts, rather than having to deforest trees.
When there are so many accessible dairy alternatives available, making the switch to vegan milk products has never been easier. To find out more about how ‘Til The Cows Come Home is saving unwanted calves, read our article about “Why we have so many calves coming into our care.”