According to climate change scientists, US citizens need to cut milk by 60% to prevent global heating changes. One alternative to dairy milk is plant-based milks like soy beans, cashew or oats. Predictably, the dairy lobby is pushing back against the increasing acceptability of plant milks.

The dairy lobby is demanding that milk alternatives cannot be called “milk”. According to them, real milk is defined as the “lacteal secretion of a healthy, hooved mammal”. This has given rise to questions on whether we should rename peanut butter (as it contains no butter) or whether breast milk can be accepted.

Read the full article on The Guardian: You’re drinking what? Dairy lobby fights back with a new definition of the word ‘milk’


Is this a legitimate concern over the proper use of “milk” or a case of corporate shenanigans? The fact that there is an exception that accepts breast milk as “real milk” suggests that this is not about the proper use of words but about the industry trying to set up protectionist barriers against plant-based alternatives. In this case, it would not appear to be reasonable for lawmakers to agree that it is unlawful for alternative milks to pass off as real milk.

Even if plant-based alternatives cannot be called “milk”, would this really affect the popularity of these alternative forms of milk? The various plant-based milks would have to be rebranded – maybe “mylk”? However, for the consumers who are increasingly moving towards these plant-based choices for environmental and health reasons, they would still not turn towards dairy milk.

Might there be other ways for the dairy lobby to promote milk instead of bringing down plant alternatives? Or perhaps it is time for them to accept the decreased demand for dairy milk from consumers.

Questions for further personal evaluation: 

  1. Do you think banning alternative milks from being called “milk” would affect its popularity? Why or why not? What are the likely consequences?
  2. Why do you think plant-based alternative milks have grown in popularity in recent years? Explain.

Useful vocabulary: 

  1. ‘lobby’: a group of people seeking to influence legislators on a particular issue
  2. ‘shenanigans’: secret or dishonest activity or manoeuvring