In an article written on MicMedia by Melissa Kravitz this September, she argues that Soy Milk’s nutritional and environmental profile is misleading and that alternative milk is “ruining the world”. From first reading I can understand why so many people would immediately believe what they are reading with a number of facts and numbers she states throughout her writing, however, I decided to dig deeper. I have been drinking alternative milk besides that from a Dairy Cow or other animal not only because I’m a vegan, but simply because I didn’t enjoy the taste or feeling Cow’s milk gave my body. The writing below are the facts from credited sources that I was able to find and prove this biased article wrong.
While commercially made almond milk can be environmentally troubling when you consider the amount of strained pulp being taken from the actual liquid, she never combats any other source of plant-based milk including soy milk that is available to purchase instead. Soybeans are abundant in the United States with a record high of 3.93 billion bushels in 2015 alone, as shown in the 2015 crop production summary created by the USDA. With this comes the sustainability of its production and processing which includes soaking the beans for a minimum of three hours based on the temperature of the water then wet grinding with certain amounts of water until the consistency is like cow’s milk; the water to bean ratio is approx.10:1. After this, the mixture is brought to a boil in order to improve its nutritional values. This is done by heat inactivating soybean trypsin inhibitors that would otherwise reduce your biological activity of Trypsin, an enzyme involved in the breakdown of different proteins. This basically means that without heating the mixture, you would not absorb the nutrients of the soybean as efficiently because certain natural and even some synthetic anti-nutrients interfere with the absorption of nutrients in your digestive tract.
The ecological impact of soy milk could be advantageous due to a number of soybeans that could be grown using the land that dairy cows take up a large amount of energy farmers must put into their work. It takes approximately 49.4 Gallons (gal.) of water to create one gallon of soy milk, whereas 24-48 gals. are drank by a singular cow per day only producing an average of 10 gals per day. The difference of having to purchase 53 lbs of dry feed and that amount of water for one cow each day versus the inexpensive soybean production is vast. In addition, soybeans also replenish the nitrogen content within the soil in which they are grown adding to the benefits of soybean production. Finally, environmentally farming in other countries is a widespread problem as proven by the USDA: they state that by the “rule-of-thumbs” that one cow, to feed naturally by a pasture, needs around 1.8 acres. This acreage is being plowed down by the industries in parts of South America, parts of Indonesia, and other parts of Asia which causes deforestation to important ecosystems. For example, 70% of the deforestation (As shown above) of the rainforest alone can be traced back to cattle farming says OneGreenPlanet, using this knowledge they calculated that the resulted loss of land is the approximate size of Washington state.
Healthwise, the majority of vegan milk brands both factory made and homemade carries benefits that cow’s milk lacks and disposes of any unwanted consequences. I used the nutritional facts given off the backs of three different types of milk: 2% reduced cow’s milk, unsweetened almond milk, and unsweetened soy milk. Based off the facts being compared in the graph below, Kravitz idea that almond milk “doesn’t do the body much good” is correct when compared to other “nut milk” while it still has some small benefits that surpass those of cow’s milk. Using the graph below, compare the information from the photos given in the cited sources and then read on.
|(Un. = Unsweetened)||Protein||Sugars||Cholesterol||Fat||Sodium||Calcium||Other Vitamins/Nutrients|
|Un. Silk Soy Milk||8g||6g||0mg||4.5g||95mg||45%||Vitamin B12: 50% D: 30% A: 10% C:0%, Calcium: 45%, Iron: 6%, Magnesium: 15%, Phosphorus: 25%, Folate 15%|
|Un. Silk Almond Milk||1g||7g||omg||2.5g||160mg||45%||Vitamin A: 10% D: 25% E: 20%
C: 0%, Iron 2%, Magnesium: 4%, Riboflavin: 4%
|2% Reduced fat Cow’s Milk. (Via Local Fred Meyer store)||8g||11g||20mg||5g||120mg||30%||Vitamin A: 10% C: 4% D: 25%, Iron: 0%|
*Nutritional facts may vary based on nut milk and dairy brands being used, always check nutrition facts and even compare!. The cow’s milk is a store brand based in WA state; the “nut milks” are a widely-used brand called Silk.
Obviously, what can be seen from the above graph is the fact that-out of these three-Silk Soy milk contains the least amount of undesirable factors and is abundant in other added nutrients. While almond milk is lower is some factors versus the cow’s milk, it does not specifically win when based off of previously given data and knowledge. The biggest drawback from dairy, in this perspective is the cholesterol, lower calcium percentage, and low amount of varied nutrients. These same nutritional facts from the Silk brand can be found on their website or on their products. While soy milk has problems with high levels of Phytic acid which reduces the absorption of minerals, this product is not and should not be the only amount of calcium within your diet. A balanced diet can create the same and somewhat healthier lifestyle for the majority of people.
Based off all the information given and found through the cited sources, I can personally agree with Kravitz on one specific line in her article: “…you’re better off making your own almond milk.”. This is because many brands that process almond milk and various other nut milk use methods that can leave the drink heavily varied in the actual amount of the nut being used. While it is easier to simply buy the product from the shelves, for anyone looking for an even healthier alternative to both cow’s milk and processed nut milk, substitute for making your own. This will assure you on a number of certain ingredients you are putting into this drink. As always, you health-conscious or simply curious folks out there should research and find what drinks best suit you. You have so many choices other than the not-as-healthy cow’s milk that harms millions of cows each year.
Finally, a look at the horrific scenes and facts of the dairy industry. Like all mammals, cows must give birth in order to produce milk and, like human mothers, they carry their young for nine months, then begin to lactate to nourish their young. Due to genetic manipulation, dairy cows today produce up to 12 times more milk then they would naturally produce to feed their young. Once the calf is born they are virtually stolen from their mothers in a matter of fact, 97% of newborn dairy calves are forcibly taken from their mothers within the first 12 hours of birth. The time these calves are removed is even sooner on so-called “humane dairy farms’ where the separation occurs within the first hour of birth because this is considered “less stressful”. Male calves are considered useless to the industry and are slaughtered for veal, while female calves with either join their mother’s fate in being used for dairy or will also be sent to a veal farm for 2 – 3 months. These veal calves will be confined to lonely hutches (Shown at right: Organic & Humane Veal Farm in Washington State) where they are fed a milk-replacer formula. Females are trapped within a cycle of forced impregnation to keep milk production high, but many begin producing less milk at the age of 4 – 5 years. At this point, they will be sent to slaughter where they will be put through even more gruesome scenes, despite the fact that in natural conditions these cows could live to be 20 – 25 years of age.
Some will not even be able to make it to slaughter as their worn-out bodies give and they collapse within their stall, these cows are named “downers” by the industry. Before this time appears, United States owned dairy cows are confined within primarily indoors operations where more than 50% are tethered by the neck to a stall. In these stalls, they are unable to perform even the most simple and natural behaviors essential to their social development and overall well-being. The cost of milk is not based off money but should be based on the 9 million dairy cows in the U.S. alone that will be sent to slaughter each year. If not environmentally or health-wise, will you base off of ethics for the millions of dairy cows alone that die each year for humans to consume their breast-milk? You can make the compassionate, environmentally-friendly, and healthy choice today by keeping dairy products off your plate and replacing them with vegan dairy choices.
- 2%Reduced Fat Cow’s Milk Nutritional Facts – Fred Meyer, www.Kroger.com