The government — after spending untold hundreds of thousands of dollars — has determined most of us aren’t so stupid we can’t tell that milk derived from almonds is not the same as milk derived from dairy cows.
The Food and Drug Administration avoided handing down a Solomon-type judgment in the ongoing feud between milk producers and almond growers about what constitutes milk.
The FDA decided plant-based milk — it includes soybeans, oats and such besides almonds — can continue to be labeled as “milk”.
This didn’t exactly please the National Milk Producers Federation.
But they did gain a win with the FDA proposal that labels of plant-based milk should explain how they are different from cow’s milk.
Both sides now need to bury the hatchet and work for the common good in messaging.
There is a real existential threat that must be addressed.
Agriculture is in the crosshairs of myopic narratives when it comes to the environment.
It is why crying over who gets the spoils of calling their product milk is counterproductive to the common good of farmers.
And it’s not just for the common good of farmers.
It’s also not healthy for the common good of Californians, Americans and the rest of the world.
The threat is the narrative being advanced by green scares being shouted in silos that don’t connect what almonds and dairy cows — or farming in general — means to everyone’s health and the future of the human race.
Two of those narrative centers around water and greenhouse gases.
Let’s talk about almonds first.
Assume that the California Water Impact Network is correct and that almonds grown in California uses roughly the same amount of water as is used indoors statewide.
The California Almond Board and University of California researchers note water used to grow a pound of almonds has declined 33 percent over the years and continues to go down as micro-irrigation and other cutting edge technology are deployed.
At the same time, we are told it takes significantly more water to produce the same amount of almond milk as it does cow’s milk.
Here’s where a caveat has to be added.
The almonds as a bad source of “milk” based on a gallon by gallon comparison pushed by silo greenies has the implied blessing of milk producers.
But almonds in their purest form — as nuts — are a big source of easily consumed protein.
Cows drink a lot of water.
Almonds use a lot of water.
It takes a lot of water to grow what 331.9 million Americans and 8 billion people worldwide eat.
Based on an analysis by the Public Policy Institute of California, 50 percent of the state’s water is used for the environmental, 40 percent agricultural, and 10 percent urban.
Yes, California exports a lot of almonds and other food. But we also import a lot of food from around the globe.
To cut off water to California farms because they export food to other nations or states and then import more to make up for any shortfalls is a surefire way to weaken global food security as well as American food security. It would also send food prices up and food quality down.
It takes a lot of fossil fuel to move crops from Chile et al on ships or on planes. It isn’t cheap and it isn’t farm fresh or close to it.
Now let’s look at why a specific group of greenies believe dairy cows are Public Enemy No. 2 — after fossil fuels — when it comes to greenhouse gases even though they are by more intense breakdowns Public Enemy No. 1.
While the volume of methane dairy cows et al produce — according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization — is smaller than the carbon dioxide from fossil fuels, the methane molecule for molecule has over 20 times the global warming potential of fossil fuels.
As such, livestock — cattle, sheep and such generates 18 percent of overall greenhouse gas emission measured in CO2 equivalents. That’s more than from all of the autos, trains, ships and aircraft in the world combined.
Dairy cows don’t create oxygen, almond trees do. Better yet, almond trees take CO2 out of the air.
To hammer this point home are the folks on the other side of the fence of the “milk naming war” — the non-profit Good Food Institute think tank that advocates alternative foods.
To quote Madeline Cohen — she’s a regulatory attorney with the think tank —“If the U.S. is serious about meeting its climate commitments, imposing arbitrary regulatory hurdles the disadvantage the plant-based dairy industry is the last thing the FDA should be doing.”
And in case you haven’t figured it out she’s referencing the “significant amount” of methane dairy cows release into the air.
If we listen to narratives pursued by specific-interest greenies, it is essential we pull the plug on cow dairies as well as any crop that consume water that could better be used to protect fish or hose down sidewalks in Huntington Beach.
The battle between the “real” dairy industry and the plant-based dairy industry is over market share.
In 2021 plant-based dairy products increased the share of the dairy market to 16 percent, to reach $74 billion. Almond milk accounted for 59 percent of alterative milk products.
The war, though, is between agriculture and a wide variety of segregated green activists that want to wage battles in silos.
As such they can hammer away at the bogeyman agricultural sector of their choice to pursue greenhouse gas goals, water use goals, or other environmental goals without having to worry about the inconvenient truth that everything when it comes to the water and environment is interconnected.
We have to breathe.
We have to eat.
We have to flush toilets.
The agricultural sector must not fall into the divide and conquer trap that issue-specific greenies have laid. They not only are a threat to farming but an even bigger threat to the health of California as well as the nation.
Yes, cow’s milk can trace its first consumption by humans back 6,000 or so years.
Yes, almond milk is a Johnny-come-lately, given it has only been been dated back to a 13th century Baghdadi cookbook
But instead of squabbling over which one is “real” milk or even if both deserve to be labeled as “milk”, maybe agricultural interests should urge end processors of products that consumers use to voluntarily print three words prominently on their labels
Water = Food = Life.
This column is the opinion of editor, Dennis Wyatt, and does not necessarily represent the opinions of The Bulletin or 209 Multimedia. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org