The fight over defining soy and almond milk

Citizens are learning about the myriad abuses of industrialized animal agriculture, and they are seeking hea...

Posted: Oct 23, 2018 2:07 PM
Updated: Oct 23, 2018 2:07 PM

Citizens are learning about the myriad abuses of industrialized animal agriculture, and they are seeking healthier and more responsible alternatives. As a result, the demand for plant-based foods to replace meat, dairy and eggs is growing, which has agribusiness profiteers worried. Factory-farm lobbyists are pushing for new laws and regulations to slow down these emerging competitors, including efforts to control how words such as "milk" and "meat" can be used.

The dairy industry wants to prevent nondairy milks from being marketed as "milk," and has introduced federal legislation to ban using the word "milk" except to label "lacteal secretions." Industry operatives and lobbyists want to counteract declining sales by regulating marketing labels and speciously argue that people are confused by the word "milk" on packages of nondairy products. In fact, labels that specify the source of milk, such as "soy milk" or "almond milk," are more descriptive and clear, as they indicate the source of products, which are used in many of the same contexts as dairy milk. Consumers are not likely to be confused.

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Milk is produced by different mammals, including cows and goats, and from plants, including a wide range of nuts, seeds, grains and legumes. If agribusiness is truly concerned about accurate labeling and transparency, it should encourage all milks to be clearly labeled, and that includes milk from cows, which should be labeled "cows' milk." But transparency doesn't seem to be what the dairy industry is really after. In fact, the dairy industry doesn't want consumers to know or think about how cows' milk is produced, as evidenced by its support for "ag-gag" laws that undermine investigations, journalism and transparency in our food system to keep the animal abuse that occurs on industrial farms quiet.

Nonetheless, citizens are becoming aware of the human health risks and environmental threats of exploiting animals for food. Most people would prefer to support a more humane, sustainable and healthy food system, and our nation's food choices are beginning to reflect this. According to the US Department of Agriculture, per capita consumption of cows' milk dropped from 220 pounds per person in 1990 to 154 pounds in 2016. Meanwhile, the consumption of nondairy milks is increasing.

Instead of scaling down production in response to shrinking demand, dairies continue to overproduce cows' milk. According to the USDA, in 1998 each milk cow produced an average of 17,186 pounds of milk that year. Last year, that number reached 22,938 pounds despite per capita consumption dropping from 198 pounds to 149 pounds. The surplus is processed and stored, and even purchased by the USDA, which has a long history of bailing out and enabling this declining industry.

Because the gap between milk production and consumption has been widening in the United States, dairies now depend on exports, which are supported by government programs and policies. Agribusiness is among the most entrenched interests in Washington, and it has mastered the revolving-door culture of influence between government and private entities. For example, shortly after leaving his post as US agriculture secretary, Tom Vilsack was hired to head the US Dairy Export Council, which works to sell US dairy products around the world.

For decades, the dairy industry, along with other factory-farming interests, has invested heavily in the political system, and it is a perennial recipient of preferential policies and government subsidies.

And similar to the way dairy promoters want to control the term "milk," the slaughter industry wants to regulate the term "meat" so that plant-based burgers and other alternatives to animal flesh cannot use the term.

The industry is now lobbying in Washington and in states such as Missouri, where they've advanced a law to prevent the word "meat" from being used on anything other than the "edible portion of livestock or poultry carcass."

Like the dairy industry, the meat industry seems to oppose transparent and descriptive labels. Ironically, while the animal agriculture industry argues for accuracy, it commonly uses misleading euphemisms such as "harvesting" to describe animal slaughter. If the goal is to be clear and transparent, the flesh of slaughtered animals should actually be called "the flesh of slaughtered animals" or "a portion of animal carcass."

Animal agriculture is deeply entrenched, but its inhumane and irresponsible practices are outside the bounds of acceptable conduct. Factory-farm operators want to keep consumers in the dark, but awareness is growing, and citizens are demanding a more humane and sustainable food system. Innovative businesses are now producing plant foods to replace animal products. We can be far more efficient, and feed more people with fewer resources by eating plants directly instead of growing and harvesting crops to feed and fatten farm animals.

Rather than misleading consumers, undermining free speech and discouraging a discussion of unsavory truths in our industrial food system, agriculture needs to evolve. The good news is that despite regressive efforts by industry hard-liners, a growing number of businesses, including some with long traditions in animal agriculture, are investing in plant-based foods. They are working to provide nutritious food sustainably without causing needless violence. If we can live well without exploiting animals and causing unnecessary harm, why wouldn't we?

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

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Confirmed Cases: 115763

Reported Deaths: 3263
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Hinds7973177
DeSoto703979
Harrison522384
Jackson457884
Rankin394086
Madison383194
Lee357380
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Jones292484
Washington258399
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Warren154855
Monroe150673
Pontotoc147220
Marshall143129
Lincoln140157
Pike138456
Copiah137536
Scott125429
Coahoma124937
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Yazoo122234
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Union118825
Tate116839
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Prentiss106120
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George99218
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Marion95042
Tippah90322
Newton86627
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Winston84121
Hancock84028
Tishomingo81241
Attala79426
Clarke75851
Clay69321
Jasper68717
Walthall63927
Calhoun62612
Noxubee59817
Smith59416
Montgomery54923
Yalobusha54514
Claiborne53716
Tunica53517
Lawrence51814
Perry49423
Carroll49312
Greene47818
Stone47514
Humphreys43816
Amite42513
Quitman4206
Jefferson Davis41011
Webster37613
Benton3416
Wilkinson33820
Kemper32615
Sharkey28514
Jefferson27610
Franklin2423
Choctaw2086
Issaquena1074
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Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 158701

Reported Deaths: 2680
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Jefferson23292377
Mobile16916315
Tuscaloosa10345140
Montgomery10250197
Madison935096
Shelby739063
Baldwin665869
Lee654665
Calhoun459961
Marshall439550
Etowah428551
Houston417034
Morgan416435
DeKalb342629
Elmore320853
St. Clair295542
Limestone287230
Walker279492
Talladega266435
Cullman248024
Lauderdale229442
Jackson215915
Autauga205931
Franklin205531
Colbert202132
Russell19493
Blount193225
Chilton188432
Dallas186627
Coffee177111
Dale176351
Covington174729
Escambia172730
Clarke135217
Chambers135044
Pike134113
Tallapoosa132987
Marion108129
Barbour10339
Marengo101922
Butler101140
Winston92913
Geneva9067
Lawrence85832
Pickens85218
Bibb84014
Randolph82716
Hale76830
Washington74912
Clay74412
Cherokee73814
Henry7176
Lowndes71328
Bullock64917
Monroe64610
Crenshaw60830
Perry5926
Fayette57713
Cleburne5698
Wilcox56812
Conecuh56113
Macon53620
Lamar4965
Sumter47221
Choctaw39212
Greene34216
Coosa2043
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