Why censoring the word “milk” is udderly ridiculous

Plant-based milks now command 13% of the retail market, so cow’s milk producers are calling for censorship of terms like “almond milk.” GFI’s policy team defends plant-based milk in our official filing with the FDA.
Spilled cheerios and milk with smiley face

According to the USDA, U.S. cow’s milk consumption in 2017 was 49 billion pounds. Production was 215 billion pounds.

We produced more than four times the amount of milk that we consumed.

The cow’s milk industry has been trying to make plant-based milks the scapegoat for their declining fortunes. Plant-based milks now command fully 13% of the retail market, leading to ever-increasing calls for censoring almond milk.

Originally, the cow’s milk industry claimed that confused consumers thought soy milk came from a cow. Since that has been shown to be false, they now say plant-based milk producers shouldn’t be allowed to say “almond milk” or “oat milk” because these products don’t have the exact same nutrition as cow’s milk.

This begs the question — which cow’s milk? The nutritional profile of fat-free cow’s milk is much different from full-fat cow’s milk — both of which differ from chocolate milk. There simply is no single nutritional profile for cow’s milk. It is absurd to try to limit the word “milk” to products with a certain nutritional profile. What about a product that has as much protein and calcium as cow’s milk but also has healthy Omega-3s? Should only that product be called milk?

All these attempts at dairy distraction don’t change the fact that the US Food and Drug Administration does not exist to censor one industry to protect another from competition. The FDA’s mandate is to ensure that producers use labels that are clear and informative to consumers. There is nothing unclear about “hemp milk.” No one is buying flax milk thinking it’s mammalian lacteal secretions. No one is milking almonds and trying to pass it off as cow’s milk — plant-based milk companies always use the appropriate descriptive modifier.

The word “milk” is necessary for clear communication with consumers because it concisely and effectively explains how the product can be used: you can pour this on your cereal, put this in your coffee, use it to bake, turn it into hot chocolate. (You probably don’t want to drink this at mile 18 of a marathon.)

Plant-based milk companies have a First Amendment right to communicate clearly with consumers — a right that has been recognized by the courts over and over, most recently by the Ninth Circuit.

This is the case GFI’s policy team made today in our official filing with the FDA regarding plant-based dairy labels. Get the whole story here