Times have changed. Soy was the first plant milk to “go mainstream” in the mid 1990s, and now multiple varieties are on supermarket shelves, including almond, coconut, hazelnut, hemp, oat, rice, and sunflower seed.
Much like an only child who is the center of attention until a sibling comes along, Big Dairy has started to lash out. “Alternative milks” are no longer relegated to the vegan world; vegetarians and omnivores also purchase and consume plant-based milks. Bad news for Big Dairy (AKA The California Milk Processor Board).
Behold their latest campaign — “Real Milk Comes From Cows” (tagline: “many imitations, still no equal”). The idea, apparently, is to point out all the ways in which plant milks have cooties. The inane comments can be seen in the screenshot below (you can see a larger version here):
Coconut milk is described as “spooky” for looking so “real” to cow’s milk. Hazelnut milk is supposed to creep us out because of “stuff on the bottom”. Almond milk is dissed for having a “phony” color. Soymilk is “unveiled” as not coming from a cow (when did it ever claim to?).
This campaign wants to sell the idea that only dairy milk is “real”. Other milks, we are supposed to believe, are “not natural” and have long ingredient lists with questionable ingredients. Now, for the fun part: pointing out how misguided, inaccurate, and illogical this is.
- Carrageenan — a seaweed extract used to impart a creamy mouthfeel to some commercial plant milks– is highlighted in this campaign as a sketchy ingredient. Its safety was called into question after a 2001 literature review in Environmental Health Perspectives. In 2003, the Joint FAO/WHO Expert Committee on Food Additives, which had declared carrageenan safe in 1998, but reopened the case after that 2001 literature review, reaffirmed that carrageenan was safe for consumption. Regardless, carrageenan is not present in all commercial plant milks. Update: As reader Brent points out, carrageenan is sometimes in dairy products, too (i.e.: heavy cream).
- Carob bean gum, guar gum, and xanthan gum are also pointed out, seemingly to show how “artificial” these plant milks are. The first two gums are made by simply dehusking and milling respective beans into a powder. Xanthan gum, meanwhile, is the end result of sugar fermentation. They are worlds apart from chemical additives, artificial sweeteners, or artificial dyes. And, as with carrageenan, not all plants milk contain these gums.
- All plant milks can be made at home with a blender and a nutmilk bag, so it is possible (and very easy!) to consume these without any added ingredients.
- The bottle of “real milk” in this campaign contains skim milk. Come again? “Real milk” is what comes straight from the cow — and it ain’t skim.
- It’s also quite hypocritical to point out the “weirdness” of hazelnut milk’s “stuff at the bottom”. Talk to any dairy purist and they will tell you that “real milk” is non-homogenized (AKA: “the cream rises to the top”). So, if anything, real milk doesn’t have a uniform look. But, remember, this is Big Dairy. This is not about a small farmer who produces non-homogenized organic milk from pastured cows. This is CAFO-made, corn and grain-fed milk from cows that, very likely, are treated with hormones and antibiotics.
- You can see more of their desperate attacks on plant milks in this TV spot, titled “Shake”.
Big Dairy is clearly afraid. Once the lone shining star, it now has no option but to co-exist among others that are rising in popularity. It’s worthy of a screenplay; one that showcases the plummeting fall from grace of a once-renowned A-lister. It may be time to start penning Dairy Dearest…