The Dairy Industry Is Determined to Pour Itself Down Our Throats – NewsClick

Posted By on January 7, 2022

When author and historian James Truslow Adamsintroducedthe American dream into common parlance in his 1931 bookThe Epic of America, he wasnt suggesting that fulfilling it would require the democratically elected U.S. government to dictate what Americans ought to eat and drink or which industries they ought to fund through their hard-earned tax dollars. But that is what the U.S. government has been doing for decades by subsidizing the dairy industryan industry thatpopular opinionhas already left behind.

The real American dream is at odds with turning taxpayer dollars into wealth for one industry over another. An example of this is the promotion of the American dairy industry by the government. Its the reason why the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has been telling people thatdairy deserves its own food groupand haspromotedthe idea that most adults and children should eat or drink about three cups of dairy each day, to ensure they are getting the required nutrients to stay healthy. This is, however, contradictory to the facts provided by the National Institutes of Health. According to theagency, between 30 and 50 million Americans are intolerant to lactose (the sugar found in milk), including 95 percent of Asian Americans, 60-80 percent of African Americans and Ashkenazi Jews, 80-100 percent of Native Americans, and 50-80 percent of Hispanics, compared to people of northern European descent who have a high lactose tolerance.

In fact,some studiesconnect the consumption of dairy products with a higher risk of certain cancers, includingprostate cancerin men andendometrial cancerin postmenopausal women. Further, countries that have the highest rates of milk consumption also have the highest rates of osteoporosis. According to a study by Uppsala University in Sweden, the consumption of milk has even been associated with higher mortality in both men and women,according toa 2014 article in the Washington Post.

But these facts havent stopped the USDA in its quest to drive the demand for dairy. According to theEnvironmental Working Groupand USDA data, Americans have spent $6.4 billion between 1995 and 2020 in subsidizing the dairy industry. Included in these subsidies are marketing fees that promote the consumption of milk and several[d]airy-related programs administered by [the] USDA,which are designed to benefit dairy farmers and dairy product consumers. The dairy industry, it turns out, is milking the paychecks of Americans and turning their hard-earned money into cartons of liquid white murkiness.

Even with these steep financial gains afforded to the U.S. dairy industry, Representatives Peter Welch (D-VT), Mike Simpson (R-ID), and Senators Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) and Jim Risch (R-ID)all representing dairy-rich statesintroduced a piece of legislation in April 2021 (ironicallyon Earth Day), known astheDairy Pride Act. The bill, if passed, requires the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to prevent plant-based product producers from using terms like milk, yogurt or cheese as part of their labeling.

This pushback comes whileconsumer demandfor plant-based milksqueezed from oats, soybeans, almonds and even pistachiosis skyrocketing. Fortunately for consumers who value free choice, and markets that value fair trade, this legislation has little ground to stand on beyond the competitive fear on which it was built.

In May 2021, similar legislationAmendment 171 in the European Unionwas withdrawn by the European Parliament. Like the Dairy Pride Act, it sought to ban terms traditionally used to describe dairy products, such as buttery and creamy, for plant-based products.

Also in 2021, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Californiaruled in favorof Miyokos Kitchen, a brand that specializes in dairy-free products, after the California Department of Food and Agriculture instructed the company to stop using terms like butter and dairy on product marketing and labelingeven when paired with vegan and plant-based vernacular. The court agreed with the plant-based brand, which had argued that censoring product labeling that was an accurate description within the context of common parlance among consumers today violated the First Amendments freedom of expression.

Attempts from Big Dairy to defend their turf come just when an authentic version of the American dream is taking root. James Truslow Adams defined it as a dream of a land in which life should be better and richer and fuller for everyone, with opportunity for each according to ability or achievement. And consumers have never before had so many opportunities to choose how to enrich their lives with healthy alternatives to dairy, whether they define a richer and fuller life as one withoutharming animals, contributing to theclimate crisis, or causinggastrointestinal distress. And from the perspective of the plant-based milk companies, its a dream that is currently worth$2.5 billionin the U.S. alone. From 2019 to 2020, the plant-based milk sector grew by 20 percent, accounting for 15 percent of all retail milk dollar salesall without USDA dollars spent on their marketing. And in May 2021, the plant-based milk market reached a new milestone when oat-milk maker Oatly Groupbegantrading on Wall Street with a valuation of close to $10 billion and billed as anESG (environmental, social and corporate governance) stock to buy, thanks to its climate-curbing benefits.

Oat milk (like other plant-based milks) has a farlighter environmental footprintthan milk from cowswith70 percentless greenhouse gas emissions, while using93 percentless water from seed to shelf.

Meanwhile, Debra Roberts, co-chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Working Group II, in areportpublished in August 2019, noted, Some dietary choices require more land and water, and cause more emissions of heat-trapping gases than others. Balanced diets featuring plant-based foods produced sustainably in low greenhouse gas emission systems, present major opportunities for adaptation to and limiting climate change. If the U.S. is to fulfill itsoriginalParis agreement pledge, it will need to cut greenhouse gas emissions to 25 percent below 2005 levels by the year 2025, a goal that the country is not on track to meet, according to an NPRarticle. Backing industrial agriculture like Big Dairy furthermore runs counter to serious climate change commitments.

If the American dream is to be realized, then its citizens deserve choicereal choice, which allows them to vote with their dollars and knowingly choose what they want to eat and drink. Freedom is not something Americans are afforded when they are brought up to believe that milk is what their bodies and the country need to be strong, simply to pad the pockets of one industry over another. Freedom is having the ability to make the best choice for oneself, and the planet.

Jennifer Barckley is the vice president of communications atThe Humane League.

This article was produced byEarth | Food | Life, a project of the Independent Media Institute.

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The Dairy Industry Is Determined to Pour Itself Down Our Throats - NewsClick

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