Dairy milk has had a rough go of it lately. With the spread of veganism, the proliferation of dietary allergies, and growing awareness of the role that the beef industry plays in contributing to climate change, people have been swearing off cow’s milk right and left. The dairy industry, which has long been in a precarious situation, has been battered by this development, with farms closing at an alarming clip as farmers are forced to sell whole milk at a loss and turn to milk derivatives to try to make up the difference. If dairy were as unambiguously bad as its detractors say it is, we might accept the sagging fortunes of the industry as the price of progress—might even welcome it. But it’s not—in fact, there’s a strong argument for encouraging responsible animal grazing—including dairy farming—in the northeast in particular. That’s one reason we remain committed to dairy milk. Nevertheless, even the case for pastured animals has some limitations, and, what’s more, plenty of people can’t or won’t consume animal products (or dairy). We’ve always offered soy milk as an alternative, because soybeans are a complete vegetable protein that's easy to grow, good for the soil, and (at least theoretically) could be sourced locally. But some people don’t like to drink soy either because they’re worried about phytoestrogens or because they’re concerned about the prevalence of soy as a mono crop and a widely genetically modified food. Perhaps some of them are worried about seeming off-trend. In any case, a few years ago—at the peak of the drought in California, as it happened—customers started getting very picky about their alterna-milks and soy wasn’t gonna cut it any more. They needed almond milk. But almond milk is a problem worse than the non-problem it’s trying to fix. Unlike soybeans, almonds are incredibly resource-intensive, grow only in very small pockets of the United States (nowhere around here), and cost a fortune. Also, the “milk” they produce, while delicious, isn’t very nutritious—unlike actual almonds, almond milk is low in protein; unlike actual milk, almond milk contains no calcium. Many people are dangerously allergic to it. There aren’t many good arguments for almond milk’s ascendancy, and there are a lot of great reasons to steer clear of it. So we refused to sell almond milk on principle, even though it made folks as angry. We stuck with soy—a decision I still stand behind—but we were curious when we started hearing about oat milk, because it offered an option that might, we hoped, please both our dairy- and our soy-averse customers. Oats grow well in this area, and while they’re not the nutritional powerhouse that soy is, they play an important role in soil remediation; they are generally safe for people with allergies. What’s more, it's easy to turn them into milk: they’re barely processed at all. Oat milk’s been popular, thank goodness. It’s been so popular that the leading manufacturer of commercial oat milk—Oatly—can’t keep up with demand. The shortage has reportedly led people to charge up to $20 a carton for oat milk on Amazon. But we make our own. We won’t be standing in that line….
A Short History of Milk & "Milk" at Egg
Updated: Feb 11, 2019