milk

Cows’ Milk Alternatives – What you need to know about plant–based milk alternative options

glass of milk sitting outside with grass in backgroundPeople choosing plant-based drinks in place of cows’ milk has surged over the past eight to ten years. The popularity has fueled increases in sales and there are many options to choose from in grocery and health food stores. The biggest reason many people choose plant-based drinks is that they don’t tolerate dairy or want to avoid animal products. Many people think they are just healthier options than cows’ milk. But there is confusion about what nutritional benefits plant –based drinks really offer and the differences among these choices. Soymilk, almond milk, hemp milk – which of these are nutritionally the best?

First, let’s look at what cows’ milk offers nutritionally. It is naturally rich in protein, calcium, potassium and several B vitamins and is typically fortified with Vitamins A and D. Cows’ milk does provide a superior nutritional profile when it comes to protein and calcium, in particular, in comparison to most plant-based drinks. 

Let’s look at some plant–based alternatives to milk to compare:

Soymilks:

  • These milks have about the same amount of protein as cows’ milk and if fortified, have similar amounts of vitamins and minerals.
  • Soy does contain all the essential amino acids (these proteins cannot be made by the body), but it can be a common allergen – so people may be intolerant or sensitive.
  • They can have added sugar and higher sodium, so need to check labels. Go for the unflavored, organic soymilk for choices with the least additives.
  • Soymilk is the most nutritionally balanced of the plant-based milks and is closest to cows’ milk.
  • Soy is unique in that it contains a high concentration of isoflavones (a type of plant estrogen) that is similar in function to human estrogen, but with much weaker effects. There is not substantial evidence that soy definitively increases or decreases cancer risk.

Almond milk:

  • These milks have a lower protein content and poorer protein quality than cows’ milk or soymilk.
  • Some are higher in total fat, but it is primarily healthy fat.  
  • Many are fortified with calcium and Vitamins A and D. Check labels.
  • Almond milk is not recommended for those with nut allergy or sensitivities.

Cashew milk:

  • These milks have a lower protein content and poorer protein quality than cows’ milk or soymilk; is also low in other macronutrients.
  • A good alternative to almond milk if you don’t like the almond flavor and want lower calories.
  • Not recommended for those with nut allergies or sensitivities.

Hemp milk:

  • One of the few plant-based complete proteins containing all the essential amino acids.
  • Hemp milk is rich in Omega-3 fatty acids that are good for health.
  • Hemp milk is made from the hemp seeds from the hemp plant, cannabis sativa. It does not contain the psychoactive component of the Cannabis Sativa plant (used to make marijuana and CBD). 

Oat milk:

  • Oat milk has slightly more protein than many almond milks, but less than soy or cows’ milk.
  • It is higher in carbohydrates and calories and has a somewhat creamy taste.

Rice milk:

  • Calories come primarily from carbohydrates. 
  • Rice milk has a poor protein content and is low in nutrient content unless vitamins and calcium are added to it.
  • Rice milk is the least likely to trigger allergies.

Coconut milk:

  • Coconut milk has little or no protein.
  • These milks are high in saturated fat, which can raise the risk of heart disease.
  • All are fortified with Vitamin D, but few with calcium.
  • Many people with tree nut allergies are able to drink coconut milk – but it is important to test for coconut allergy specifically.

The Environmental Footprint:

Many people are choosing plant-based beverages to reduce the environmental impact. They can be healthier choices for the planet; however; drawing firm conclusions from studies can be challenging. A 2018 study from the University of Oxford, found that dairy milk uses nine times more land to make a liter of dairy milk than a liter of soy, oat, or almond milk. Greenhouse gas emissions from cows’ milk production were also much higher than plant-based alternatives.  

However; plant–based options can also have environmental impacts. Almond milk, for example requires large quantities of water for irrigation to produce. Additionally, these products are transported long distances to retail stores, such as almond products produced in California. Rice emits large amounts of greenhouse gases from the methane that bacteria create in flooded rice paddies. Soy and oat production can lead to high land use and perhaps deforestation. No matter what type of plant-based milk you buy, choose organic to reduce the environmental impact of pesticides. Shifting to plant-based choices is a generally good environmentally sustainable idea to wean away from dependence on meat and dairy.

Conclusion:

All milk and plant-based milk alternatives offer various health advantages.  A good strategy may be to mix up the types of milk you drink. That way, you can get the best of each of them.  Remember to check the labels for ingredients like added sugar or unwanted additives to avoid those with undesirable add-ins. And choose milks with better protein and nutrient profiles. Knowing the difference in these milks will allow an informed decision regarding your nutrition and health. 

Article by Sharon Gray, UConn Extension

Updated May 19, 2020

References:

Almond, oat and soymilk. Consumer Reports  www.cr.org November 2019 p.33-35.

Going nuts about milk?  S. Ferreira January 25,2019  https://nutrition.org/going-nuts-about-milk-heres-what- you-need-to-know-about-plant-based-milk-alternatives

Reducing Food’s Environmental Impacts Through Producers and Consumers, J. Poore & T. Nemecek Science 01, Jun 2018: Vol 360, Issue 6392, DOI: 10.1126/Science.aaq0216

Operation Community Impact: 4-H Helps Distribute Milk Statewide

UConn 4-H, the youth development program of Extension in the College of Agriculture, Health and Natural Resources is organizing Operation Community Impact. This afternoon, 4-H members and volunteers are working with community partners and the UConn Extension Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP) to deliver 7,200 half-gallons of milk donated by Dairy Farmers of America (DFA) through their local facility, Guida’s Dairy in New Britain.

Operation Community Impact has two primary goals: to address community food insecurity issues and to reduce the amount of surplus milk that is being discarded due to the COVID-19 crisis. Background information on the project includes:

  • Because 30% of the fluid milk usually gets sold to restaurants, schools and institutions that are now closed; therefore, there is a huge surplus of fluid milk on the market that cannot be expeditiously processed into more shelf stable products like dried milk and butter.
  • The price of milk for the farmers have dropped from $19.00 per hundred pounds to $13.00 per hundred pounds because of this surplus.
  • Cows continue to produce milk at the same rate. As a result, hundreds of dairy farms across the country are now forced to dump their milk because the dairy plants have such a surplus, they have no room at the plants to store and process the milk because of the drop off in demand.
  • Meanwhile, food pantries are in desperate need of more food to help provide nourishment for the increasing number of individuals with food insecurity, due to the pandemic and more people losing their jobs.

DFA has generously agreed to donate 15 pallets of half-gallons of whole milk on Monday, May 4th, equaling 7,200 half-gallons, to be shared with food pantries across the state. UConn 4-H members and volunteers are distributing the milk in Litchfield County, Fairfield County, Hartford County, New London County, Tolland County and Windham County. 

“DFA Northeast farm families are pleased to donate milk processed at our Guida’s facility to provide nutritious dairy for family tables across Connecticut,” says Jennifer Huson of Dairy Farmers of America.

UConn 4-H and EFNEP educators are connecting with local food pantries in each county to deliver the milk. 4-H members and volunteers, Extension educators, and EFNEP program partners deliver the milk from a central drop off location in each county. Other businesses and partners are donating refrigerated trucks and space to assist with Operation Community Impact. 

“I am thrilled to be able to help coordinate this effort because I know firsthand how hard all farmers work to produce food for the rest of us,” says Bill Davenport, the UConn Extension educator coordinating Operation Community Impact, and the Litchfield County 4-H coordinator.

“When I heard about dumping milk because of the supply issue due to the school and restaurant closures, I decided we need to try to get some of this milk out of the surplus to help farmers stay in business and into the hands of families who are food insecure,” Bill says. “It makes no sense that we are dumping milk while there are people who desperately need food. Over 1,200 truckloads of milk are being dumped each day across the country so I decided to involve our amazing 4-H youth and parents to help connect the dots since the distribution of the milk is where the system is falling apart and need help. I hope that our actions will increase awareness of the issue and encourage others to help do the same across Connecticut and the region so that we can help move more milk out of the surplus and into the refrigerators of people who desperately need it.”

This is the third UConn 4-H dairy product distribution effort in two weeks. At the end of this effort, they will have helped secure donations and distributed 8,640 half-gallons of fresh milk and over 28,000 pounds of yogurt and sour cream from the dairy surplus inventory to families across Connecticut. The yogurt and sour cream were donated by the Agri-Mark Cooperative and Cabot.  

“Hartford County 4-H is excited to deliver this fresh milk to individuals and families throughout Hartford County. The actions of our 4-H members and volunteers, truly exemplify the words of the 4-H pledge “hands to larger service,” states Jen Cushman, a UConn Extension educator and coordinator of Hartford County 4-H.  

Community service is a key component of civic engagement in 4-H. This project provides 4-H members the opportunity to make a difference in the lives of consumers and dairy producers. We hope to secure more donations of milk and other dairy products so we can continue this effort over the next few weeks, or as long as it is needed. Bill Davenport, Litchfield County 4-H UConn Extension Educator, who grew up on a dairy farm in Litchfield and owns dairy cows in his brother’s herd in Ancram, New York, came up with the idea after learning about the milk surplus and that some farms had to dump their milk due to the challenges in the supply chain during the pandemic. Bill spearheaded this effort by securing the donations.

Operation Community Impact would not be possible without the efforts of many community partners, volunteers, food pantries and businesses in each of the six counties that the project is serving. We extend our heartfelt appreciation to everyone helping to connect those in need with the milk and dairy donations.

About Dairy Farmers of America

Dairy Farmers of America is a national, farmer-owned dairy cooperative focusing on quality, innovation and the future of family dairies. While supporting and serving more than 13,000 family farmers, DFA works with some of the world’s largest food companies to develop ingredients that satisfy their customers’ cravings while staying committed to social responsibility and ethical farming. For more information, please visit dfamilk.com.

About Guida’s Dairy

Since 1886, Guida’s Dairy has been providing high-quality dairy products to consumers in Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Northern New Jersey, New York City, Long Island and eastern New York. In 2012, the company became a part of Dairy Farmers of America (DFA), a national, farmer-owned cooperative, based in Kansas City, Kan. Guida’s Dairy offers an extensive line of products, including fluid milk, cream, ice cream mixes, fruit drinks, orange juice and a variety of other dairy products. For more information about Guida’s Dairy and our products, visit guidas.com.

About UConn 4-H

4-H is a national program with six million youth participating in various project areas who learn life skills, supervised by over 500,000 volunteer leaders. UConn 4-H serves over 17,000 Connecticut youth each year.

The 4-H program is organized into four program areas including Agriculture, Civic Engagement, Healthy Living and STEM. These themes all overlap throughout the 4-H experience, with emphasis placed on creating well-rounded individuals. 4-H is the youth development program offered through the UConn Extension system within the UConn College of Agriculture, Health and Natural Resources. The purpose of UConn as Connecticut’s land grant university is to provide the citizens of Connecticut with educational opportunities through teaching, research and extension programming. For more information about 4-H and how to join visit 4-H.uconn.edu.

Today’s Drop Off Locations

Hartford County: Hartford County’s allotment of 1,368 half-gallons to over 21 food pantries throughout Hartford County, on the afternoon of Monday, May 4, 2020 at approximately 1 PM at the Windsor Park and Ride (just of rt. 291/91) where it will be offloaded into waiting vehicles owned by 4-H member families. Those vehicles will each then drive directly to their designated food pantry and safely deliver the milk to be handed out to food pantries. Contact: Jennifer.Cushman@uconn.edu or 860-409-9074.

Litchfield County: 1 PM at Litchfield Community Center – 421 Bantam Rd, Litchfield, CT 06759 – Contact William.Davenport@uconn.edu or cell number: 860-459-6753

New London County: Approximately 1 PM at New London County 4-H Camp – contact Pamela.Gray@uconn.edu 

Tolland/Windham Counties: Approximately 1 PM at Foodshare in Bloomfield – contact Maryann.Fusco@uconn.edu

Fairfield County: Approximately 1 PM at Bethel – contact Edith.Valiquette@uconn.edu

Litchfield County 4-H Helps Distribute Milk to Families in Need

4-H cloverBackground Facts:

  • Because 30% of the fluid milk gets sold to restaurants, schools and institutions that are now closed, there is a huge surplus of fluid milk on the market now that cannot be further processed into more shelf stable products like dried milk and butter fast enough.
  • The price of milk for the farmers have dropped from $19.00 per hundred pounds to $13.00 per hundred pounds because of this.
  • Hundreds of dairy farms across the country are now forced to dump their milk because the dairy plants have such a surplus they have no room at the plants to store and process the milk because of the drop off in demand due to the closures.
  • Some farms have no choice but to dump the milk that is in their bulk tanks that cannot be picked up by the processing plants in time, because they have to make room for the next milking of their cows.
  • Meanwhile, food pantries are in desperate need of more food to help provide nourishment for the increasing number of food insecure people, due to the pandemic and more people losing their jobs.

DFA, who owns Guida milk, has graciously agreed to donate three pallets of half gallons of whole milk to the Community Kitchen of Torrington, Inc. and the Litchfield County 4-H members and volunteers are distributing the milk to over 20 food pantries throughout Litchfield County on Wednesday, April 22, 2020. Litchfield Locker has generously agreed to donate their truck and time to deliver the donated milk from Guida’s processing plant in New Britain to the parking lot of the Litchfield Community Center where it will be offloaded into waiting vehicles owned by 4-H member families. Those vehicles will each then drive directly to their designated food pantry and safely deliver the milk to be handed out to those families in need. At the end of this effort, they will have moved 1,440 half gallons of fresh milk from the surplus inventory into the kitchens of families in need.

Litchfield County 4-H, the youth development component of UConn Extension, had already chosen their 2020 theme for the year, which is Operation Community Impact, with an emphasis on food insecurity in January. By arranging and carrying out this activity, 4-H members are able to see firsthand how important the community service efforts of 4-H is in order to can make a difference in the lives of others. They hope to secure more donations of milk and other dairy products so we can continue this effort over the next few weeks as long as it is needed. Bill Davenport, Litchfield County 4-H UConn Extension Educator, who grew up on a dairy farm in Litchfield and owns dairy cows in his brother’s herd in Ancram, New York, came up with the idea after learning about the milk surplus and some farms having to dump their milk because of the pandemic. He organized this effort from securing the donation to assembling the volunteer drivers to the food pantries, but also credits the following individuals without whose help this effort would not be possible: Guida Milk and DFA for their generous donation of the milk; Litchfield Locker and Processing for donating the use of their truck and driver to transport the milk; Lisa Hagemen of the Community Kitchen of Torrington, Inc., and Kathy Minck of Food Rescue, for helping connect with the local food pantries and assembling the list of the milk orders; the Litchfield Community Center for allowing us to use their parking lot for distribution, and the Litchfield County UConn 4-H members, parents and volunteers who continually rise to the challenge of community service and helping others in need.

“Because of my extensive background and continued involvement with the dairy industry, I know firsthand how hard all farmers work to produce food for the rest of us,” says Bill Davenport. “When I heard about dumping milk because of the supply issue due to the school and restaurant closures, I decided we need to try to get some of this milk in the hands of families who are food insecure. It makes no sense that we are dumping milk while there are people who desperately need food. So I decided to involve our amazing 4-H youth and parents to help connect the dots since the distribution of the milk is where the system is falling apart and need help. I hope that our actions will increase awareness of the issue and encourage others to help do the same across Connecticut and the region so that we can help move more milk out of the surplus and into the refrigerators of people who desperately need it.”

“DFA Northeast farm families are pleased to donate milk processed at our Guida’s facility to provide nutritious dairy for family tables across Connecticut,” says Jennifer Huson of Dairy Farmers of America.

 

About Dairy Farmers of America

Dairy Farmers of America is a national, farmer-owned dairy cooperative focusing on quality, innovation and the future of family dairies. While supporting and serving more than 13,000 family farmers, DFA works with some of the world’s largest food companies to develop ingredients that satisfy their customers’ cravings while staying committed to social responsibility and ethical farming. For more information, please visit dfamilk.com.

About Guida’s Dairy

Since 1886, Guida’s Dairy has been providing high-quality dairy products to consumers in Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Northern New Jersey, New York City, Long Island and eastern New York. In 2012, the company became a part of Dairy Farmers of America (DFA), a national, farmer-owned cooperative, based in Kansas City, Kan. Guida’s Dairy offers an extensive line of products, including fluid milk, cream, ice cream mixes, fruit drinks, orange juice and a variety of other dairy products. For more information about Guida’s Dairy and our products, visit guidas.com.

About UConn 4H

4-H is a national program with six million youth participating in various project areas who learn life skills, supervised by over 500,000 volunteer leaders. Litchfield County has 26 active 4-H clubs with over 400 active members in those clubs. Project areas include but are not limited to beef cattle, canine, crafts, dairy cattle, dairy goats, equine, community nutrition, food safety, food preparation skills, horticulture, mechanics, oxen, poultry, robotics, sewing, sheep, small animals, STEM, and swine.

The 4-H program is organized into four program areas including Agriculture, Civic Engagement, Healthy Living and STEM. These themes all overlap throughout the 4-H experience, with emphasis placed on creating well-rounded individuals. 4-H is the youth development program offered through the UConn Extension system. The purpose of UConn as Connecticut’s land grant university is to provide the citizens of Connecticut with educational opportunities through teaching, research and extension programming. For more information about 4-H and how to join, please contact Bill Davenport, Litchfield County Extension 4-H Educator, at william.davenport@uconn.edu or at 860-626-6854.

Celebrate Dairy in March with Put Local on Your Tray

dairy smoothieDuring the month of March, the Put Local On Your Tray program is partnering with school districts across the state to feature local dairy. Put Local On Your Tray helps Connecticut school districts serve and celebrate locally grown products. Through a combination of technical assistance and promotional materials, the program works with schools to build a culture of health in the cafeteria, celebrate school nutrition programs, and support local agriculture.

Why local dairy? “Dairy is produced year round in Connecticut,” shares Dana Stevens, Program Coordinator for Put Local On Your Tray. “Dairy farming is an important part of our agricultural landscape, and the majority of Connecticut schools already purchase dairy that is regionally produced in the form of milk. Milk arrives at the school just 48 hours after leaving the farm. Food service directors, students, administrators, and parents should feel good about the fact that schools are supporting our hard working New England dairy farmers and providing nutritious meals for our kids”.

“Milk is the number one food source of nine essential nutrients in the diets of American’s children—including calcium, vitamin D, and potassium—that are required for proper bone growth,” says Amanda Aldred, Program Manager for New England Dairy & Food Council for School Nutrition in Connecticut. “The benefits go beyond building stronger bones. For instance, low-fat and fat-free dairy foods improve overall diet quality and help reduce the risk of various chronic diseases like heart disease.”

There are over 35 districts that participate in the Put Local on Your Tray program (you can see a map on the website here). The program is open to any interested school district, charter school, or private school.

This month, more than 15 districts are planning to host a Local Tray Day featuring dairy. Events include: Celebrating National School Breakfast week with a parent breakfast and smoothie sampling in Meriden; Taste-testing green spinach smoothies for St. Patrick’s day in Windham and Waterbury; Making mozzarella cheese in Groton; Hosting a dairy farmer visit in Wethersfield; Local yogurt parfait tastings in New Haven, and more! All districts organizing dairy events are eligible to win a dairy farm field trip organized by NEDFC for up to 25 students.

UConn Extension’s Put Local on Your Tray program has posters, stickers, newsletters, and recipes to support school districts connect students to dairy during the month of March and other local foods throughout the year. Contact your school administrator or food service director to encourage participation in the program. For more information please visit http://putlocalonyourtray.uconn.edu or call 860-870-6932. Put Local On Your Tray is a project of UConn Extension, in partnership with the CT State Department of Education, FoodCorps Connecticut, and New England Dairy & Food Council (NEDFC).

 

About New England Dairy & Food Council (NEDFC)

New England Dairy & Food Council (NEDFC) is a non-profit nutrition education organization staffed by registered dietitians. NEDFC is a state and regional affiliate of the National Dairy Council® (NDC). Our goal is to ensure that health professionals, scientists, media and educators have a credible body of nutrition information upon which to base health recommendations.

Connecticut Dairy Leads New England

By Bernard Dzielinski

President, Fairfield County Extension Council

 

dairy barn
Mary Margaret Cole at the Kellogg Dairy Barn on Jan. 16, 2014. (Peter Morenus/UConn Photo)

Hoard’s Dairyman recently provided a comprehensive review of total milk production in the United States. The data is summarized in the report by region.

Milk production in 2015 was a new record of 208.6 billion pounds, a modest gain of 1.3 percent. The story of the Northeast, including Connecticut, is that it added 500 million pounds for a 1.7 percent increase in 2015 over production in 2014. The west region had a major decline in milk production due to the California drought.

Statistic highlights for 2015 include that Connecticut dairy farmers lead the dairy farmers in the six New England states in milk production per cow at 20,842 pounds. This record is achieved with 120 dairies and average herd size of 158 cows (Vermont is second at 155 cows per herd). Production per cow beats Vermont by 3 percent. Connecticut dairy farmers also lead in average total milk production per herd at 3,299,983 pounds, beating Vermont by 5 percent.

Connecticut dairy farmers achieved these impressive records with the largest herd size in New England because our farmers are willing to invest and increase herd sizes to produce that recent record of 396 million pounds of milk in 2015. Innovative practices and cow comfort allows our dairy farmers to maximize efficiency. The dairy farmers confidence comes about from support the State of Connecticut provides through the safety net payments in the dairy support fund, which is part of the Community Investment Act.

The Community Investment Act was signed into law in 2005, and the dairy support program began in 2009. It counterbalances the drastic price swings of national milk pricing. According to a study led by UConn and Farm Credit East, dairy production and processing has a $1.3 billion economic impact statewide, and generates 4,286 jobs. As dairy farms continue to thrive, the economic benefits to Connecticut will also grow.