What do you call your favorite vegan non-dairy beverage? If you say “milk” as in almond milk or soy milk, dairy farmers in the U.S.—feeling the heat from the growing popularity of healthy non-dairy products—are introducing legislation in Congress to get you to stop. Here’s what you should know about the so-called “DAIRY PRIDE Act.”
DAIRY PRIDE Act and Plant-Based Milk
Senator Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin has introduced Senate Bill 130 (the DAIRY PRIDE Act) into the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee. The stated purpose of the DAIRY PRIDE Act is “To require enforcement against misbranded milk alternatives.”
Why are the words in the act title all in caps? They are an acronym standing for “Defending Against Imitations and Replacements of Yogurt, Milk, and Cheese To Promote Regular Intake of Dairy Everyday.” Yes, this is for real.
The argument behind the act is that plant-based products (such as beverages made from nut, rice, soy, hemp, coconut, etc.) labeled as “milk” can be confusing to consumers who are looking for cow’s milk. If passed, the legislation would require that a product not made from “the lacteal secretion, practically free from colostrum, obtained by the complete milking of one or more hooved mammals” cannot be labeled by words used to refer to dairy products.
Plant-Based Milk Gaining in Popularity
A recent report on the proposed legislation published in The New York Times notes that the dairy industry has good reason to worry about competition from products like almond milk. People are choosing non-dairy beverages for a variety of health and ethical reasons. Sales numbers for cow’s milk are plummeting, down from $15 billion in 2011 to $12 billion in 2016…that’s a 20% drop.
The Times reports that sales of almond milk in particular are surging. It’s a popular add-in at coffee chains like Starbucks, and more people are purchasing it in the grocery store based on the belief that it is better for their health, the environment, and of course animal welfare, than cow’s milk.
Legal experts note that the dairy industry has tried to restrict the use of the word “milk” before, with little success. In lawsuits that went before Federal District Court judges in 2013 and 2015, both judges dismissed the cases, saying that any normal consumer would not mistake plant-based milk for cow’s milk.
We will keep up with the news coming out of Washington and let you know if the DAIRY PRIDE Act becomes law. In the meantime, would you like some almond milk with your vegan cereal?