By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Can the milk battle between dairy farmers, almond growers
Dennis Wyatt 2022
Dennis Wyatt

Milk — An opaque white liquid rich in fat and protein, secreted by female mammals for the nourishment of their young.

Milk — Draw milk (from a cow or other animal), either by hand or mechanically.

Milk — Exploit or defraud (someone) typically by taking regular small amounts of months over a period of time.

Keep those three definitions of milk in mind when you consider two Madison Avenue style advertising lines.

“Everybody needs milk.”

For me, I need enough milk in a year to keep a typical cow busy for 20 to 30 days.

“A can a week is all we ask.”

In my case, Blue Diamond could have asked for more.

It’s closer to two cans a week although it was almost twice that not too long ago.

I clearly consume a lot of milk via ice cream, yogurt, cheese, and cottage cheese.

I haven’t drank milk, though, for the better part of 55 years.

As for almonds, I can quote retail almond prices the way growers quote wholesale prices.

I was — at one time based on average almond tree yields of 50 to 65 pounds —  eating my way through the equivalent of 1½ almond trees a year.

I believe that makes me enough of an authority to know almond milk doesn’t come from a cow.

That said the battle royal between dairy farmers and almond growers on whether the government should issue an edict to determine what can be labeled milk is a tad over the top.

I get that we’re talking about their livelihood and, in many  cases, their lives’ work and that of their ancestors.

I assure you I would never mistake Dreyer’s ice cream with a non-dairy offering.

As for confusing dairy milk, with milk substitutes —- almond, oak, or whatever — get real.

I do not like the taste of milk per se.

I’ve tried almond milk.

It’s OK but I’m not about to start chugging the stuff.

I like what I like.

As such, find the entire flap over the use of the word “milk” kind of silly.

I know. I know.

Dairy growers are protecting their turf.

And it is a big turf.

Dairy milk sales were almost $15.8 billion last year.

Non-dairy milk sales topped $2.5 billion with muscular almond milk sales shelling the competition.

And yes, non-dairy milk sales have gained ground growing by more than 54 percent between 2016 and 2021.

That said, the dairy farmers and almond growers are fighting the wrong enemy,

They are fighting a war over a word.

The word, of course, is “milk”.

By virtually every dictionary online rooted in old school thinking, milk would seem to have the more “virtuous hand.”

It meets the first two definitions mentioned at the top of the column..

And from their perspective, they’re being “milked” — see the third definition — by almond growers et al who are appropriating the word “milk.”

Plant-based milk, however, is not exactly a modern-day Johnny-Come-Lately.

Soy milk can trace its roots back to 14th century China.

Almond milk goes back as far as the 8th century in the so-called “cradle of civilization” that also gave the world the first cultivated almond trees.

But enough of the history lesson.

Let’s talk about the bigger problem.

Farming per se is under siege.

But instead of realizing they have a common enemy, they fight each other.

Case in point.

The mean greenies slam cows for causing climate change.

The same mean greenies slam almonds for using too much water.

The enemy isn’t the consumers making choices.

It’s the environmental perfectionists.

Cows eat a lot of alfalfa.

Alfalfa takes a lot of water to grow.

Cows have a lot of flatulence and produce a lot of manure as well as urine.

Almonds take a lot of water.

But then again aren’t people kind of nuts having a cow over agricultural water use?

Do not misunderstand.

Water needs to be used wisely and we constantly need to find ways to reduce its use.

Farmers and ranchers do just that all the time.

Water plays a big role in their livelihoods.

And whether they make Wall Street hedge funds wealthy by the need to pay PG&E in order to pump water from the ground or buy it by the acre-foot, it is a gigantic expense.

The story of modern farming is poorly told.

Farmers, in order to keep making money, have to produce more while using less to do so.

That means bigger yields using less resources than they did 10, 20, 30 years ago.

*The amount of grain dairy cows need to eat to produce 100 pounds of milk has decreased on average  by 40 percent in the last 40 years.

*In 1930, 25 percent of Americans lived on farms and ranches producing food to feed a nation of 122 million. Today, it’s down to 2 percent to feed 327 million people.

*The amount of water needed to grow a pound of almonds has deceased by almost 33 percent over 20 years.

*A typical American household spends almost 11 percent of its disposal income on food compared to 24.2 percent in 1930. And that tracking by the US Department of Agriculture reflects less people than ever before are eating most of their food from what they prepare instead of dining out and such.

Dairy farmers and almond growers would be better off not going nuts crying over what milk is and joining forces and resources to counter the green smear.

Again, do not misunderstand.

The environment needs to be protected.

But if the truth be known, farmers and ranchers literally can’t afford not to be good stewards of the land resources they use or else they’d be out of business.

Everybody couldn’t afford milk if that wasn’t true.

And people would be hard pressed to afford even a can a week of almonds..

Milk and almonds — just like most food — today are more plentiful, safer, and more affordable than ever before in history.