Dairy Lobby Tries to Ban Soy ‘Milk’

Flickr user <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/lfl/2132323232/">BlueWaikiki</a> via Creative Commons

For indispensable reporting on the coronavirus crisis, the election, and more, subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter.


With soy milk sales soaring, the dairy lobby wants to stay top cow. Today, the National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF) petitioned the FDA to ban words like “milk” and “cheese” from any products that aren’t made from dairy milk. Now, both the soybean lobby and dairy lobby are powerful presences on the Hill, as the fracas over last year’s climate bill showed. But this goes to a whole new level of ridiculous.

Firstly, even though NMPF president Jerry Kozak said that “…many products that use the term [milk] have never seen the inside of a barn,” he could have just as well have been talking about the NMPF’s own products. Most of the milk produced in this country doesn’t come from a bucolic barn: it comes from factory farms like this one run by Dean Foods, the nation’s largest milk producer, where cows are confined in filth-filled pens and have their tails amputated. If that’s what a “barn” looks like, I’ll take the soy processing plant.

Secondly, the word “milk” has lots of uses and has been used for non-dairy milks like coconut for a long time. Asking the FDA to only allow dairy products to contain the term “milk” is like asking it to make sure only the word “meat” is only used by products with beef in it. Consumers know that Silk soy milk isn’t real dairy milk, just like they realize that Boca Burgers aren’t real hamburger. Instead, the move to ban “milk” from non-dairy products is a transparent ploy by the NMPF to hurt the soybean industry that, thanks to increasingly health-conscious consumers and ethanol production quotas, is growing stronger every year. It’s notable, also, that when not battling soybean farmers the dairy lobby works hard to keep its foot firmly on the throat of its own industry, to the point where they’ve been sued for being a monopoly and trying to drive small dairy farmers out of business: the same farmers whose milk might actually come from barns rather than football-field sized factories.

And thirdly, even though some products, like Coffee-Mate’s powder creamer, are labeled as non-dairy but actually DO contain milk derivatives. So what would be the labeling change there?

Despite this, the NMPF contends that dairy milk is better than soy, remarking in its press release that non-dairy products “can vary wildly in their composition and are inferior to the nutrient profile of those from dairy milk…” Actually, soy milk and dairy aren’t that different nutritionally, except for that milk is fattier. For example, a cup of Trader Joe’s vanilla soy milk has 30 less calories than a cup of 2% milk. A cup of soy milk has 0% of your daily saturated fat, while milk has 15%. Dairy does have twice the protein as soy milk, but soy milk has 10% more calcium. Dairy has 1 gram more sugar, but soy milk has 15% less vitamin D. It’s a bit of a toss-up nutritionally, but I’m lactose-intolerant so I’ll choose the “milk” that doesn’t make me gassy and crampy. I’m not alone: lactose-intolerant immigrants like Asians (90-100%) and Hispanics (50%) are some of the fastest-growing populations in the US, so the NMPF might want to think less about fighting soy and more about how they’re going to deal with people who can’t drink milk to begin with.

DOES IT FEEL LIKE POLITICS IS AT A BREAKING POINT?

Headshot of Editor in Chief of Mother Jones, Clara Jeffery

It sure feels that way to me, and here at Mother Jones, we’ve been thinking a lot about what journalism needs to do differently, and how we can have the biggest impact.

We kept coming back to one word: corruption. Democracy and the rule of law being undermined by those with wealth and power for their own gain. So we're launching an ambitious Mother Jones Corruption Project to do deep, time-intensive reporting on systemic corruption, and asking the MoJo community to help crowdfund it.

We aim to hire, build a team, and give them the time and space needed to understand how we got here and how we might get out. We want to dig into the forces and decisions that have allowed massive conflicts of interest, influence peddling, and win-at-all-costs politics to flourish.

It's unlike anything we've done, and we have seed funding to get started, but we're looking to raise $500,000 from readers by July when we'll be making key budgeting decisions—and the more resources we have by then, the deeper we can dig. If our plan sounds good to you, please help kickstart it with a tax-deductible donation today.

Thanks for reading—whether or not you can pitch in today, or ever, I'm glad you're with us.

Signed by Clara Jeffery

Clara Jeffery, Editor-in-Chief

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest