Reputation: How Dairy Compares to Plant-Based Alternatives

Dairy gets a bad reputation for its environmental impact, an unfair assessment considering dairy is a locally sourced product. 

Southeast Dairy Association - Holstein calf

Consumers believe that the advantages of plant-based beverages somehow exclude dairy. These alternatives must use less land, but some plant-based options use lots of space or are being grown on newly cleared land. Dairy farms use land for grazing and crops for cow feed, but through an improved diet and a better genetic pool, today’s cows produce more milk than their ancestors could ever dream of producing, needing less land to graze, all with a population decrease of 25 million to 9 million cows in the past 70 years. The land in use is not going to waste. Or because these alternatives are plant-based and not animal-involved, less water must be used, but plants still need water to grow—and the fertilizer plants need to grow comes from cows!  

Additionally, where plant-based beverages struggle is where dairy thrives. Though consumers might not pass the farm on the daily commute, dairy milk is a local product. Unlike plant-based beverages, which are often grown and processed in a relatively compact region to be moved across the nation, milk doesn’t have to be taken across the country to find its way into consumers’ kitchens. Local dairy farmers collect the milk and send it to the local processor to be pasteurized and packaged before it appears at local grocery stores. It’s fresh, no shipping and handling added to its environmental impact. 

Dairy is given a bad reputation of being bad for the Earth when compared to plant-based alternatives. Locally sourced milk deserves more recognition. Thanks to hardworking dairy farm families across the US, dairy farms continue to improve their environmental practices to produce a healthy drink for a growing, healthy world, all within consumers’ communities. Support their efforts by rejecting dairy’s unfair reputation. 

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