Defending dairy

This week promises to be one where people smack their heads and try to figure out what others are thinking. As in, doing things like the following: signing their company’s name to a letter where it basically asks the European Union to take out Amendment 171 in the Common Agricultural Policy Reform. This is the one ensuring that the words “milk”, “cheese”, “yoghurt”, “butter” or “whey” are used exclusively for products that contain dairy milk.

I am unclear what Unilever and Nestlé are doing, except to cater to the vegan crowd on that particular letter-writing enterprise. There are plenty of high-powered signatories on this: Roquette, GAIN and the European Medical Union are others that stand out.

Again, I understand catering to an expanding market, but this smacks of throwing the dairy cow out with the bathwater. I have yet to understand why increased vegetable eating has to come at the expense of a global industry that employs one in nine people on the planet. That feeds millions cheaply and nutritiously and in a sustainable manner.

In a way, I do understand why they want the labels. Dairy has long stood for nutrition and health and calling something soy or almond MILK rather than calling it a drink provides so much more shorthand feeling in a consumer.

That being said, what does that drink have to do to provide even half of the cheap nutrition that a glass of dairy milk provides? How much does it need to be processed before it is in a drinkable state? Will the consumer get the same level of nutrition from that non-dairy “milk” or “yoghurt” as from the dairy version? Probably not without a fair amount of supplementation.

As Alexander Anton, the secretary general of the European Dairy Association says, “If I would be with Nestlé, a company that was claimed to be the number 1 in the Global Dairy Top 20 ranking by Rabobank last week, I would feel ashamed to see the Nestlé logo on such a letter.”

But this is where we are in 2020. A company that spends a lot of time and money getting its good dairy products into the hands of people who need it globally, putting its name to this letter. I have no words.

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