The Problem Isn’t The Dairy Industry, It’s Capitalism Milking Us
Let’s also have a short chat about your nut milk while we’re getting started.
I’m tired of the narrative around “stop eating meat and drinking dairy so we can save the planet.” The issue and solution lie within where we purchase and consume dairy, not stopping it completely.
In Canada, the carbon footprint of one litre of Canadian milk is 0.94 kg of CO2 equivalent, which is less than half the global average (2.5 kg), according to the FAO. Dairy production in Canada represents about 1% of our total GHG emissions. By comparison, the transportation sector is responsible for 27% of greenhouse gas emissions.
Yet, in 2022, we are waging a war with the farmers that sustain us.
It’s time we look at who is in control of the dairy industry and how we can lower our footprint by using our power as consumers.
Raw milk has become an unregulated, underground market
It’s estimated that humans have consumed dairy from sheep, goats, and cows since the Neolithic era — that’s about 10,000 years ago. During this time, dairy was consumed raw.
As time went on, our populations grew, cities were created, and society was pushed farther away from the land that food came from. This divide has created confusion and complications in how we nourish our bodies.
Canada was adamant about banning raw milk production, consumption, and transportation. In 1991 they created the Milk Act, making it illegal to partake in selling or creating raw milk across the country. The CDC and FDA are also very against raw milk and have resources that support the dangers of ingesting it.
As we continue to heat up yet infuse whole milk with added nutrients, it’s interesting that there is an increase in lactose intolerance. It’s also curious that our government would instead force citizens to drink a specific type of milk believing that raw milk cannot be made under sanitary conditions.
If raw milk is unhealthy, do we not think it has something to do with what the cows are ingesting? How has the human body begun to get so ill from something natural? Is there a correlation between mass dairy production, laws on raw milk, and the pollution of our planet?
Let’s say, if farmers did not know the negative effect of specific fertilizers they were using in the 80s, but trusted the government to support their business; so they used the products. Without knowing, the decay of our lands and pollution was digested by cows is what made the milk bad, and suddenly there was an influx of diseases from raw milk?
All these ways to mechanically process a natural substance were created, even though milk has existed for years. I want to know why they are heating milk during the process and supplementing it with additional nutrition and why regulations around food and our bodies have become so severe. One could argue that the additives are what’s causing milk to be indigestible.
Let’s get clear on why mass production dairy exisits
As industrialization and capitalism continued to create the society we live in, Canada’s farmers have been pushed to their limits to keep up with consumption.
The government is so hell-bent on what we consume that they have polluted the fields that animals roam through, and farmers are taking the brunt. One of the critical problems with mass production farming is the detrimental impact on the land and the animals.
Instead of suggesting that consumers should relax on their milk intake, between 2005 and 2015, the dairy cattle industry’s greenhouse gas emissions increased by 18% as the demand for milk grew.
Environmentalists point their fingers at the cow manure, which produces the emissions; the poor handling of manure and fertilizers degrades local land and water resources.
As the population grows and urbanization continues, there is increasing pressure to protect natural resources. It’s easy to blame the ‘unseen’ farmers and cows with ease of demand. We go to the grocery store, pick up our bag(s) of chosen milk, pay, and go home. We repeat the cycle weekly without much thought of where the milk comes from.
Is milk in our coffee more important than the livelihood of the community and animals?
It appears so.
But there are solutions beyond mass production.
Ethical dairy farming is possible
Dairy farming can be ethical — many of us choose to buy what’s in the grocery store and is mass-produced on factory farms. In those settings, the goal is to produce as much dairy as efficiently as possible.
So, where does that leave the goat farm around the corner or the family-run cow farm that has been here for multiple generations?
If they practice ethical farming practices (I guarantee you many of them are), why should we not support them? Why are we still blaming farmers for the environmental problems when they live with climate change and globalization firsthand?
This is only one example, but Mapleton’s Organics shares their theory on their website:
“On the farm we give the animals the opportunity to express their natural and social behaviour as much as possible. Our milking barn is an example of this: cows choose to eat, sleep, and give milk on their own schedule. When weather permits, they enjoy fresh air and food together on pasture all day.”
If cows, goats, and sheep can roam grassy hillsides, have natural pregnancies, be housed comfortably, and produce milk on their own schedule, I do not see a problem with dairy farming.
The problem is with the access to consumption and activity around milk. if you want to support animal livelihood in the airy industry, re-think where you are buying and who you are buying from.
Instead of bashing your carnivorous friends, consider your lifestyle habits
Corporations have placed this title of a green future in the hands of capitalist sustainability for far too long. Store-bought nut milk is often adorned in pretty green labels of sustainability and wellness. Save the plant — don’t drink milk; drink the chemical compound of ‘nut’ milk!
Non-dairy milk was considered part of the solution but is now part of the problem.
If you’re going to go dairy-free, make your nut milk at home. Besides, what are the additives in mass production milk and non-dairy? They often contain unpronounceable, non-nutritional ingredients to achieve taste, colour, and smooth consistency. Common additives include salt, oil, and various gums — yum!
(Note: I’m currently working on a piece that goes more into this topic, but I wanted to plant the seed here as this series on the meat and dairy industry develops)
As consumers, we need to think about where our food comes from and what we can do in the kitchen to limit the impact on our planet.
Keep it simple: support local dairy farmers directly
We consumers have much power in the cash we carry, but we often forget whom to share that power with.
Simply crossing dairy off your shopping list will not save humanity or protect future livestock. It will put generations of farmers out of business and continue to line the pockets of the non-dairy industry, which is equally, or if not more, corrupt.
Ask questions and engage with your local community and farmers. Do your research and find local farms. Get out there and understand what it truly is to fight capitalism and support human and animal rights.
If we want to protect our planet, it starts with our buying habits and raising awareness.
Food for thought
I wanted to leave you with this quote from a BBC article about family farmers:
“I suppose you would have to see the figures, but if we could catch the rainwater to wash the milking parlours and got wind turbines and solar panels to supply electricity, it wouldn’t affect us farmers,” she says. “If there was a way to do our bit and our country did start making steps to improve our emissions, maybe other countries would follow.” But her doubts seem to catch up with her quickly. “But maybe Philip is right? We don’t know who is right and wrong — we don’t know the facts.”
Where Hannah remains unsure about dairy farming’s climate impact, there is another certainty that she will always come back to: her guiding principle.
“Cows are the most important thing. That’s the way I look at it. As long as the cows are happy, we are happy.”