Plant-Based Milk Options: Helpful or Harmful
Written By Hailee Settlemoir
From bioplastic and beyond, we're watching the world turns to healthier and more environmentally friendly options. It can be difficult to know which products are benefiting your cause, but that's why it's important to remain a skeptic. Today, I am going to look into three different types of dairy-free milk and rate them based on environmental impact, taste, and price. Beyond doing the research and stating my opinion, I'm legitimately going out and giving these milks a try. I chose which products to rate based on a list of the Spruce Eats’s “8 Best Non-Dairy Milks in 2022”, which I have linked here. The top three picks are as follows:
- MALK Unsweetened Sprouted Almond Malk (best overall)
- Califia Farms Go Coconuts Coconutmilk (best coconut milk)
- OATLY! Oat milk (best oat milk)
Now, before I get started, I want to make it clear that I am not here to bash these brands, but to simply recount how this brand is commonly viewed in the media. Don’t shoot the messenger, y’all.
MALK Unsweetened Sprouted Almond Milk
If you are a new “non-dairy” fan, almond milk is likely the first recommendation you get. While I have been vegetarian since May of 2016, I’ve been around the block in terms of dairy alternatives.
Before viewing Spruce Eat’s article, I was not aware of Malk as a brand. However, their website truly impresses. I mean, chef’s kiss. They make it very clear how few ingredients they use to make such a good product. It stands at a price of $5.99, which isn’t too far off from the average price of a gallon of dairy milk here in the US. In terms of taste, it was a little bland, but I expected such from the few ingredients. I would recommend using this milk as an additive for coffee, or in some cereal.
My problem with this milk is its effect on the environment. While almond milk does not require a lot of land to cultivate, and its greenhouse gas emissions are one of the lowest, one cannot ignore the amount of water that almond milk requires. According to thebeet.com, it takes 130 pints of water to produce a single glass of almond milk!
Price: 3/5 | Brand: 5/5 | Environmental Impact: 0/5 |Taste: 3/5
Overall Rating: 3/5
Califia Farms Go Coconuts Coconutmilk
Sometimes, coconut milk can get a bad rap for being too coconutty. I am definitely one of those people who turns the other way when my coconut milk is too intense, so I was a little worried about trying this one. However, I can safely say that Califia farms really knocked it out of the park with this one. This particular coconut milk is actually part coconut milk and part coconut water. The texture was very light and thin, sort of like a skim milk. The Califia website was also impressive, and their social mission really stuck out to me; “create a future where plants replace dairy without compromise”. In terms of environmental impact, coconut milk definitely requires less water than dairy cows. The only problem lies in how coconuts require a more tropical landscape to grow, so there is a limit in terms of land. However, there is a more “sweatshop” working condition for those who harvest coconuts, and even monkeys have been chained to trees so that these coconuts are harvested for free. So, even though it was amazing, it still has a really bad social impact. This product was extremely hard to find, probably because its just THAT GOOD. The price is $5.49, which was even cheaper than the almond milk from Malk.
Price: 4/5 | Brand: 4/5 | Environmental Impact: 2/5 | Taste: 4/5
OATLY! Oat Milk
Okay, confession time. I am a HUGE oat milk girl. So, when I saw that Spruce Eat’s had it on the list, all I had to do is go to my fridge. I got my carton for $5.99, which is within the realm of the other non-dairy items we have looked at. Since I am such an oat milk fan, I already have used this milk in everything I possibly could. Mac and cheese, mashed potatoes, smoothies, coffee, etc etc etc. Oat milk is super creamy and sweet, so this one takes the cake in terms of taste. For environmental impact, oat milk ties with soy for best environmental impact. It requires less water, low carbon emissions, and land use.
Price: 3/5 | Brand: 4/5 | Environmental Impact: 4/5 | Taste: 5/5
In conclusion, choosing a non-dairy, plant-based milk depends on your personal taste. Some people care more about price than environmental impact, and vice versa. These are just personal opinions, but hopefully this article helps you make a decision that is right for you.