Almond Milk, Soy Milk... That's Not Milk! Some Wisconsin Dairy Farmers Argue

May 3, 2017

Lately, there’s been a lot of talk about milk in Wisconsin--America’s Dairyland. The talk has ranged from a trade dispute with Canada that threatened to put dozens of dairy farmers out of business to declines in the amount of money dairy farmers can charge for their product. WUWM learned about another debate underway. What should be called milk?

For some Wisconsin dairy farmers, the name "milk" is important and should belong only to the kind that comes from animals.

“Now it’s pushing the cashew milk and the almond milk and those kinds of things. You see them advertised all day long," Jennifer Sauer says.

U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin has introduced the Dairy Pride Act. It would restrict would products could use the name milk.
Credit LaToya Dennis

She and her husband Shane own Sauer Dairy Farm in Waterloo. They have around 130 milking cows.

“When’s the last time you saw a milk mustache commercial? We used to have them all the time, haven’t seen them,” Sauer says.

The Sauers are among a growing contingent of dairy farmers pushing Congress to limit use of the word milk on products.

Shane says after decades of hard work and lots of money, nothing but milk from animals should be called milk.

“We fought for this label for a long-time, they can fight for theirs,” she says.

"We fought for this label for a long-time, they can fight for theirs."

Over at Outpost Natural Foods, Matthew Laird had a gallon of the traditional stuff. “You know, if I’m going to drink milk, I’m going to drink milk,” he says.

Laird says that for him, milk comes from cows - though he doesn’t care if other products use the name.

Leah Parkhurst agrees. She’s been vegan for more than a decade.

“It seems ludicrous to me that it has to be defined as cow milk or an animal product. All kinds of things make milk. There’s milk wheat, there’s plants that make milk so it seems absolutely inappropriate to me that everything has to have a strict definition,” Parkhurst says.

Besides people who decide to purchase an alternative to dairy milk know the difference, according to Patrick Delaney of the American Soybean Association. He says soybean farmers have also been getting into the market because of demand. Some people don’t like the way cow milk makes them feel, Delaney says, so why fight over a word.

“I think it’s something that really pits one aspect of agriculture against another aspect of agriculture and that’s unfortunate,” he says.

Back at the farm in Waterloo, Jennifer Sauer wonders if many of the allergies that exist today are because people have moved away from dairy to more processed goods.

“If you talk to the older generation, they made it a lot of years drinking right out of the tank. We’ve got to go back to basics,” she says.

Sauer says it’s time to rethink what we’re eating – and naming things. Wisconsin Senator Tammy Baldwin has introduced legislation to accommodate dairy farmers such as the Sauers.