Why I don’t Drink Cow’s Milk – The Nutritional and Anatomical Logic Behind Ditching Dairy
The textbook definition of ‘Milk’ is ‘an opaque white fluid rich in fat and protein, secreted by female mammals for the nourishment of their young.’ Defined in such frank terms this definition may influence one to ponder the rhetorical questions hindering our society: Why do we feel inclined to drink the breast milk and growth hormones designed for another species, and is this natural? Today I would like to divulge the anatomical rationality behind my decision to ditch dairy, and discuss the nutritional counterpart plant based milk alternatives that replace it.
Do we NEED cow’s milk?
It is common knowledge that after infancy a child is weaned off human breast milk and should never have a necessity for it ever again. Dr Christian, registered doctor famous for his appearances in UK TV show ‘Embarrassing Bodies’ wrote an article for the London Evening Standard chastising our societies need for cow’s milk stating “after the first year of life, children require no milk of any type” and upon discussing our obsession with drinking the milk of cows he added: “Cows’ milk is just that: for cows. Man is the only animal that drinks milk into adulthood.”
Through marketing ploys worth billions of dollars we as a society have been duped by the dairy industry and our government into believing drinking cow’s milk and consuming dairy is a necessity to receive calcium for strong bones – regardless of the fact calcium can be found in a range of nuts and leafy greens.
“Cows’ milk is higher in sugar than humans need, and although high in calcium, only 30 per cent of it is available for use by the body, compared to 60-70 per cent for fruits, grains, nuts, roots, seeds and vegetables.” – Dr Christian
Do we NEED the milk of any other species’?
Just as humans do not have any necessity for dogs milk (which is for puppies); as rhino milk is for baby rhinos; and rat milk for baby rats it is obscure to accept that an adult human of no genetic linkage would require cow growth hormones in their diet. In fact, anatomically it would make more scientific sense for humans to drink chimpanzee milk as we are closest related genetically to the primate family.
“The purpose of cow’s milk is to turn a 65-pound calf into a 700-pound cow as rapidly as possible. Cow’s milk IS baby calf growth fluid. No matter what you do to it, that is what the stuff is.” – Dr Michael Klaper
Dairy Alternatives and Their Nutritional Value
Now, if the thought of drinking milk pumped out of the tit of a chimpanzee concerns you – do not worry you are not alone. Thankfully you do not require either human milk, cow milk or chimpanzee milk as a functioning adult.
However, if you have grown accustomed to a creamier coffee there are plenty of plant based milk alternatives derived from seeds, nuts, legumes, cereals and vegetables. Almond milk, soy milk, rice milk, macadamia milk, pea milk, potato milk, oat milk, hemp milk, flax milk, coconut milk, cashew milk and even brazil nut milk all exist as alternatives to replace the habit of using the cow’s milk you’ve grown to enjoy.
The dairy industry has consistently attempted to disregard the nutritional value of modern day plant milk alternatives suggesting time and time again that cow’s milk reigns supreme over all options. I put this to the test by simply browsing the Woolworths Australia website. Below is a comparison of a Full Fat 1L Cow’s Milk (brand: Woolworths) and a Regular 1L Soy Milk (brand: Sanitarium). The Nutritional Information supplied by the Woolworths charts offer the same variables in ‘average qty per serving’ and ‘average quantity per 100g’ for both products. Soy milk was chosen to be the comparison plant based milk as it is not only the most popular, but research confirms it to be the ‘best’ plant based alternative to cow’s milk. The brand chosen to portray full fat regular soy milk was also chosen based on its popularity and low price in Australia. The soy milk can be purchased at Woolworths for the everyday price of $1.79 and the cow’s milk for $1.25.
After comparing these charts, you will find the products nutritional values are almost identical. The most notable differences are that the sugar found in regular cow’s milk is over double the quantity found in a regular soy milk and that the saturated fat content in regular cow’s milk is over five times that of regular soy milk.
What is not shown on either online Woolworths chart is the calcium per 100mL for each product. I gathered this information by going into Woolworths and comparing both nutritional value charts on the back of each product.
Surprisingly, the calcium per 100mL was found to be higher in the regular soy milk by 43mg. This data highlights that a person drinking soy milk as a plant based alternative will not be missing out on any nutrients otherwise consumed via cow’s milk.
As this comparison solely considered regular soy milk as a plant based alternative it is important to note there are still a variety of other alternate milk options derived from vegetables, legumes, cereals, nuts and seeds which will host a variety of results. For example, the ‘regular soy milk’ used in this comparison had a fat content of 3.5g whereas the ‘original almond milk’ sold at Woolworths by the same brand had only 1.4g per 100g. It is important for any consumer to do their research to find out which plant based milk alternative best suits their needs and dietary choices.
What else is in cow’s milk?
It is not common knowledge that cow’s milk also contains several elements of bacteria, cells, antibiotics and hormones. This has been left under reported to the general public. Cow’s milk in Australia has a legal limit to the amount of coliform (a bacteria present in the faeces of warm bodied animals) allowed within a carton, which Coles Australia milk exceeded in 2016 requiring a recall. It is also uncommon knowledge that although many countries in Europe and the United States have limits to the amount of somatic cells permissible within milk, Australia does not. “When a cow is infected, greater than 90% of the somatic cells in her milk are neutrophils, the inflammatory immune cells that form pus.” (Dr Michael Gregor)
A common reason somatic cells are found in milk is that many female dairy cows develop Mastitis infections. Mastitis infections, usually from oversized and heavy udders commonly due to continuous pregnancies and/or excessive milking. It is known to be extremely painful for both lactating cows and humans alike. Mastitis causes increased blood and pus cells that according to the Dairy Australia website remain within the milk regardless of filtration or cooling. Dairy Australia founded the ‘Countdown’ project, an investment project to limit the increasing rates of cows suffering with mastitis. Although founded in 1998 and expected to run only 3 years, the project continues to run today as the problem is still rampant in large dairies.
Disease and infections such as the common Mastitis are treated on dairy farms with antibiotics and drugs, which in certain doses are permissible to remain within animal by-products under the Maximum Residue Limits (MRLs) enforced by the Australian Pesticides Veterinary Medicines Authority (APVMA). Leading health organisations such as the World Health Organisation (WHO) have consistency voiced their concerns over the excessive use of antibiotics in ‘food animals’ and have fears antibiotics consumed by humans indirectly through animal by-product’s such as dairy can have harmful effects on humans and weaken the effect of some antibiotics within human immune systems (antibiotic resistance). In that same report the WHO also state that in some countries, approximately 80% of total consumption of medical antibiotics are used for animals within animal agriculture.
Current statistics by the Commonwealth Scientific & Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) state that 1 in 6 Australians avoid dairy products. One common reason being lactose intolerance.
Lactose intolerance (the inability to consume milk without falling ill) is increasing in Australia, with a statistic of 75% of the world being lactose intolerant in adulthood reported. Lactose intolerance is when a human cannot digest lactose which is a type of sugar found in the milk of any species. New research shows our bodies over centuries have evolved to consume dairy after infancy through gene-culture pro-evolution, a selection process, as the gene for breaking down lactose sugar in milk was still rare in the bronze age. (Read scholarly research reports on this here, here, and here or news reports on the topic here, here, and here).
Scientists, like those of the European Journal of Human Genetics call the ability to consume milk after infancy ‘lactase persistence’, which is not found in other species as they wean off milk after infancy/childhood when their bodies no longer produce the lactase enzyme. Homo sapiens (humans) are the only species that drink milk recreationally after infancy, and the only species to consume milk of another species. Recreationally, meaning we do so only out of pleasure, convenience or habit when there is no need.
As the ability to consume milk in some (not all) humans is possible due to evolution and not our biology, this makes milk consumption after childhood unnatural anatomically.
One may argue, the existence of lactose ‘intolerance’ is an anatomical indication that our bodies were simply not designed to drink growth hormones after infancy – regardless of the animal species in which the milk is drawn.
The Calcium Conundrum
Upon questioning our societies need for dairy the industry often brings up our requirement for calcium. Although we know calcium can be found through a variety of plant-based foods, such as dairy free substitute milks, vegetables, legumes and tofu. In fact, Osteoporosis Australia lists firm tofu as the food with the highest calcium content per serve, at 832 milligrams per cup (250 ml or 260g). Despite this, the dairy industry floods the media with statements that suggest without dairy we’re increasing our chances of osteoporosis. Osteoporosis is a costly disease that causes bones to become brittle leading to higher rates of broken bones and fractures.
*Picture is an example of SOME sources of plant based calcium, not all*
Dr Michael Greger, MD and bestselling author and founder of the non-profit website NutritionFacts.org renowned for his research and knowledge on the topic of osteoporosis, has tackled this issue head on.
In a Nutrionalfacts.org video, Dr Michael Gregor discusses that hip fracture rates are highest in populations with the greatest milk consumption. Not only this, the video also divulges research suggesting drinking cow milk may be harmful to our health – including a study conducted over 20 years and involving 100,000 people. The same study also discovered women consuming two-to-three glasses of milk a day within the study had a significantly higher risk of hip fractures.
Regardless of your opinion as to whether calcium intake can prevent the risk of bone fractures there appears to be no harm in trying. Calcium is an essential nutrient for your body and calcium deficiency can be harmful. Eating leafy greens, tofu, nuts, legumes and plant based dairy alternative foods or milks are a healthy and natural way to maintain your calcium levels and as the provided comparisons and statistics prove, dairy replacements can in fact be a greater source of calcium with higher doses per serve with far less fat.
Why do we believe dairy is a necessity?
Osteoporosis awareness is advocated by many organizations, one including The Healthy Bones Initiative, owned and operated by none other than Dairy Australia. Their ‘Healthy Bones Week’ is a project that is promoted to school children across Australia that suggests dairy is consumed in multiple servings a day, promoting it as a necessity. I experienced this first hand during my public primary schooling in Australia’s Capital. Standing on school grounds I watched before me a ‘Canberra Milk’ helicopter fly down and land in my school. Smiling, now bad-ass gentleman handed out free regular and flavoured milks of chocolate and strawberry while preaching to us the importance of milk for our bones.
Disguised as a message of the importance of calcium in an ‘educational program’ proclaimed as ‘Healthy Bones Week’ the initiative enforced the ideology that milk was natural for humans and dairy products reared from cows needed to be consumed multiple times a day. For the many children who suffer from lactose intolerance this message is far from helpful, and some may consider the enforced participation of projects whom host one sided agendas on school grounds to be indoctrination.
But it is not only ‘Healthy Bones Week’ that the dairy industry is using to seep their marketing into Australian children’s classrooms. Projects like ‘Farm to Plate’, ‘Legendairy’, ‘Picasso Cow’, ‘Discover Dairy’, international ‘World Milk Day’ and the previous ‘Free Milk Scheme’ are all examples of projects with agendas that promote dairy products, consistently claiming multiple servings of dairy to be necessary in a healthy diet and for strong bones which is inaccurate and one sided.
With dairy industry funded campaigns all over social media, morning shows, TV and even enforced in our schooling system no wonder our society believes dairy is natural and required in our diets. It is important that this misinformation is corrected as fake news influences our societies purchasing decisions, nutrition and overall health. The representation of dairy as a NEED puts Australian’s in the mind-set of believing without buying the dairy industries products they cannot be healthy, a mind-set which is highly unhealthy within its own right.
Our genetic disposition and our ability to source all nutrients found in cow’s milk through healthier, alternative plant based sources concludes that cow’s milk and dairy products such as yoghurt, butter and cheese are in no way necessary to a human’s diet. As we are an entirely different species with no genetic linkage to one another there can be no physical data to conclude humans require cow’s milk. By its purest definition, milk, is a growth hormone secreted by a mother for its biological young. The dairy industries misinformation suggesting dairy milk to be a necessity has been debunked and nutritional data provided to demonstrate plant based milks, leafy greens, legumes and nuts to be a sound alternative to consume nutrients such as calcium and protein.
In a century, where there are bountiful alternatives, it is unethical to take a product reared for a baby calf for the pleasure of coffee or cake when there so many ready substitutes available.
Is it time you weaned off milk?
For more reasons to ditch dairy please consider reading this article by Peta that discusses 12 reasons to stop drinking cow’s milk including acne breakouts, increased risk of cancer, high cholesterol and weight gain.
To explore the ethics of dairy, see the clip below for a no-nonsense 5 minute explanation of the standard farming practices behind the collection of cow’s milk – the reasoning behind many vegans choosing to steer clear of dairy products.
For more information on the nutritional aspects and health concerns surrounding dairy please consider reading the ‘White Lies’ report. Created by non-profit UK based health research organisation the report combines the findings of over 400 scientific papers from reputable peer-reviewed journals such as the British Medical Journal and the Lancet.
To dive into the environmental sustainability and impact of the dairy and cattle industry please consider watching the Kip Anderson and Leonardo DiCaprio documentary ‘Cowspiracy’. This documentary covers the effect animal agriculture has had on our environment and natural resources (dairy production being the largest culprit) and the reasons why we do not hear about it. It includes shocking revelations and evidence of this information being covered up by big industries making money off dairy pay outs. You can watch the documentary free on Netflix or online. The trailer has been provided below.
Cutting out dairy has never been easier. Plant based milks such as soy and almond are offered in almost all coffee shops and cafes. Many fast-food chains now provide dairy-free vegan cheese such as Gozleme King, Dominos, Mad Mex, Zambreros, Crust, Pizza Capers, Lord of the Fries, Grill’d and some Pizza Hut stores. Supermarkets are also no different, with Woolworths and Coles selling dairy-free yoghurts, butters, chocolates, milks and even ice creams from popular brands such as Weis, Ben & Jerrys, So Good, Over The Moo, Halo Top and Smooze.
In 2018 you have nothing to loose by ditching dairy – So what are you waiting for?