Which ‘milk’ is best for the environment? Dairy, nut, soy, hemp and grain milks are compared

Making eco-conscious choices at the shops can be tricky when we’re presented with so many options, especially when it comes to milk. Should we buy plant-based milk, or dairy?

Dora Marinova, Professor of Sustainability at Curtin University, and Diana Bogueva, Postdoctoral Researcher at Curtin University, have looked at the evidence to help people choose.

Their article has been posted on Sciblogs, republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license.

You can read the original article HERE.

But while milk from dairy cows is mentioned (and found to be environmentally wanting), milk from goats and sheep was not part of the comparative study.

That’s a pity.  Goat and sheep milk production is fast increasing and meeting a growing demand.

A recent report funded by the Provincial Growth Fund researching the development of the sheep and goat milk industry showed New Zealand exports of sheep milk products were valued at about $20 million.

It was expected to lift to $250 million in 2024, through further production of high value products such as infant formula.

One Waikato family, already running a 520-cow dairy farm near Te Awamutu,  were encouraged by the forecast growth in dairy sheep to expand into the fledgling industry, not to mention its lower environmental impact on the land, compared to cows. Continue reading

Taste and health affect consumer choices for milk and non-dairy beverages

Education on nutritional value and correcting misconceptions should be a focus of the dairy industry, if it is to benefit from recent research findings on consumer behaviour in the US.

The researchers from North Carolina State University used surveys, conjoint analysis, and means-end-chain analysis to uncover the underlying values among dairy milk and non-dairy beverage consumers.

Their aim was to learn more about what affects consumer decisions regarding fluid milk purchases, researchers

The results of the study highlighted the most important factors for both milk and non-dairy beverages, which were the same: they must be healthy and taste good.

In recent years, retail sales of fluid milk have changed significantly and per capita consumption has decreased at a rate of 830 mL per year since 1975.

Between 2011 and 2014, sales of fluid milk have decreased 3.8% but the amount of non-dairy, plant-based beverages sold increased 30% between 2010 and 2015.

No previous work directly studied values held by consumers and how those attitudes influence milk purchases.

To assess this, a survey was completed by 999 primary shoppers between 25 and 70 years old, 78% female and 22% male, who reported purchasing dairy milk, non-dairy beverage, or both at least two to three times per month.

Most consumers (87.8%) did not follow a specific diet or claim to be lactose intolerant (88.4%). Twenty-seven percent of consumers purchased one or both beverages more than once a week, 47.0% purchased one or both beverages once a week, and 25.0% purchased one or both beverages two to three times per month.

Consumers ranked fat as the most important attribute in dairy milk, whereas sugar level was most important for non-dairy beverages. Dairy milk consumers reported a preference for 2% or 1% fat, and almost 70% of dairy milk sales in 2014 were reduced or fat-free milk.

Non-dairy consumers preferred plant beverages that were naturally sweetened or had no added sugar. Almond beverage was the most desirable plant-derived beverage, representing more than 65.0% of non-dairy beverages sold in 2014.

Protein had universal appeal for both milk and non-dairy beverages, with higher utility scores for higher levels of protein content.

“We found that consumers choose milk based on habit or because they like the flavor. Milk that is appealing in flavor could convince nondairy beverage drinkers to consumer more dairy milk; likewise, lactose-free milk or milk from grass-fed cows might also be appealing,” lead author Kara McCarthy said.

“By further focusing consumer education on trust building as well as nutrition, farm practice, and animal welfare, the appeal of dairy milk could be broadened.”

With the results of this study in mind, along with the many features attractive to consumers of both dairy milk and non-dairy beverages, the dairy industry can more effectively market and position milk as well as dispel any misconceptions

This AgScience post is based on a report posted by Science Daily (HERE).

Journal Reference:

K.S. McCarthy, M. Parker, A. Ameerally, S.L. Drake, M.A. Drake. Drivers of choice for fluid milk versus plant-based alternatives:What are consumer perceptions of fluid milk? Journal of Dairy Science, 2017.