Last week, the progressive blog-o-sphere absolutely lost it when an article published by Tom Philpott on Mother Jones loudly proclaimed “Lay off the Almond Milk you ignorant hipsters”, which was later republished on other liberal media sites again, and again, andagain, each time with an extensive round of (almost completely) negative comments from readers on Facebook, Twitter, and the original sites with some threatening to unfollow the blog(s) but most commenting along the lines of “I came to expect more from Mother Jones” or, perhaps more notably, “This reeks of Dairy Industry money”.
Does it? And does anyone see something a bit fishy lying under this whole debacle?
For some perspective, The American dairy industry is in free-fall with the popularity of cows milk falling as rapidly as our former obsession with orange juice and the popularity of non-dairy and vegan alternatives growing in urban, hip areas.
So why did these articles get published on progressive sites like Mother Jones, then Alternet, then Huffington Post, etc. and is it pure coincidence that they didn’t originate in, say, Glenn Beck’s ‘Blaze’ or The Daily Caller or even Fox?
In fact, it was Rush Limbaugh himself who said that eating organic food “makes you a jerk” and even Jonah Golberg’s famous “Liberal Fascism” book notes links between vegetarianism, Hitler, Socialism, etc. All those ‘west coast granola-eating hippy liberal’ jokes may actually have some grain of truth to them.
Some are old enough to remember a time when big Tobacco used to pump millions into studies, articles, advertisements, and the like in an effort to sustain their industry in the eyes, and pockets, of Americans. Luckily for the cigarette manufacturers, their product actually came with a physically addictive ingredient already present in the product itself. Now Big Tobacco is attempting a takeover of the E-cigarette market as a last-ditch effort to corner the market on ‘alternative’ nicotine products.
So how do these puzzle pieces all this tie in together and what is the source? Where did this recent rash of anti-plant milk originate?
It was only one month ago that the first anti-almond milk article appeared in U.S. News and World report which sparked the ‘debate’ online. The article received thousands of shares and swept across the internet at alarming speed.
So would it strike you as interesting if I told you that this ‘source’ article was written by Dietician Tamara Duker Freuman and that some deeper research into Ms. Freuman shows that she just so happens to be a paid ‘Media spokesman’ and consultant [PDF] with the Dairy industry? Or perhaps, when all the highly-subsidized overabundance of milk in U.S. public schools was being criticized, it was the same Ms. Freuman who not only came to Dairy’s defense but actually advocated sugar-laden chocolate milk as a ‘good thing’ in schools?
The ACS may be a strong figure on the public stage when it comes to cheese but what about the actual Dairy organizations and lobbying groups?
The National Milk Producers Foundation is the leading lobbying arm of the dairy industry and has been staying quite busy in the national shift toward plant-based milks. In fact, they sent a strongly-worded legal request [PDF] to the FDA asking that the definition of “milk” and “Cheese” only be those products that directly come from cows, a position that would greatly benefit their industry.
More about that definition of “Milk” by the NMPF: hidden within the petition is a portion asking the FDA to (secretly) include chemical sweeteners such as aspartame and sucralose.
Importantly, none of these additives would need to be listed on the label as they would simply be swept under the definition of “milk,” so that when a company lists “milk” on the label, it automatically includes aspartame or sucralose – not the case with Almond milk, or cashew milk, or soy, or rice, or or or.
Tying this back to the original article by Tom Philpott. Long-time readers may recall the time Mr. Philpott tried to advocate the idea of a vegan-omnivore alliance in 2011 or the time he defended ‘organic’ dairy (twice) as a healthier alternative to conventional dairy by citing astudy that was funded by the dairy industry itself.
His argument against almond milk is primarily that it’s A.) Artificially inflated in Price and B.) Environmentally unfriendly due to its water usage.
Ironically, Philpott could have learned about the environmental consequences of almond growing vs. Dairy by reading an article in his own magazine with very clear charts and known that from an environmental standpoint, almond milk is still a better choice than cow’s milk.
So is there a connection between the falling market value of Dairy products and the sudden rash of anti-almond milk articles by people in or around ‘Big Ag’ and the Dairy manufacturers? Time will tell, though I can tell you that if it is the case, it certainly wouldn’t be the first time an industry used media contacts to push a false narrative.