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Milk vs. 'Milk' - What's the difference, and what it means for Wisconsin farmers

Judge rules on skim milk case
Posted at 3:57 PM, Apr 07, 2022
and last updated 2022-04-10 15:51:06-04

SLINGER, Wis. — In this Two Americas report, we show you parts of Southeast Wisconsin that some of you may be familiar with, or may not be.

This includes America's Dairyland fighting to keep its good name. We will show you the years-long battle between the dairy industry and alternatives using the term 'milk.'

The Mayer family takes pride in their sixth generation dairy farm. Their daughter will be generation seven and granddaughter baby Ada is generation eight.

But their 60 cows have some competition - in the form of almonds, soy, oat and coconut milk. "I have not seen one soybean or one coconut ever give birth and begin to lactate, so it's not natural for them to produce milk," Shelly Mayer argues.

It seems as though the dairy aisle changed overnight with so many more varieties. Mayer believes the dairy industry needs to wake up. "The dairy industry — I don't know if this crept up on us or if it just came on so fast," said Mayer.

According to the National Farmer's Union, dairy is a $629 billion industry. It provides $45 billion to Wisconsin's economy each year.

Dairy alternative revenues are forecasted to reach more than $8 billion in North America by 2024.

This is an issue that has been brought up by lawmakers. Most recently U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin supported The Dairy Pride Act to "...stop plant-based drinks from stealing the good name of Wisconsin milk."

"We need to protect that the information is accurate that goes to consumers," said Mayer.

Registered Dietitian Bridgett Wilder with Perseverance Health and Wellness Coaching agrees, saying there are vast nutritional differences. She urges families to look at the back of each label.

"The biggest glaring difference is protein and carbohydrates," said Wilder. "Milk has a high level of carbohydrates. Almond milk doesn't have a high level of carbohydrates and milk does. It does not have a high level of protein as milk does, so that would be the difference."

We reached out to the Wisconsin Soybean Marketing Board, The Almond Board of California and Prairie Oat Growers Association for comment. They did not respond by this report's deadline.

"Can you understand from their perspective, from the dairy industry, that their name is being taken from them?" asked TMJ4's Julia Fello. Wilder replied, "I see it as a milk alternative. When we say the word alternative — that represents differences."

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