The Foodprint of Cow’s Milk, Oat Milk and Almond Milk

by FoodPrint

Published: 10/18/22, Last updated: 10/18/22

For the longest time “milk” meant cow’s milk, but if you order a latte at a coffee shop today, you will probably be asked “what kind of milk?” and the answer could include oat, almond, pistachio and more. Plant-based milks now make up 15% of total milk sales in the United States, with oat milk on track to be number one on that list, outpacing recent favorite, almond milk. But one big oat milk company, Oatly, has encountered some bumps in the road and according to Eater’s recent takedown of oat milk˚ (focused mostly on Oatly), “there is no morally right or virtuous choice when it comes to drinking milk…every single option is going to have some sort of bogeyman that the diet industrial complex can exploit.”


Framing milk choices as questions of morality or virtuosity is a good way to get people to throw their lattes up in the air and retreat to what’s familiar (cow’s milk) or hide under the covers with a cup of black coffee. And of course different people try or switch to plant-based milks for different reasons. Some are looking to reduce their carbon footprint, some have animal welfare in mind, while others might be lactose intolerant.

For the first of our new batch of episodes of FoodPrint’s podcast, “What You’re Eating,” we decided to take a look at the foodprint of the different milks you can put in your coffee — including dairy, almond and oat — without questions of morality or virtuosity, asking simply: what are the production issues with each? What do you gain or lose by choosing one over the other? We talk to experts about dairy farming, almond farming and oat production — as well as coffee professionals who are shaping the landscape in real time.


Top photo by ColleenMichaels/Adobe Stock.

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