Oat ‘milk’ gets high marks

It’s now the fastest-growing dairy alternative in the U.S.

If you’re a dairy producer, you won’t think much of the alternative “milks” reviewed in a recent article in the U.K.’s The Guardian. But if you grow oats, you might be a bit less rankled.

The article claims dairy milk is an environmental “disaster” and quotes a University of Oxford study which says it results in almost three times more greenhouse gas emissions than any plant-based milk and consumes nine times more land than any of the alternatives.

But many of them also get the environmental thumbs down. Coconut is one. The article cites a New York Times investigation that says between 2007 to 2014 rainforests in Indonesia were clearcut by three acres every minute to make way for coconut palm trees.

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Almonds are called the greatest water user next to dairy, and criticized for the high mortality rate on bees used for pollination. Rice is labelled as another water hog, and bacteria breeding in rice paddies are cited as a source of greenhouse gas from methane.

Hazelnuts get a passing grade for lower water consumption and because they don’t need bees for pollination, and hemp and flax get credit as niche crops which are “more environmentally friendly compared with a monoculture operation.”

Soybean milk gets praise for its nutritional quality, but the article notes that the crop used for its main purpose of feeding livestock has led to massive burning of the Amazon rainforest.

The article says that according to the Oxford study, the winner is “the unassuming oat.”

“Oats are grown in cooler climates such as the northern U.S. and Canada, and are therefore not associated with deforestation in developing countries. The only drawback with this trendy and guilt-free option is that most oats come from mass-produced, monoculture operations where they are sprayed with the Roundup pesticide right before harvest.”

According to Bloomberg Business, retail sales of oat milk in the U.S. soared from $4.4 million in 2017 to $29 million in 2019, surpassing almond milk as the fastest-growing dairy alternative.

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