Dairy farmers are calling for greater regulation surrounding use of the word “milk”. Specifically, the farmers are unhappy that plant-based products are able to use the term “milk” for their dairy alternative products. Dairy Connect is a NSW lobby group for farmers that is leading the call for increased regulation of the dairy terminology. The group claims that the term “milk” is misleading for consumers.
“We’re not trying to constrict a product, it’s about appropriate labelling. Whether it’s milked from a mammal or a product from a plant, people can make an informed decision,” says Dairy Connect chief executive Shaughn Morgan.
Dairy Connect argues that “milk” is defined by Food Standards as the mammary secretion of milking animals. The farmers believe that plant based milks such as almond milk are hijacking the term to appeal to a wider consumer base.
However, Pureharvest, which produces non-dairy milk, highlights a different definition. The company asserted that the dictionary definition of the word “milk” refers to the juice of nuts and coconuts. Pureharvest manufactures up to 12 different types of non-dairy milk and says that there has been no problem prior to this.
“Why this fear from the dairy industry about words and terms that have been in use and understood by consumers for a long time?” asks a statement from Pureharvest.
However, the Australian camel and buffalo milk industries are in support of stronger regulations or a move towards renaming. These businesses argue that the milk industry is already overwhelmed with numerous other man-made alternatives to milk. A rename for plant-based milks would help their businesses have a chance to succeed. President of the Australian Buffalo Industry Council, Mitch Humphries, suggested that plant-based milks are imitations.
“You don’t expect margarine to be branded as butter – there’d be an uproar if that started happening,” he said.
Cow’s milk has always been seen as the benchmark of liquid nutrition. The dairy farmers argue taht using the label “milk” misleads consumers who believe that dairy alternatives hold the same benefits. However, consumer lobby group Choice has admitted that it’s good that there alternatives to conventional milk for people with allergies or ethical objections.
Although the move toward stronger regulations is gaining traction, there is no way to tell if this change will be occur soon. It certainly doesn’t seem that the milk industry will be shrinking quickly. The interim Chief Executive for Dairy Farmers Australia, John McQueen said that calling for a specific ban on products was ‘a waste of breath’.