Barista Magazine

APR-MAY 2019

Serving People Serving Coffee Since 2005

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oads of people love dairy, and for good reason. It can transform a single-note espresso into a smooth, complex drink. It can cut a bitter dark-roasted coffee and add a soft and silky mouthfeel. Is it so great for our bodies and the environment, though? If you're in your 20s or beyond, you've been told all your life that milk's great for your health. The line you'll recognize is that milk has loads of calcium and protein and is essential for growing bodies and minds, not to mention prevents osteoporosis, the dreaded weakening of the bones common in older women. Right? Well, not really. First, those health claims: Among the major barriers to the positive effects of milk is lactose intolerance, which is present in the majority— the majority—of the adult population. A recent story in The Guardian titled "Dairy Monsters" noted studies fi nding that 15 percent of those of European descent, 75 percent of people of African descent, 50 percent of people of Indian descent, and most everyone of Thai, Japanese, Arab, and Ashkenazi Jewish descent are lactose intolerant. That means that the majority of adults on the planet do not have the enzyme to process the lactose sugars in milk, which makes digesting the stuff quite uncom- fortable. Beyond causing a bellyache, however, milk can actually be detri- mental to good health. A 1992 report from The New England Journal of Medicine revealed that cow's milk contains a specifi c protein that can damage insulin production, especially for those who have a ge- netic predisposition to diabetes. Even worse, perhaps, are the myriad studies suggesting that drinking milk does not prevent osteoporosis. One examination found that the leading determinant of late-life osteoporosis was the amount of exercise a woman got during her teen years, when most of her bone mass was being formed (which is to say, the more exercise a teen got, the lower her chance of osteoporosis later in life). Further, incidences of osteoporosis are markedly higher in parts of the world where women have easy access to milk prod- ucts. This may be caused by the fact that osteoporosis is not due to a lack of calcium, but to resorption. The issue isn't that we don't get enough calcium, but that we're excreting it at higher rates than those who do not have osteoporosis. And what is a leading cause of calcium excretion? High-protein foods like eggs and meat. Thus, women who consume more meat and dairy may be actually increasing their risk of osteoporosis. Still, contradictions abound. A recent study conducted in Nor- way found that premenopausal women who drank more than three glasses of milk per day had incidences of breast cancer that were 50 percent lower than those who didn't. Then again, this was not found to be true for post-menopausal women. So where did all that talk about milk being good for us come from? Leave it to the genius marketers saddled with a surplus of milk after World War I to preach it. Since then, the effort and money spent on marketing milk to the population has only grown. In 2013, the dairy industry spent more than $8 million on lobbying alone. Lobbying efforts by the dairy industry are particularly worri- some. While children in the early 1900s often suffered from rickets and malnourishment, and may have indeed needed milk to provide necessary calories and proteins in order to grow and be healthy, kids today are plagued not with a lack of calories and nutrients, but by a glut of them. Thus, the original impetus for pumping children full of cow's milk has disappeared, leaving the dairy industry to fi nd other selling points for continued milk consumption, including fears of osteoporosis and micronutrient defi ciencies. Cow meets Earth Even as milk's healthiness may be in contention, its environmental impacts certainly aren't. According to a 2010 FAO report, dairy sector emissions account for 4 percent of global anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions. These emissions are mainly those needed to grow feed for cows and cow methane emissions. Methane has a global warming potential 21–23 times more potent than carbon dioxide, the greenhouse gas emitted by cars, making cow farming particularly damaging to the planet. Beyond their greenhouse gas emissions, cows have a number of other negative consequences on the environment including water consumption, impacts on land, and fertilizer usage. Let's start with water: The dairy industry consumes a massive amount of it. Global animal agriculture as a whole accounts for approximately 25 percent of all water usage annually, and dairy cows account for 20 percent of animal agriculture water usage. According to an article on the website One Green Planet, a single dairy cow uses close to 4,955 gallons of water per day. Considering the average American consumes 276 pounds of dairy annually (according to a Wis- consin State Journal 2017 article), the National Resource Defense Center's calculations predict you could personally conserve more than 50,000 gallons of water annually by eliminating dairy products from your diet. Another large environmental impact from dairy is land usage. Two-thirds of the world's agricultural land is used for livestock. Livestock farming is one of the leading causes of soil degradation. One-third of all the world's land is in danger of desertifi cation, large- ly caused by deforestation for farmland uses in addition to overgraz- ing and poor farming practices. Finally, fertilizer used to grow cattle feed has major negative environmental implications, as well. Modern synthetic fertilizers are made from fossil fuels. The impact of fossil fuel extraction on the en- vironment is widely acknowledged as extremely harmful. On top of the fossil fuels put into fertilizers, the over-application of fertilizers on farmland leads to runoff into local streams and tributaries. Nitri- fi cation—an oversupply of nitrogen—occurs when fertilizer, whose core component is nitrogen, gets into the water supply. Nitrifi cation often leads to algae blooms, which are massive growths of algae on the surface of the water. Algae thrive on nitrogen, but they also consume vast amounts of oxygen from the water, leaving the water so oxygen-poor that even fi sh can drown. So it's bad—now what? Considering the wide-reaching consequences of dairy on both our health and the environment, what should we do about dairy? Are we to ditch it for the multitude of plant-based "milks" on the mar- ket? Will that solve all the problems? In fact, the sustainability of production of some of those alternative milks is debatable. Dairy supporters will often cite the high quantity of water required to produce almonds for almond milk, or the detrimental effects of too much soy on our bodies. Those arguments along with rally cries protesting or supporting dairy alternatives are far more complicated than one might imagine at fi rst glance. Soy milk was one of the fi rst milk alternatives widely available on the market, and it dominated—that is, until the demand for and subsequent production of almond milk between 2011 and 2016 grew 250 percent bigger than soy in sales. Soy milk detractors will cite the negative effects of too much estrogen in soy, which can af- fect the body's hormonal balance. However, a 2004 study published 102 barista magazine

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