The future of British milk is uncertain as the popularity of cow’s milk has been declining in favour of plant-based alternatives such as soy and almond milk. According to Jamie Oliver’s Channel 4 documentary, sales of plant-based alternatives to milk have doubled in the last five years, meanwhile consumption of dairy in the UK has fallen by 20% over the past thirty years.
Andy Venables, a dairy farmer and owner of rural marketing agency Hillsgreen, has launched a campaign called Mission 4 Milk, to help the British public rediscover the various health benefits of cow’s milk. He launched the campaign after realising that milk is declining most rapidly among millennials, which means many young people are at risk of missing out on valuable nutrients.
Mission 4 Milk has released a video of Andy challenging the British public to grab a pint of good old-fashioned cow’s milk and take a selfie of them enjoying it or take part in the #MilkPintChallenge and share it to @mission4milk. The video also advises on the various nutritional benefits of cow’s milk.
Andy believes that the way in which milk products are marketed to the public, in particular younger adults, plays a big part in its decline in popularity.
He says: “Milk packaging and branding has changed very little over the past twenty years; meanwhile new brands releasing plant-based alternatives, such as soy and almond, clearly display the nutritional benefits of their products on their cartons, along with attractive branding. For this reason, many people are unaware that cow’s milk offers more nutritional value than many of its dairy-free counterparts and are choosing to leave their pint of cow’s milk on the shelf.
“Milk was once a staple item on every household shopping list, but ‘free-from’ movements and intolerances which dominate the younger generations have made people start to favour dairy alternatives, and not always for the right reasons. While some people undoubtedly suffer from dairy and lactose-related complications, a large number of those who have given up dairy have done so as a result of self-diagnosis or because it is trendy to do so. They do not realise how many valuable nutrients milk contains. Mission 4 Milk’s aim is to communicate the health benefits of milk to people of all ages, arming them with valuable information before choosing to cut dairy out of their diets.”
In Jamie Oliver’s video child nutrition specialist Charlotte Sterling-Reed points out that plant-based milk alternatives do not offer a like-for-like substitute to dairy milk when it comes to nutritional content. Mission 4 Milk’s video serves as a reminder to the nutrients that cow’s milk offers.
Milk is still well-known as a great source of calcium, however it offers many other health benefits from the following nutrients:
Nutrient/vitamin in cow’s milk Health benefits
Calcium Help maintain healthy bones and teeth. Also helps to muscle and nerve function and normal blood clotting
Protein Growth in muscle mass, maintenance of healthy bones and muscle
Iodine Contributes towards healthy thyroid function and brain development in children and teenagers. Cow’s milk is the best source of iodine
in our diets
Riboflavin (B2) Encourages efficient use of energy absorbed from food and good for the skin
B5 Helps to reduce tiredness and fatigue
B12 Contributes to the release of energy from good, aids the immune system and reduces tiredness
Phosphorous Helps to maintain healthy bones and teeth
Dairy can also be a valuable source of nutrients for athletes or people recovering from injuries. Physiotherapist and managing director of Chews Health, Jack Chew, has expressed concerns over people switching to a vegan diet without replenishing the nutrients from other sources.
“I am concerned that, in the past year alone, my team has encountered five people who have suffered from stress fractures that appear to be directly linked to veganism. Stress fractures occur as a result of a person’s bones being unable to tolerate the cumulative loads placed on them. This is down to a change in external loads, changes in bone tolerance or a combination of both. In many recent cases, the only notable changes for these individuals, were that they had recently taken dairy out of their diet. This deeply concerns me as a physiotherapist; people are recklessly opting for a vegan diet without properly researching and testing how to replace the minerals they were previously getting from milk and dairy produce. Making any kind of drastic modification to your diet is rarely without consequence and I would argue that there are rare groups of individuals that cannot transfer onto a vegan diet and remain healthy.
“On average, individuals who have a vegan diet have lower bone density than their non-vegan counterparts, that is a fact many people are unaware of. There is so much information online that makes sustaining a vegan diet sound incredibly easy – it is not. Active individuals who lack dairy and meat in their diets will often endure a slower recovery from injury. It is also worth bearing in mind that women are especially at risk from decreased bone density due to hormonal factors influencing iron and calcium uptake. We see young females who develop RED-S (Reduced Energy Deficiency in Sport) and those who develop Osteoporosis as they reach menopausal age. These conditions are not exclusive to vegans of course, but the trend towards non-dairy diets and the suggestion to many that they will guarantee weight loss without consequences is an ugly one. I’ll certainly be keeping my patients on an omnivorous diet and in many cases advocating milk for recovery because we are a evidence-based healthcare company not a fad-based fashion company.”
The ethics around animal welfare have been questioned in recent years too, which is another reason people choose to eliminate meat and milk from their diets.
However, the UK farming industry has some of the highest animal welfare standards in the world. All milk containing the Red Tractor logo on its packaging in the UK has been assessed and met the standards of the association’s assessors.
The Red Tractor’s website detailed the standards to which farmers must adhere to, in order to use the logo:
● No use of growth hormones
● No use of antibiotic residues
● Guarantee that the produce is from a British farm
● Farmers care about their animals as they must adhere to the animal welfare standards, which include: access to sufficient clean water and food, living space and enrichments to encourage the animals’ natural behaviours
● Limited use of pesticides and fertilisers, to only when necessary
The Mission 4 Milk campaign was launched at the end of February, in support of the inaugural ‘Februdairy’ – the dairy industry’s retaliation to Veganuary. The #MilkPintChallenge will be running from 11th-17th March to coincide with Nutrition and Hydration Week.
To support Mission 4 Milk’s campaign, head to the Twitter profile @mission4milk and join in the conversation.