Image via @sfisherx
A few weeks ago on Instagram stories, I reposted a video of a veal farm from an aerial view. The drone covers a long stretch of land where thousands of little plastic huts are neatly arranged into rows. Within each lonely hut is a newborn calf. Each year 700,000 veal calves are slaughtered in the United States – 15 percent of whom are under the age of three weeks. Many find it hard to believe that veal is still available. The hard to swallow truth is those who eat and purchase dairy are the main reason veal exists at all. The male veal calf is the forgotten byproduct of dairy. Their story is one that the industry has tried desperately to hide.
The Dairy Industry:
Like all mammals, cows must be pregnant to produce milk. In order to impregnate a cow, a farmer will masturbate a bull to collect a seamen specimen. A female cow will then be loaded onto what is commonly called a ‘rape rack’ where she will be restrained and forcibly inseminated by a farmer. Just like a human, the pregnant cow will carry her baby for about 9 months and her body will produce milk for the sole purpose of nourishing that baby. However, when the calf is born, it will not get to nuzzle or suckle on his mother – instead, he will be torn away from her mere moments after labor. This is because in the dairy industry, cow’s milk is for humans, not baby cows.
The newborn calf will never get to feel his mothers gentle love or taste the milk she solely created to sustain his life. He will be roughly handled, tossed into a truck and chained at the neck in a 2 foot wide crate that is so small he can’t turn around, stretch his limbs or lie down comfortably. He will be fed an artificial, iron-deficient sludge to keep him alive, but malnourished enough to make his muscle tender. As you will see in the video below, many calves are too weak to stand due to hunger and the emotional distress of being separated from their mothers. Males calves are useless to the dairy industry, thus they will be be sent to a slaughterhouse in a few weeks if they are not killed sooner from abusive farm workers.
At the slaughterhouse, thousands of docile calves will be electrocuted, prodded and shoved down an assembly line. Each of these beautiful babies will try to escape their looming fate. They may be young, but they know the smell of blood and understand the cries of the calves who were before them. With broken spirits and battered bodies, they will fight for their innocent, young lives. Here each baby will be mercilessly killed, or as the industry calls it, humanely slaughtered, despite many still being fully conscious.
All of this torture, all of this suffering, thousands of innocent newborn lives lost, simply so humans can consume dairy.
Like humans and other mammals, cows have incredibly strong maternal instincts. In a natural environment, mother cows and their offspring will bond and stay together as grazing partners for years. Sadly, dairy cows will never get to experience this. Her male calves will all be killed and females will be raised to endure the same exploitive and violent fate as their mother.
As for the mother cow, she will cry and wail, bellowing at the top of her lungs day after day for the baby that was stolen from her. Her howling will be ignored and the devastated mother will be beaten and abused, forced onto a pump that will leave her udders raw, bloody and infected. When her milk production slows after several months, she will be impregnated again. Another vicious cycle.
In her life, all of her babies will be kidnaped. She will never know their love and they will never know hers. After only a few years her body will prematurely weaken.
This is partially due to extensive biological manipulation, which causes dairy cows today to produce 12 times more milk than they naturally would.
To the moms out there, imagine how painful it would be to carry around that much extra milk in your breasts. This strain, on top the abuse, battery, filthy & violent living conditions, pain of being continuously pregnant and the emotional burden of losing baby after baby, will cause her body to give out.
The cost of keeping the mother alive, now outweighs the profit from her low milk production. She will be sent to slaughter where her body, ridden with stress, trauma, anxiety and sorrow will be sold as cheap beef. All the while, she is still just a baby herself – maybe 5 years young (the normal life expectancy of a cow is 20-25 years). She knew only a life of torture from her very first day of life, when she too was kidnapped from her heartbroken mother.
The dairy industry is arguably the most violent, destructive and twisted industry of them all. Beastiality, rape, baby stealing, baby killing, premature death, exploitation of female reproductive systems, killing for meat, killing for fashion, the list goes on. I wish I could say the brutality in the videos here are isolated incidents, but they are not. In fact most of this violence is standard in this industry.
As seen in the the first featured video, even small, local farms with grassy, green pastures separate mother cows and their young. I’ve witnessed this at local farms near me as well.
Its essentially impossible for dairy, whether conventional, organic, grass-fed, humane certified or local to be obtained without cruelty.
The good news is, tides are rapidly shifting. The dairy industry is slowly starting to collapse in industrialized nations, as the public learns not only about the horrors of dairy farming, but how concerning it is to human health and the environment. Each time we choose non-dairy options we are voting for compassion, sustainability, health and taking a stand against unthinkable cruelty.
For 7 years as a vegetarian, I remained blissfully unaware that the dairy industry is arguably more violent and causes even more suffering than meat alone. I had switched to plant based milks and wasn’t a big into yogurt or eating ice cream, as I was painfully lactose intolerant…
I loved cheese and I would push through the discomfort and embarrassing symptoms I experienced after eating it because I just couldn’t get enough! It wasn’t just a little bit here and there either. I would eat it every single day. Coming home from work and polishing off a whole ball of mozzarella with my boyfriend was regrettably, a very regular occurrence.
Ultimately, it wasn’t my tummy troubles that made me question my dairy intake, but rather a video documenting the horrors of the dairy industry that made me ditch it for good.
I can say whole heartedly that I have never witnessed such drastic improvements in my health, energy, skin and overall wellbeing as I did when I finally nixed the cheese habit. Nevertheless, I didn’t expect how challenging it would be to give it up!
We throw around the word ‘craving’ a lot today but I never experienced legitimate food cravings so strong as when said goodbye to cheese. I felt like a fiend, desperately wanting it even though my heart was still broken over the undercover footage I witnessed. I then realized how attached or dare I say, addicted I actually was.
Why We Love Cheese So Much
Now that statement may seem a bit dramatic to some – ‘addicted’ to cheese?
But, research continues to show that we can have food addictions that are very real. This holds especially true for processed foods and even more so for cheese. This is because during it’s processing, most of the water is removed and lots of salt is added – leaving behind a concentrated mound of fat, sodium and casein. All three of which are known to trigger our brains pleasure systems, especially casein.
Casein is on one of the main proteins found in milk. It contains a morphine like substance called a casomorphin, which is present in all breast milk whether human, bovine, primate etc. as it plays a very important role in survival. You know those funny memes and videos of ‘milk drunk’ babies? That dazed, eye-rolling, head bobbing cuteness is largely a result of those casomorphins hard at work. When a baby consumes moms milk, the casomorphins react to opiate receptors in the brain. This triggers the brain to release dopamine which fills the body with warm feelings of reward and pleasure – hence the ‘milk drunk.’ Breastmilk has this wild, drug-like effect on the baby to create an addiction of sorts, ensuring that baby bonds with mom and continues to nurse to get the all the nutrients it needs to grow and thrive.
So, when humans consume dairy products, which have high levels of casein, similar effects take place. As the casomorphins bind with opiate receptors, those feel good hormones are released and so the attachment or addiction builds. This is why we often keep coming back for more – regardless of what our conscience or even our doctors may say.
But Don’t Humans Need Dairy?
Dairy is in no way an essential food for humans, babies, toddlers or any other species, aside from a baby cow.
- Humans are the only animal that consumes the breast milk of another species
- Humans are the only animal that continue to drink breast milk and its various forms into adulthood, let alone that from another mammal
- Cow milk is structurally very different from human milk
Human milk is the perfect food for infants, just as dog milk is the perfect food for a puppy and lion milk is the perfect food for a cub. All breast milks are perfectly unique to their own species. No other mammalian milk will contain all the beneficial microbes, growth factors, specific hormones and nutrients a baby needs to thrive, aside from that of their own mother.
Similarly, cow’s milk is the perfect food for a baby calf. It is a formula specialized for it’s own species containing naturally occurring hormones and growth factors to assist in its rapid growth. In a matter of months, a cow will grow from a 65 pound calf into a 600 pound animal. As you can imagine, these hormones and growth factors do not match up with natural human growth.
If we take a look at the composition of various animal milks, it’s very obvious how distinctly different they are. Human breast milk has the lowest protein content among most mammals. Plus, it’s one of the highest for carbohydrate content because its so rich in sugars.
In addition, dairy is often not easily digested or absorbed by the human body because simply put, it was never meant to be. Around the age of weaning (3-5 years of age), levels of lactase, the enzyme that digests lactose, begins to decline in humans. Perhaps this is why we tend to see lactose intolerance reveal itself around this age and why it tends to get worse as we get older. Our bodies are literally telling us that we have no more need for breast milk of any kind. Either way, it’s very apparent by 65-75% of the worlds population being lactose intolerant, that dairy is not essential for human health or survival.
My Whole Life I was Told Dairy is Healthy:
You and me both! I actually gave a full presentation on how wonderful I thought dairy milk was during my freshman year of college.
Most Americans are under the impression that dairy is a healthy and essential part of the human diet. This is a result of meticulous marketing and government check-off programs. Each year, USDA-managed programs spend $550 million to bombard Americans with commercials, ad campaigns, new products and celebrity influence. These ads encourage us to buy more animal foods like dairy. Meanwhile, 38 billion US taxpayer dollars are used to subsidize the meat, egg and dairy while a mere $17 million is spent on fruits and vegetables (less than 1% of the US government food subsidies).
The government ties to the meat, egg and dairy industry are incredibly unsettling, but that’s a whole other issue to tackle at another time. In the meantime, check out the video below for some deeper understanding:
Health Implications of Dairy
Despite the the 100 billion dollar dairy industry trying to convince us otherwise, research continues to suggest that milk does not “do a body good.” Dairy milk contains calcium, protein, phosphorus, vitamin D, potassium and magnesium – all very important nutrients for optimal health. However, milk is also linked to many health disparities and, despite all those milk campaigns, it seems to have have little to no protection against osteoporosis and bone fracture.
There is a lot of controversy in the health and medical community concerning dairy, calcium and bone health. While nutrition plays a vital role, there are many other factors aside from diet that contribute to a lack of bone density and diseases like osteoporosis. Including but not limited to physical activity, strength and balance training, body weight, vitamin D levels, prescription medications, smoking and alcohol use. Keep this in mind, but for now let’s focus on food.
For decades, milk has been touted to build strong bones. However, research has been rapidly untangling this idea as evidence continuously finds dairy consumption to have little to no protection of the skeleton (1, 2). Research demonstrates that milk consumption may even increase risk of bone fracture. During further investigation of these findings, it was also discovered that milk-drinking men and women have a higher risk of mortality when drinking 3 glasses of cows milk a day.
Researchers believe this startling discovery is a result of the D-galactose sugar in a milk. Dr Michael Greger notes that D-galactose is used to induce aging in lab rats, shorten lifespan, cause oxidative stress, inflammation, and brain degeneration with the equivalent about one to two glasses of milk a day. Thus, physicians and researchers are challenging the government as there does not seem to be sufficient evidence to support the US Dietary Guidelines recommendation for the 3-4 daily glasses of reduced-fat milk or milk product. As mentioned above, this will be a long uphill battle as government figures have strong, direct dies to the dairy industry.
“A hundred thousand men and women followed for up to 20 years; what did they find? Milk-drinking women had higher rates of death, more heart disease, and significantly more cancer for each glass of milk. Three glasses a day was associated with nearly twice the risk of death. And they had significantly more bone and hip fractures too.”
So if milk doesn’t protect our bones and may even increase our chances of dying, what should we drink/eat instead? It seems a medley of whole plant foods containing in calcium, antioxidants, vitamin k, and phytates; an active lifestyle incorporating strength and balance exercise and safe sun exposure for vitamin d may provide the best protection and prevention of bone diseases.
Calcium Containing Plant Foods:
- Brussels sprouts
- Leafy Greens: collard greens, kale, bok choy
- Fortified breakfast cereals, bars, juices and plant milks
- Click HERE for more
Another large concern about dairy is the protein. Cow’s milk contains 3 times as much protein as human milk (see chart above). This makes sense as it is designed make a calf gain roughly 2 pounds a day – 40 times the growth rate of human infants. Diets high in animal protein, such as dairy, are also linked to increased cancer, chronic illness, autoimmune disease, obesity, diabetes and increased risk of mortality.
Additionally, animal proteins found in dairy raise IGF-1 (Insulin-like Growth Factor-1). In animal experiments and human studies, dairy has been shown to increase IGF-1 levels in humans. This has been linked to an increased risk of several cancers, more specifically hormone-dependant cancers such as prostate, breast, cervical and ovarian cancers. (1,2,3). As it turns out plant based eaters have significantly lower IGF-1 levels and more IGF binding proteins which may lower risk for developing these types of cancers.
On top of this, milk produced today, including certified organic, certified humane, grass-fed, pasture raised and raw still contains millions of somatic cells (pus), blood, feces, hormones, growth factors, bacteria and pathogens in every glass. Conventional dairy also gives you a dirty bonus of painkillers, antibiotics and artificial growth hormones.
According to the USDA, 1 in 6 dairy cows in the United States suffers from clinical mastitis, which is responsible for 1 in 6 dairy cow deaths on U.S. dairy farms. This level of disease is reflected in the concentration of somatic cells in the American milk supply. Somatic cell counts greater than a million per teaspoon are abnormal and “almost always” caused by mastitis. When a cow is infected, greater than 90% of the somatic cells in her milk are neutrophils, the inflammatory immune cells that form pus. The average somatic cell count in U.S. milk per spoonful is 1,120,000. – Dr. Michael Greger
Cows milk is incredibly high in sex hormones. Modern day dairy cows are milked about 300 days out of the year, which means they aren’t just milked after pregnancy, but also during. Just like humans, the body of a cow who is pregnant is pumping with all kinds of hormones, especially estrogen.
As cows progress in their pregnancy, estrogen levels increase which means cows in late stage pregnancy can produce milk with 33 times as much estrogen.
This is a major health concern especially in regards to hormone dependent cancers as mentioned above.
Dairy consumption has also been linked to.
- Cardiovascular disease
- Diabetes (type 1 and type 2)
- High cholesterol
- Multiple Sclerosis
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Digestive disease
- + More
Environmental Impact of Dairy:
As if the detrimental effects on our health and the unimaginable suffering dairy causes to animals is not enough, the impact dairy farming has on our planet is quite alarming.
More than 50% of the greenhouse gas emissions produced by the dairy industry are from methane. As silly as it may sound, in regards to global warming, methane from cow flatulence is able to trap 100 times more heat in the atmosphere than carbon dioxide.
The dairy industry also accounts for 19% of the total global water footprint. Water from a single dairy factory farm with 700 cows uses about 3.4 million gallons of water every single day! Multiply this by the 9 million cows in the US or 267 million cows worldwide and you have an insanely astronomical number (1). Thus, it’s estimated that one person alone could save 50,033 gallons of water a year, by simply giving up dairy products. Cutting dairy will also help alleviate the strain animal agriculture puts on the ocean. Untreated waste from factory farms is one of the main causes of oceanic dead zones.
See how much water is used for a single serving of your favorite dairy products..
All of this environmental impact also presents serious public health risk. Communities that neighbor dairy farms are unable to enjoy fresh air, open their windows or go outdoors because of the noxious smell from the manure and inherent inhalation of fecal dust. Sadly, those who reside in these areas are dealing with many health disparities, particularly respiratory afflictions. To make matters worse, factory farms are often placed in areas of lower social economic status and communities of color.
For more on how dairy and other animal products impact the environment, check out Cowspiracy an award-winning documentary that was executively produced by long time environmentalist, Leonardo DiCaprio.
A Life Without Pizza or Ice Cream Though?
If you read all that and are thinking, okay but pizza without cheese? No ice cream ever again. Toast without butter! Come on, Caroline…
I hear you!
Thankfully, there are so many non-dairy products out there that are delicious, decadent, creamy and indulgent. You can have the foods you love without contributing to the devastating impacts dairy has on animals, health and our planet. The companies listed below are working hard to compete with the subsidized dairy industry, to bring you affordable, great tasting and cruelty free products.
My Favorite Non Dairy Products:
Non-Dairy Milk & Creamers:
- So Delicious: If you enjoy the taste of dairy milk I recommend So Delicious, unsweetened original variety. It’s mild and creamy and is definitely my favorite to enjoy on cereal. I also like cooking and baking with this milk. So Delicious has other flavors like chocolate, vanilla, mint chocolate and holiday nog as well as almond milk, cashew milk and creamers
- Silk: I like their Unsweetened Original Almond Milk. I use this milk regularly in cooking, baking and smoothies. It does have mild nutty flavor but contains no saturated fat and, like most plant based milk, more calcium than dairy. Silk also sells soy milk, cashew milk, coconut milk, protein milk, blends and creamers.
- Califia Farms: Everything about Califia non-dairy products is just dreamy and decadent. They have so many unique creamy, flavors, and varieties including enhanced milks, creamers and even coffee blends. You have definitely need to try this one!
- Ripple: Try their Unsweetened Original. For those who are looking for a milk with protein, this one is for you! I think it tastes slightly similar to soy milk but no soy here! They also have half & half.
*There are so many other plant milks to choose from and they are relatively inexpensive. So test some out to find your favorite!
Cream & Heavy Cream:
- Coconut Cream: The canned variety, or a can of full fat coconut milk will work too. Sub it in for almost any cream recipe.
- Soaked Raw Cashews: Mix soaked cashews with water and you can easily create a heavenly cream sauce for pasta like this Beet Alfredo Sauce or dips like Creamy Garlic Thyme Dip.
Cheeses for crackers:
- Miyokos: When the amount of joy you feel eating a non-dairy cheese actually elicits tears, you know it’s a good one. I may have been having a rough day but either way the hype is real. Miyokos is a game changer.
- Treeline: I really enjoy their soft cheeses made from cashews. The flavors are amazing, and the consistency is on point! They have a hard, aged variety as well.
- Heidi-Ho: Their Ne Chèvre cheese is soft and creamy and pairs so well with crackers, grapes and jam. Heidi-Ho has a lot of other veggie based cheese products but I have yet to try them all.
- Kite Hill: I love using Kite Hill cream cheeses as a creamy spread for crackers as well as their soft cheeses. In one adjective: delightful!
- Field Roast Chao Cheese: Maybe a little unconventional. But I love using breaking up Chao slices and putting them on crackers with jam and fresh herbs. Don’t knock it till ya try it!
- Homemade Vegan Ricotta: This tofu based ricotta is thick, creamy and so versatile! Big bonus is it will only cost you only a few dollars to make with ingredients you likely already have on hand.
- Kite Hill: This is the best, and really the only ricotta on the market in my area. Kite Hill also sells raviolis which are filled with their delicious almond based ricotta. Yum!
- Kite Hill: I love both their Plain and Chive flavored cream cheese. Super creamy with non of the artificial, weird flavors because there is nothing artificial in it.
*There are several other cream cheeses on the market but I really struggle with the taste.
Cheese for sandwiches, burgers or grilled cheese:
- Field Roast Chao Cheese: Minimal Ingredients and no artificial, fake taste like other sliced cheeses. I think their Creamy Original is similar to an American cheese. They also have Tomato Cayenne if you are looking for a kick as well as Coconut herb for a light and savory cheese. Chao does take little extra time to melt though!
- Follow Your Heart Smoked Gouda Slices: I was super reluctant to try these slices as I didn’t enjoy some of the previous cheeses I tried from Follow Your Heart. But, when Lauren Toyota from Hot For Food swore by them so I had to give it a try. Girl will never lead you astray! Probably the best sliced vegan cheese I have ever had. The Pepper Jack flavor is amazing too!
Best Pizza Cheese & Shredded Cheese :
- Miyokos Fresh VeganMozz: This cheese will turn you into a believer. When this cheese is cooked it’s totally mind blowing. It melts, browns and bubbles, looks, tastes and even stretches like dairy cheese. I almost cried the first time I bit into a pizza that I made using their VeganMozz – it’s that good.
- Field Roast Chao Slices: I love Chao cheese because it doesn’t have that artificial taste that so many other vegan cheeses, especially the shredded varieties, do. Plus I’m very into the minimal ingredients. When I am using these slices on pizza, I just take the whole block of stacked slices and grate them overtop the pizza. Only downside is the cheese doesn’t brown but it does melt and tastes pretty awesome in my opinion. Thats what really matters anyway right?
- So Delicious Shreds: I recently tried their mozzarella shreds and it was very good! Melty and mild tasting without any artificial taste. The only thing I didn’t like is that they use palm oil which is arguably not vegan despite being plant based. Their website does say they only source sustainable palm oil. I personally try to limit or avoid products with palm oil all together.
- Cashew Parm: Call me biased but this is my favorite parm because its made from only 4 ingredients. Bonus: it’s super easy to make and store!
- Follow Your Heart Parmesan: If you love shredded style parmesan this is the one for you! It melts and the texture is totally on point. I’m not stoked on all of the ingredients but it’s great for a sprinkle here and there.
- Go Veggie Parmesan: This one is for those who enjoy the shaker style parmesan that you can buy on the shelf at the grocery store. Note: Go Veggie has “lactose free” cheeses that do contain casein which is very confusing. Be sure to double check the ingredients and choose their products with the a purple label that says “Vegan.”
- Kite Hill: I love the thick consistency of this yogurt. They have an unsweetened plain with no added sugar, plus it contains 5g of protein. I find the sweetened, flavored varieties aren’t overly sweet too. Kite Hill recently released a Greek yogurt but I haven’t tried it yet!
- So Delicious: The texture of this brand felt the most like yogurt to me. I like that they have an unsweetened and plain variety too. This is my favorite yogurt to cook, bake, and make dips/sauces with. The only down side is there is hardly any protein. If you are having it for breakfast add some granola, nuts and seeds to keep you full.
*Of the large, commercial brands these two are my favorites. I know there are some smaller, local yogurt companies that make stellar product too but I don’t have access to them where I live.
- Kite Hill Soft Cheese: They have a Truffle, Dill & Chive flavor. I don’t know if I really need to say anything more!
- Heidi-Ho: Their Ne Chèvre, which translates to ‘No Goat’, is a soft cashew based cheese that has a similar taste and consistency to goat cheese.
- Mikoyos: If you’ve been reading though this, you already know my love affair with Miyokos. So creamy, so indulgent and so many different flavors to choose from!
- Miyokos Cultured Butter: The only non-dairy butter I have found that does not contain palm oil and mouthful of ingredients. Only downside is it does contain cashews which is a bit of bummer for those with nut allergies.
- Earth Balance: They sell tubs for easy spreading as well as sticks for baking. My only qualm with Earth Balance and just about every other margarine, dairy free or not, is that they all seem to contain palm oil. While Earth Balance’s says it is sustainably sourced, which is better than most other brands, I’m personally try to limit and avoid products with palm oil.
- Coconut Oil: A great alternative to butter in most cooking and baking. Can often be used 1:1.
- Nada Moo: HOLY COW! This is the best store bought, non-dairy ice cream I have ever had! I love that it’s allergen friendly and big bonus – it’s sweetened with agave but you would never guess it! Super creamy, ultra decadent, simply heavenly!
- So Delicious Cashew Milk Ice Cream: Snickerdoodles, Sea Salted Caramel, Dark Chocolate Truffle! SO many sweet, indulgent flavors and crazy creamy!
- Ben & Jerrys – The classic flavors and creaminess you love just without the dairy! They keep introducing new ones too which is so exciting!
*I realized upon editing that I put an exclamation point at the end of every sentence on this section. I thought about toning it down but the enthusiasm is real. If you are talking about ice cream and don’t use exclamations, can you really be trusted?
- Tofutti: Included because it’s the only sour cream that is currently available. It’s okay when it’s mixed into something but I am not wild about the ingredients.
*There is definitely some work to be done when it comes to store bought sour creams. Unsweetened non-dairy yogurt is a good substitute but for now I usually make cashew based cream sauces like Cilantro Lime Crema and Creamy Chili Lime Dressing. Stay tuned for a sour cream recipe!
Make Your Own Cheese: Store bought cheese is easy and convenient but I think some of the best cheeses are homemade! Check out these books that will inspire you to get creative and turn you into a non-dairy cheese wiz!