The Dairy Industry and its Impacts on the Environment
Hi legacy-makers, it’s Emily!
This week we will be exploring the negative impacts of the dairy industry and at the end of the blog post, you’ll learn how to make dairy-free milk, using oats!
Living in an urban society, it is very easy to disassociate with the realities of animal farms and simply enjoy the food on our plate. As consumers, we try to be vigilant but it is shocking that some of our most basic food choices such as milk, which humans have been drinking for thousands of years can have such perilous impacts on the environment. However, studies continue to show that making changes to our eating habits is by far one of the most effective ways that we can reduce our carbon footprint.
Narrowing in on the dairy industry, there are around 264 million dairy cows around the world. These cows emit methane gas through their digestion and waste. This methane gas has a global warming potential 104x greater than CO2. Thus, cows exude large amounts of greenhouse gas daily. Nitrogen is another example of a harmful gas released by cows. According to the USDA, 200 dairy cows produce an equal amount of nitrogen as the sewage from a community of approximately 10,000 people.
In addition to releasing greenhouse gases, according to Scientist Media, a cow drinks 150 litres of water a day. Given that there are 264 million dairy cows in the world; this equates to over 39.6 billion litres of water worldwide every day. Additionally, cows are fed grains such as corn, wheat and soy that take time and water to grow. This number does not even include the water used for maintenance and cleaning used to keep a dairy farm clean and free of bacteria.
Even extending beyond the environment, there is no certainty that milk products will be free of hormones or additives. Supporting local farmers in Ontario is a better alternative to factory farms if you are unable to move away from dairy products. However, the best way to avoid these negative environmental consequences is to avoid dairy products altogether for the betterment of your health, the environment and the cows.
Oat Milk Recipe
It’s a misconception that sustainable alternatives are always more expensive than traditional products. Outlined below is a simple recipe for oat milk, free of any dairy ingredients. Oats are grown on average, using seven times less water than cow’s milk and avoids the dairy farm process.
1 cup rolled oats
4 cups of water
A pinch of salt
1 tbs maple syrup or honey (optional)
1. Add the rolled oats, water, honey and any other additional add-ins (optional) into a high-speed blender
2. Blend the mixture for around 30 seconds until it is combined – do not over-blend as this will leave the milk with a slimy texture. The mixture does not have to be completely smooth at this stage as the larger oat pieces will be strained out.
3. Pour the milk over a bowl using a nut milk bag (if you don’t have one a fine strainer or a cheese bag works just as well). Additionally, you can double-strain the mixture to ensure it is smooth and free of any oat clumps (optional).
4. The oat mixture in the nut milk bag can be dried and used as oat flour or simply discarded in the compost and the milk is now ready to be enjoyed!
It can be a very daunting task to switch your habits, or even try something new, especially if you have been drinking dairy milk most of your life as I did. Trying easy homemade recipes can be a good starting point to explore new sustainable alternatives. With that being said, this recipe is designed with beginners in mind and I hope it will inspire you to continue to make small steps to a more sustainable lifestyle. Once the milk is made, it must stay refrigerated and is good for up to five days. This recipe makes around 8 cups but can be adjusted as you see fit.
Remember that no one is a perfect environmentalist, so do not feel discouraged! By making small improvements and continuing to stay informed and educated on environmental issues will help promote the sustainable future that we are all trying to achieve.