According to a new survey, lots of Americans are left scratching their heads when asked, "Is almond milk dairy-free?" But is there actually any dairy involved in the creation of cow milk alternatives like soy, almond, cashew, coconut, or rice milks?
In an August 2018 online poll of more than 1,000 Americans, researchers noted that between seven and nine percent of respondents believed those aforementioned milks contained dairy. The survey, which was conducted by Lincoln Park Strategies on behalf of the International Food Information Council and sponsored by the food company Danone North America, also found that 16 to 20 percent of those polled weren't sure if the dairy-free alternatives contained cow's milk.
Is almond milk dairy-free?
For the record, almond milk is dairy-free. The process of making almond milk starts with letting the almonds soak in water overnight. Then, the nuts drained and then tossed into a blender with water and salt (cocoa powder can also be added to make chocolate "milk"), and the ingredients are mixed together. The last step is straining the liquid to remove the pulp. And that's it — that's how you make almond milk.
It's easy to see how shoppers could get confused about whether almond milk truly is dairy-free. Even naming plant-based alternatives "milk" can be misleading, because they're not technically milk — or at least they don't meet the US Food and Drug Administration's definition of milk.
This issue of whether plant-based products should be labeled similarly to the dairy goods they imitate is currently being debated. In July 2018, Wisconsin Senator Tammy Baldwin proposed her "Dairy Pride Act," which would "require that non-dairy products made from nuts, seeds, plants, and algae no longer be confusingly labeled with dairy terms like milk, yogurt, and cheese."
Of course, this isn't to say that almond milks and other dairy-free alternatives don't deserve shelf space at our local groceries. After all almond milk is still a delicious option for people who have dairy allergies.