One of the subjects getting a lot of attention and discussion among dairy farmers and consumers is “plant-based” milk. It can be found in the dairy case right alongside the cow’s milk.

Many of the containers are very colorful and attention-getting. We are also seeing numerous appealing ads for these “fake milks” on television and in magazines. All of this has brought about one of my late night spells of just thinkin’.

Let’s talk about one of the most popular ones, almond milk. In order to become a contributor to the production of almond milk, the farmer must first plant almonds. The almonds then begin to grow as small trees. When the trees are mature, they will produce a crop of almonds. When the almonds are ready, they will be harvested and trucked to a plant that makes almond milk.

They will be placed in a machine with several parts that work together to crush the almonds. Water will be added and the mixture will be allowed to sit until the proper stage is achieved. It will then be strained to separate the liquid from the pulp. Then additives such as sea salt, starch, stabilizer, carrageenan (made from red seaweed), flavoring, spring water, calcium carbonate, tapioca and lecithin are often added to the liquid.

When the desired product is achieved, it is packaged and sent to the grocery stores. Research is being done to find ways to incorporate almond byproducts into other industries. Almond milk is called a plant-based milk, however, those almonds come from trees, so shouldn’t it be referred to as “tree-based” milk?

Now let’s talk about the dairy farmer and his contribution to the production of milk. In order to produce his product, he must first plant seeds to grow alfalfa, rye, and other forages to harvest for hay or silage and corn for corn silage. These plants will come up and grow until they are ready for harvesting. He will also need a proper feed ration that will be made from various grains and ingredients that also come from seeds and plants.

Great care is taken in selecting the various crops used. The forages and concentrates will then be fed into a mobile processing unit that has many working parts. Water will be added and the plant products will be chewed, swallowed, and then re-chewed and will work their way through the mobile processing unit, where they will be utilized in creating the product. Among the many parts in the mobile processing unit are four that are most important in the processing and finishing of the product.

The product is then extracted using special machines for that purpose. The product is then strained and cooled and stored in large tanks where it will remain until picked up by huge tank trucks to be taken to the processor. There is no need to put any additives in the dairy farmer’s product, as it already contains calcium, protein, riboflavin, and potassium.

No need for flavoring, as it already tastes good. Waste products that are left from the mobile processing unit are all natural and are returned to fields and gardens to enrich the soil. The dairy farmer strives to keep his mobile processing unit in good working condition and turning out lots of the product.

Milk is not only consumed by many people, it is used to make numerous different dairy products — ice cream, cottage cheese, yogurt, butter and many kinds of cheese. The product begins with plants, and plants are consumed by the mobile processing unit throughout the process of making milk.

Everyone who knows me knows that I am good at expressing my opinion. Therefore, after thinking about these facts, it is my opinion that cow’s milk and all dairy products made from it should be referred to as “plant based” and labeled as “plant based” in advertising. I rest my case.

Barb Lumley wrote this column to be published in The Circleville Herald. The views of this column may not necessarily reflect that of the newspaper.

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