Even if you are a conscious consumer, it still can be difficult to fathom the process certain foods go through before they pop onto your plate. Consumers don’t see the ugly, unless they seek it out, of course. Milk, which has been pushed upon the developed world as a wholesome, nutritive necessity for healthy growth and general living, is one of those seemingly pure foods with a dark and disturbing backstory.
It doesn’t take much digging before you realize a lot of the disgusting and outright cruel practices involved in producing dairy. Like humans, cows produce milk to nourish their babies, but unlike humans, these baby calves are typically taken away from their mothers when they are only one day old. They are fed milk replacers while their mothers produce milk for humans (not just human babies, either). Female cows are inseminated shortly after they turn one year old, lactate for 10 months after giving birth, and then are inseminated yet again.
This cycle continues until they run dry. Cows can naturally live until about 20 years old and produce milk for nearly 10 of those years. However, the stresses of terrible living conditions means they often barely make it to five years of age, as they stop producing milk and are then slaughtered.
Of course, picking from a cheese plate at a friend’s birthday party or adding milk to a homemade cake batter are hardly grounds for incrimination, but if you pull back and look at the bigger picture, maybe you’ll start to see where you, and all of us for that matter, add to the problem: we consume. We continue to funnel our dollars into producers whose processes we don’t understand or care to learn more about. Even when we reach for “organic” or “grass-fed” milks, we are only clinging to a slogan, a catchphrase of reassurance that does not translate to being actually informed. I started to identify these habits in myself and am increasingly eager to make kinder, more educated choices.
This is not to say we should all go vegan and drop animal-based products altogether (that’s a personal choice), but it is to say that, unequivocally, we should all care about from where we source our food.