Many permaculturists chose to keep goats, sheep and even cattle, not for the meat yield they provide, but for the milk. This is of course a good way for vegetarians to experience livestock rearing as well as giving them access to milk that they know has been unadulterated by chemicals or other unknown additions such as preservatives. It also allows permaculture gardeners to avoid purchasing milk that has been produced by the industrial dairy industry. This industry is often reported to put great physical strain on lactating cows to produce as much milk as possible, sometimes leading to deformed udders and other physical complications from the virtually continuous cycles of pregnancy and milk provision that such animals are subjected to. The dairy industry, being predicated on the maximization of profit, also regards males calves born to dairy cows to be economically worthless, and male newborns are typically euthanized just hours after birth. Rearing animals to produce your own milk helps to avoid this senseless waste and cruelty.
However, if your permaculture plot or skill set does not allow you to raise animals for milk and you still wish to avoid drinking industrially produced milk products, or indeed if you are vegan and refrain from all dairy products, there are alternatives, namely plant-based milks. These can provide a wide variety of new and unique flavours, as well as different nutritional benefits. As with all food purchases try to source products that have been produced organically and have not been imported from a great distance, particularly from overseas where agricultural legislation with regard to environmental protection may be unknown or more lax, and to avoid the carbon emissions associated with long distance importation. (Of course, plant-based milks are also valuable dietary additions for those who are intolerant of the lactose that is a feature if dairy milk.)
Man people first become aware of soybeans as the primary ingredient in tofu, often used to replace meat in vegetarian dishes, but soy milk is actually a much more widely used soybean product, particularly in the form of milk. Made by soaking soybeans and then grinding them with water, soymilk has roughly the equivalent amount of protein in it as regular cow’s milk, although it has a thicker consistency and tastes rather bean-like. It also contains a high level of dietary fiber and B vitamins. It contains no cholesterol and is low in fat. Soymilk does not contain any calcium however, so many commercially available products have this added, but you could also get your calcium needs met via other dietary sources if you don’t want to drink adulterated soymilk. Soymilk is not without its ethical implications however. Indeed, it could be said to be a victim of its own success. Because soybeans contain a lot of protein for their size, and can be relatively simply turned into a cheap vegetable oil, they have become an ingredient in many products, even those in which you would not expect to find it, such as sausages, hamburgers and other processed foods. In fact some researchers have estimated that as many as 70 percent of products in a typical western supermarket contain soybean or soybean extracted products. The high protein content also means that it is widely used in feed for industrially produced livestock. This has created great demand so that, just like palm oil, vast swathes of native forests are being cleared, primarily in Asia and Latin America to grow soybeans to meet western demand. Consumption of soymilk could be said to contribute to this demand; however, you should be able to source ethically produced products that adhere to organic standards.
Almond milk is the non-dairy milk alternative that has experienced the biggest growth in consumption over the pastalmonds-49603_1280 few years. One reason for its popularity could be that it is more similar to dairy milk in consistency than soymilk, and it is generally sweeter, although it has more of a toasted nut flavor. It also has a consistency similar to that of cow’s milk, although it doesn’t contain quite the same levels of protein as soy or cow’s milk, but has many other beneficial nutrients, including magnesium, selenium and vitamin E hitch helps to preserve the integrity and strength of the cells in the human body. Almond milk is made by skinning and blanching the nuts before grinding and blending with water. The higher production costs of growing almonds mean that milk derived from these nuts can be more expensive than other plant-based alternatives.
Coconut milk is a reasonably sweet, although comparatively watery alternative to dairy milk. However, it has a taste very distinctive from cow’s milk, so using it as a replacement in coffee or tea, for example, can take some getting used to, with the new flavors being integrated rather than seeking to mimic that of conventional dairy products. Coconut milk is produced by combining both the liquid and ground flesh from the nut with water, and while it does not contain very high levels of protein, it does have anti-bacterial and anti-viral qualities. Coconut milk should be used sparingly as, compared to other dairy-free alternatives, its fat content is quite high. This fat can also separate from the liquid when the milk is kept in the fridge, but simply bring to room temperature and stir to combine before use.
In contrast to coconut milk, rice milk has among the lowest levels of fat of any plant-based milk. It also has virtually no cholesterol. However, it lacks protein compared to soymilk, and the calcium content is also negligible. This means that most commercially available rice milk products come with additives to increase their nutritional content. Be aware, however, that fortified products can also raise the sugar level of the milk, and rice milk already naturally contains quite high levels of sugary carbohydrates. Made by combining brown rice with water, rice starch and rice syrup, rice milk is probably the closest in taste to cow’s milk of the alternatives listed here, but with a more watery consistency. Many people find it a better dairy replacement in cooking than for everyday use.