Dispelling nutrition myths, ranting, and occasionally, raving

Milk myths and vegan propaganda

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You know that I’m no great lover of milk. I have written a number of times about chocolate milk (for my newer readers here are just a few of those posts: The chocolate milk and exercise myth, Is chocolate milk essential to good nutrition?, Don’t cry over chocolate milk). Chocolate milk is delicious because it is essentially a liquid candy bar. White milk is definitely a better choice from a nutrition stand-point. Personally, I loathe a glass of milk (my mum can vouch for my life-long efforts to avoid milk consumption) but I’m more than happy to put it on my cereal, add it to a smoothie, or use it in a recipe. Despite my distaste for milk as a beverage, and a food group, I still think that it has nutritional merits and that people who enjoy it should not be discouraged from drinking it. Putting my personal opinions about milk aside, I was frustrated to read the article 5 Ridiculous Myths About  Cows Milk this week.

Myth 1: You need cow’s milk to get calcium

It’s true, you don’t need milk to get calcium. There are plenty of other food sources of calcium. However, the statements that, “the calcium contained in cow’s milk is barely absorbable to the human body” and, “The most calcium-rich foods on the planet comes from plants, especially leafy greens such as kale, spinach, and broccoli” are not entirely true.

It seems that calcium absorption from milk products and kale is similar (1) – about 30-35%. Spinach is notorious for being loaded with calcium that is not bioavailable to us – about 5% (2).

Myth 2: Cow’s milk will give you strong bones

Contrary to the claim that cow’s milk will actually result in weakened bones, there is no reason to believe that it will hinder bone strength. Although, there’s also no reason to believe that milk consumption will strengthen bones either. The best way to ensure strong bones is to engage in regular exercise, especially strength training.

Myth 3: Cow’s milk isn’t cruel

Here’s where the article really goes off the rails. The discussion of veal is irrelevant to the discussion of milk. Dairy cows and cows raised for meat are not one and the same. Yes, we have all seen the recent mistreatment of dairy cows. I’m willing to bet that this was the exception and not the norm. Just like humans, cows need to be relaxed to produce milk. Most dairy farmers treat their cows with love and respect.

Myth 4: Cows need to be milked

I can’t argue with this one. Obviously this is a matter of supply and demand. If cows are regularly milked, they will continue to produce milk, even without calves to feed. If cows are not regularly milked, and do not have offspring to feed, they will cease milk production. I’m not sure how this factors in as an argument against milk consumption by humans.

Myth 5: Cow’s milk is for humans

The argument is that cow’s milk is intended to feed baby cows and that no other species consumes the milk of another. Honestly, there was a time when I was like, “yeah, this makes sense. It’s so unnatural for us to drink milk from another species.” Then I thought about it a little more. We do A LOT of things that no other species do. Just from a food standpoint alone: we cook our food in a variety of ways, we preserve food in a number of ways, we eat at restaurants, we combine ingredients to make a recipe… Just because no other species does these things doesn’t mean that we should cease doing them as well.

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Author: Diana

I'm a registered dietitian from Nova Scotia, living and working in Ontario, Canada. My goal is to help people relearn how to have a healthy relationship with food.

10 thoughts on “Milk myths and vegan propaganda

  1. Great post! Regarding #5 – my favorite comeback when people say, “other species don’t drink milk as adults…” “cavemen didn’t eat (fill in the blank)…” is “well they also don’t/didn’t sleep on pillow top mattresses, so should we stop doing that, too?”. ;-)

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  2. I love your blog but you need to review Myth 3. It is not true. There is immense cruelty in milk production. I won’t even engage in trying to prove my point cause denying this is simply ridiculous. Everyone can have their own opinion but please I encourage you to research how factory farms work and how milk production is achieve to supply the demand. Simply disgraceful.

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    • Thank you Carlos. I don’t know how widespread cruelty is in dairy farming. I do, however, know some good people who are dairy farmers who treat their cows well. You raise a good point that it’s always good to know your farmer and know where your food is coming from.

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      • As with any industry, they all have their bad apples! The overwhelming majority of dairy farmers are treating their cows with the best practices possible. I’ve seen videos of people spitting in food restaurants, this doesn’t mean it happens at every restaurant, just as one video of mistreatment (often which staged or misunderstood anyway) does not mean this is industry wide practice. Thank you for including the mistreatment as a myth. As the wife of a dairy farmer, I see first hand how much time goes into taking care of their animals. So, as always, we encourage the public that may be wondering, to ask questions!

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  3. Just discovered your site and am loving reading the material you’ve posted. How refreshing to find a balanced, sane view of nutrition (written by a nutritionist instead of a quack with an agenda) for a change!

    I couldn’t help but notice a couple of errors, though, and thought I’d bring to your attention as they are probably just typos: for Myth 3, I assume you meant to say “Cow’s Milk IS cruel” (that being the myth, followed by your clarification below), and for Myth 5, it should have said “Cow’s milk is NOT for humans” (again, this being the myth)-? Sorry to be so anal, but I figured it would be helpful to others if that were corrected (although, chances are, no one else even picked up on it … *LOL*).

    And speaking of Myth 3, I don’t know enough about cruelty or not on dairy farms, but would agree with you that it’s obviously better to know where one’s food comes from. Sadly, it seems an inescapable reality that there will have been some cruelty, at some point, to some animal, along the way, whether we are talking about dairy farms or factory farms. And when one eats in a restaurant, who knows where that food came from? As an omnivore, it’s not a great feeling, but I don’t see things changing, whether a few more people go vegan or not.

    Looking forward to reading more of your articles! :-)

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    • Thanks for your comment Sabina! I guess that it didn’t come across entirely clearly but the “myths” are correct. The myths were purported to be such by the vegan author. My comments were in response to her accompanying arguments claiming to expose these statements as myths. I hope that makes sense! Thanks for reading!

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  4. ‘The discussion of veal is irrelevant to the discussion of milk. Dairy cows and cows raised for meat are not one and the same.’
    Do you realise that dairy cows and calves are slaughtered?
    How is it representative of ‘love and respect’ to slaughter animals when they are no longer profitable or separate calves from their mothers and slaughter them because humans want the milk instead?
    https://www.farminguk.com/news/Calves-killed-because-of-wrong-sex_23592.html

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  5. How is veal not connected to the dairy industry? I’m just aghast at how you could make that claim. What do you think happens to the male cattle born to dairy cows? They obviously don’t try to milk them. So, then what? Oh right, they get turned into veal. The only reason those unfortunate souls were brought into this world is because of the dairy demand.
    It’s important to understand the inherent conflict of interest when it comes to dairy production. The product (dairy) will always trump the needs of the cow. Sometimes they will align, but when they don’t the need to generate a higher profit will always win out. It’s a business–not a sanctuary for cows. For example, when the dairy cows reach a certain age (3,4, maybe 5 years old), they can no longer produce as much milk as a newly pubescent cow who’s just given birth for the first time and resources on a farm are limited. So, where does the older cow go when she can’t “make the team” anymore. Oh, right: a slaughterhouse. This is what happens when we use animals as a means to an end. Please, I am begging you, reconsider your support of animal agriculture. These animals deserve their freedom.

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