Vermont dairy industry backs bill to change labeling of non-dairy products

Local News

Vermont Rep. Peter Welch re-introduced a bipartisan legislation that requires the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to take action against manufacturers that label non-dairy products as dairy. 

One organization hopes these products can be properly labeled. New England Dairy is a non-profit organization that serves dairy farmers in five New England states, including Vermont.

“At the end of the day farmers want to protect what they sell,” said Laura Hardie, communications manager at New England Dairy. “They want to protect their products.

Hardie’s family has been dairy farming for five generations in Northern Vermont. She said it’s important to know the difference between plant-based milk and cow’s milk. 

“Not only are you supporting local farmers, there’s also a lot of nutritional differences between the two options,” Hardie said.

Michael Deangelis, a registered dietitian with New England Dairy, said there are 13 essential nutrients naturally occurring in milk.

“Plant based alternatives that people consume have nutrients added to them,” Deangelis said. “So they are synthetic, and they are added in and sometimes our bodies can’t absorb them as efficiently as the nutrients that are naturally found in real cow’s milk.”

Deangelis said there are certain nutrients in milk that are not always in the non-dairy alternatives. 

“Oat milk has maybe 2-3 grams of protein, per 8 ounce glass,” Deangelis said. “Whereas cow’s milk has 8 grams of high-quality protein per 8 ounce glass.”  

Hardie said you also need to consider the environmental effects these products leave. 

“A glass of almond milk for example has a slightly lower carbon footprint compared to dairy milk,” Hardie said. “It does have a 17 times higher water footprint compared to dairy milk.” 

Hardie said adding appropriate labels will go a long way.

“I think that means a lot to farmers,” Hardie said.

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