The advancing market in alternatives
to animal milks and their derivatives has relevance to customers
with aversions to commercial dairy-produce for reasons of
health and intolerance due to bad reactions (milk brings
on my catarrh), outright allergy, and ethical abstentions.
Observations in supermarkets bear witness to a niche market
in alternatives well beyond the demands for veggie customers.
Nonetheless, veggies have compelling reasons to support
the market for alternatives and the dietary diversity it widens;
there is also the imperative to oust complicity in the trade
for liquid meat that is as objectionable as the
meat, red and white, derived from animals, birds, and fish.
Veggies are now riding on a wave of commercial enterprise
mainly driven by soya-growers in North America who are seeking
outlets for their crops as foods used directly rather than
as feedstuffs in concentrates in the intensive live/deadstock
industry, which ruthlessly exploits dairy cows and their calves
(the BSE epidemic originated in the integrated dairy/beef/veal
trade). VEGA is offering help to sharpen the competition and
thus to find ways of diminishing the exploitation of cows.
Converting staple crops in gleaming, stainless steel vats
into the alternative dairy trade is much preferable to stuffing
those same crops as feedstuffs into lame, mastitic, miserable
and mucky cows, wastefully converting the crop and subsidies
into milk and calves that have to be reared on replacers.
VEGA is trying to guide smaller enterprises entering into
these developing markets towards government grants to small
and medium-sized businesses that also forge links in shared
funding with academic and technical resources in food technology
The alternative enterprises do not enjoy the lavish subsidies
and control that favor the live/deadstock industry, and they
are disadvantaged in trade descriptions and labelling; they
face opposition from entrenched and officially preferred interests
such as the National Dairy Council, the Meat and Livestock
Commission, and the National Farmers Unions. The alternative
products still suffer in price, but enterprising developments
in value-adding and claims (e.g. for health benefits) are
easing the entry of the new dairy products to
the ranges offered by supermarkets. Now they are only pushing
in; VEGA vows to use its non-commercial activities to advance
a phase of pushing out, as the burden on the cow is lifted.
What to Go For
The cheapest soya milk is now selling in supermarkets at
69p/litre, at which price it can be cheaper than organic cow-milk.
Nutritionally it lacks important components in cow-milk
but then it lacks objectionable contents. Fortified alternative
milks, UHT on the shelves or as competitors in the chiller
cabinets (e.g. So Good and Alpro), cost up to twice the price
of the cheapest. Such products are riding increasingly on
the say-no-to-GMO bandwagon, for which the assurance can well
mean something: most commercial cow-milk and derivatives,
even when sold with organic, freedom,
and vegetarian assurances, come from cows fed
GM-soya and maize in their rations.
VEGA is working with the
Food Standards Agency and the trade to stimulate replacement
of products of the present dairy-industry with unexceptionable
offerings of unassailable nutritional merit and sold with
accurate claims eligible to be rated for inclusion
in, say, school milk schemes. We ask customers to tell us
of their experiences, just as purchasers or, better, after
correspondence with retailers and manufacturers. By-products
of the dairy industry (apart from beef and veal) included
in many-foodstuffs or used undisclosed as processing aids
are unnecessary or can be easily replaced. As one example,
M & S reduced-fat humus contains cow-milk derivatives,
the equivalent product from Tesco does not. M & S, in
particular, butter everything up and some brands of biscuits,
misleadingly approved for veggies, vaunt their
butter content. Supermarkets can be persuaded to sell a variety
of dairy-free margarines, spreads, biscuits, and even ice-creams.
But they need goading with constant jabs of their customers
individually-expressed demands, preferably in writing. One
letter of this type may represent to them 100 customers in
their loyalty scheme whose objections to whey in the own-brand
muesli mixture may see purchasers defect to a competitor for
the whole of the weeks shopping.
Practising, Preaching, Eating Our Words
VEGA seeks to mobilize campaigners with the following special
interests and whose complacency needs to be challenged: -
Members of the Farm Animal Welfare Council, RSPCA, Soil Association,
British Veterinary Association
..These are growth industries
cataloguing the evils of the cowboys and only in minor ways
confining their consumption of animal-derived foods on which
some sort of dubious approbation has been bestowed. If in
doubt, leave it out. VEGA has rounded on the delegates of
the RSPCA, and FAWC, Soil Association, and veterinarian organizations
eating and drinking animal-derived foods at conferences on
animal welfare that are of untraceable provenance and not
even from suppliers approved or monitored (e.g. as Freedom
Foods) by such flawed do-gooders.
VEGA has at least secured supplies of plant-milks on the
tables of coffee and tea at some conferences. Vets cannot
expect public recognition if they dont act on the evidence
they compile: what respect would patients accord to doctors
and health ministers delivering homilies on smoking while
puffing a cigarette? Vets in the necessary business of saving
the lives of the fluffies must be continually upbraided for
their unnecessary complicity in denying a life to animals
born to be killed.
The flawed animal welfare groups assume that present levels
of consumption can be maintained by feeble remediations at
no more cost to the consumer than a modest increase in price.
VEGA appeals to the rank and file of these organizations to
embrace the sweeping changes that technology now offers and
to look for the appropriate involvement and example.
Catering Outside the Home
Many institutions and hotels and some restaurants keep stocks
of soya milk but do not display it and, when asked, serve
it unattractively in the carton. VEGA enjoins students, attendees
at events, and others eating communally to expect plant-milk
for their breakfasts and to be spared the restriction to black
tea or coffee. To this end VEGA is urging manufacturers to
offer institutional caterers stickers advertising the availability
(and attractions) of plant-milks and to offer jiggers (little
tubs, as used for coffee-whiteners and UHT cow-milks) of such
alternatives (as Plamil did at one time). We appeal for support
volunteered by potential purchasers to manufacturers and retailers.
Veggies should no longer have to queue because the vegetarian
option is something cheesy, with buttered vegetables, and
an undressed salad without a bean. Vegan? Youll
eat fish, then? How often is this misunderstanding rehearsed?
VEGA insists on an end to this nonsense: the vegetarian offering
at any function could easily go all the way with a common
selection, reducing the number of options and satisfying veggies
at various stages, as well as Jews, Muslims, and wholefooders.
Theres no better place to represent the constituency
of our cause than with the chef. VEGA has had embarrassingly
good strictly vegetarian buffet-lunches at meetings of scientific
societies and MAFF (now under DEFRA).
Acknowledgement is recorded accordingly.
The Vegetarian Society
The Societys crass decision in the 1980s to reverse
the trend initiated in its Green Plan of the 1970s aborted
the progress of what had been the lostest cause since
the flat earth to a force in the food market and the
leverage that it was exerting. Accepting fees to bestow approvals
on commercial production of eggs (its officers initially defended
approvals on eggs and their derivatives from all systems and
even now dont stipulate the welfare standards of Freedom
Foods nor the Soil Association) and milk-production (and the
cognate output of beef and veal) has set back much effort
at keeping welfare a consistently effectual factor in the
market. The connivance in this betrayal indicts a number of
otherwise strident animal welfare organizations and has allowed
manufacturers, caterers, and so on to duck responsibility
in an endeavor to honor the spirit of the veggie consumer.
In marketing terms the appeal of organic and GM-free
campaigns has usurped the authority the Green Plan had captured,
and veggies have to read and interpret labels for themselves:
so for them manufacturers are wasting money spent on fees
for the Vegetarian Societys approvals.
In recent years the Society has attracted further discredit
with advertising blunders and confusions over descriptions
of free-range and GM-commodities. Its ridiculous efforts at
justifying its errors continue to betray what should be its
mission and to cloud the reliability of what should be allied
VEGA has suggested to the Societys management that
a renunciation of its approvals on animal-derived food commodities
could still be effectively arranged and publicised. The Society
and the cause would be relieved of an embarrassment; the offensive
items would be relegated to no more approbation than the members
leather footwear attracts and like that challenge
the impulse for replacement would be quickened. Better late
than never and opportunities are running out
VEGA urges the Societys members to exert their muscle
to correct its blunders without continuing and festering discredit.
Coffee Shops and Cafés
offer soya milks as alternatives for cow-milk in their teas
and coffees, they also promote fairtrade coffee and tea. The
present popularity of the coffee shops has attracted some
criticism on environmental grounds, but in the milky context
favorable distinction. Costa
and EAT have also
recently started to sell soya milk alternatives. VEGA asks
sympathizers to urge other chains to follow suit. Composting
enthusiasts might like to avail themselves of the bags of
spent coffee grounds that some Starbucks branches offer for
free takeaway. However, the other offerings at these coffee-places
dont come cheap. For information on fairtrade products
and issues visit Global
Exchange and the UK
Exposure to Soya-Based Formulas in Infancy
and Endocrinological and Reproductive Outcomes in Young Adulthood.
This subject raised alarms recently over the content of phytoestrogens
in baby-foods for the offspring of mothers unable to breast-feed
and reluctant to resort to cow-milk formula. The MAFF set
up a committee to assess the practice; its work continues
and the Food
Standards Agency. An American study, just reported (J
Amer Medical Society, 15 August 2001), gives a verdict, arrived
at by a group of doctors, pediatricians, and epidemiologists
with some funding from Ross Products, Nestlé, and Mead
Johnson Nutritionals. They conclude: Exposure to soy
formula does not appear to lead to different general health
or reproductive outcomes than exposure to cow milk formula.
Although the few positive findings should be explored in future
studies, our findings are reassuring about the safety of infant
WhiteSun Milk. Pea Protein Instead of Soya
Plamil have launched
this non-dairy alternative for abstainers from cow-milk. Pea
protein is being generally introduced into the veggie market
in place of soya. These are Euro-peas that British farmers
could grow and for which no GM-modification available
at the moment. Peas would contain most of the bioactive compounds
present in soya.
WhiteSun goes well with breakfast cereals, but is inclined
to curdle with hot tea or coffee. VEGA arranged for Farming
Today on BBC Radio 4 a testing of the non-dairy alternatives
to cow-milk and its derivatives. The tasting was carried out
at the Country
Life restaurant in London, to which the reporter had come
immediately after a visit to a contemptuous NFU headquarters.
WhiteSun came out very well (a confirmatory opinion volunteered
independently by VEGAs president, Dr Alan Stoddard).
The reporter also found the soya ice-cream come-back-for-moreable
and assures VEGA that he now regularly buys from Sainsbury
vegan yogurts for him and his family.
Visit the Vegan
Village for further tips on Vegan recipes and products
for vegan and vegetarian restaurants worldwide. For current
news debates in the vegan movement you can also contact
Vegan Organic and Country
Standards Agency group is expected to deliver a verdict
on claims allowable on the dairy-frees, which fall into a
large grey area of functional foods, nutraceuticals etc between
products defined as foodstuffs and as medicaments. Differences
may emerge between regulations applying in the USA, Australia,
and the UK.
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