Milk and plant-based drinks

If it comes from a cow, it’s not environmentally friendly

Sir, – Pat McCormack (Letters, September 13th) asks “about the emissions involved in that nut juice being flown to Ireland to sit in the retail or café fridge alongside our own grass-produced milk from a herd of cows five miles out the road?”. It’s a cleverly worded question: a casual reader might see it as rhetorical and conclude, reasonably, that cow’s milk is the environmentally responsible choice.

Unfortunately, this is not the case. Almond milk production uses a little over half the water that cow’s milk does, has less than a quarter of the greenhouse gas emissions and requires a small fraction of the amount of land. Indeed, the argument “that turning California into a desert ... [to] use already scarce water to grow the almonds” is self-defeating, as California produces about 18 times more cow’s milk than almonds.

It should also be noted that other plant-based drinks have comparable emissions and land-use, but use even less water.

Oat milk, for instance, uses 7 per cent of the amount of water that cow’s milk requires, and is now produced in Ireland if consumers want to cut their food miles down too.


The dairy industry has much to recommend it, particularly in terms of nutrition and the Irish economy. These are good starting points for any debate and Mr McCormack makes some valid points on these. But if it comes from a cow, it’s not environmentally friendly, whether it’s milk, butter or beef. Let’s drop that pretence so we can address climate change based on facts rather than misty-eyed sentimentality and misleading “appeal to common sense” fallacies. – Yours, etc,



Co Dublin.