The milk business is in crisis. Sales are slipping, average per person consumption is down, yadda, yadda… And what is the dairy industry pointing to as one of the culprits behind the sales slump? It’s the alternative milk industry, plant-based milks made with coconut, almond, soy, rice, etc.

The dairy industry is investing in a new marketing tactic to stereotype these other milks as fake imposters, hailing the cow version as the “real” stuff. They’re even going so far as to add that word as a label on the packaging.

One of my young daughters cannot drink cow’s milk. My 87-year-old grandmother is always asking me: “Why does it seem like everyone is either allergic to milk or lactose intolerant these days?” Maybe today’s milk isn’t what it was when she was growing up, what with all the hormones and antibiotics. Who knows?

What I do know is that it’s not my preference to spend so much more money on alternative milk products. It’s not my preference to convert recipes, search out dairy-free options and deny my children ice cream at birthday parties.

What wouldn’t I give to be able to walk into my local grocery store and buy a regular old gallon of milk. No running to five different supermarkets. No driving an extra 45 minutes out of my way.

But for those of us who long for that cold glass to go with our cookies or to pour over our favorite cereal, how grateful are we that we have so many new options? Almond milk works perfectly well with everything from my gluten-free oatmeal to my lasagna béchamel. And when I’m making something for my daughter to take to her nut-free school for lunch, it’s soy milk in her French toast. These alternative milks, plus others like coconut, rice and hemp milks, are more than a convenience. In many cases, they’re life-savers.

Is today’s “real” milk not doing our bodies good anymore? Why can’t my daughter digest what used to be a major dietary staple for America’s children? Are stomachaches, eczema and sinus congestion trying to tell us something?

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