Is Soy Milk Better Than Regular Milk? Eden Foods Is Against Birth Control, So Time To Investigate

Are you a fan of Eden Foods’ delicious, organic soy products? Are you also a fan of reproductive rights? Well, it looks like you’re going to have to choose between the two. Eden Foods owner Michael Potter opposes contraceptive coverage for his employees, and had previously filed a legal objection in an attempt to circumvent Obamacare’s contraception mandate. Now, thanks to the Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby ruling, his case is being reconsidered.

This is a reminder of two things: One, that the precedent of the Hobby Lobby ruling will reach far beyond the employees of that one company, and two, that chic, “healthy” foods aren’t always as ethical as we might like to think. Marketing to environmentally- and health-conscious consumers is often actually a shrewd business decision — and it doesn’t necessarily reflect progressive values going on behind the scenes.

Because Eden Food’s lawsuit will have many progressives rethinking their choice of soy milk, now is as good a time as any to take a good, hard look at the nutritional, environmental and ethical impact of various milk alternatives. Is soy milk really more ethical than cow's milk? Is regular milk really that bad? Is goat milk any better? If you’re looking to figure out which type of milk aligns with both your health and moral needs, look no further.

Regular Cow’s Milk

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Good ol’ fashioned cow’s milk has more calcium and twice the protein of any of its main competitors (other than goat's milk), and arguably tastes the best after a chocolate chip cookie. The big knock against it is that it requires actual cows to produce. In addition to the methane they release, which stays in the atmosphere around 22 times more efficiently than CO2, cows require significant resources to feed and clean up after; a Cornell University study found that roughly 14 calories of fossil-fuel energy are required to produce just one calorie of milk protein on a traditional farm. So, while cow’s milk is delicious, it leaves a somewhat embarrassing environmental footprint.

Health Score: 7/10

Environmental Score: 5/10

Organic Milk

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Organic milk is, of course, a subset of cow’s milk, and from a nutritional standpoint, it’s generally pretty comparable. Some studies have suggested that it has more omega-3 fatty acids and antioxidants than normal milk, though, and because it requires less fossil-fuel energy to produce, it’s slightly more sustainable. Additionally, cows that produce organic milk aren’t treated with growth hormones or injected with antibiotics, and so ethically, it has a leg up on regular milk.

Health Score: 7.5/10

Environmental Score: 6/10

Soy Milk

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A big health plus of soy milk is that it has very little saturated fat and no cholesterol. It's also higher in fiber. On the surface, it also may appear to be more sustainable: It requires exponentially less fossil-fuel energy to produce than either organic or non-organic cow’s milk, and produces far fewer greenhouse gases during production. Unfortunately, the Amazon rainforest is being destroyed in order to make way for soybean fields, and most soybeans are genetically modified. On the whole, it’s probably about as environmentally-friendly as regular milk — which is to say, not very environmentally-friendly at all.

Health Score: 8/10

Environmental Score: 5/10

Rice Milk

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Like soy milk, rice milk is very low in saturated fat. It’s also high in B vitamins, magnesium, and iron. It’s also notable as the least likely milk alternative to trigger allergies, and has no cholesterol. Unfortunately, it also has three to four times more carbs than a glass of regular milk, and almost no protein or calcium at all. Manufacturing it requires very intensive farming and requires whole lot of water, which is sometimes contaminated with arsenic. On the plus side, it doesn’t have to be refrigerated until after you open it...

Health Score: 8/10

Environmental Score: 6/10

Goat’s Milk

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Goat’s milk is sometimes dismissed as “too gross” to be a viable milk alternative, but that’s not true (I’ve had it and it’s delicious). Its biggest health advantage is probably the fact that it has more protein any other kind of milk, and because its protein molecules are a different size than cow’s milk, it’s easier for some people to digest. It has a couple of environmental advantages as well: Goats aren’t treated with hormones to begin with, and they produce less methane than cows. On the downside, it’s one of the fattiest types of milk there is. (Which might explain why it's so delicious.)

Health Score: 9/10

Environmental Score: 8/10

Hemp Milk

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No, hemp milk will not make you high — but it is relatively ethical. According to the Canadian Hemp Trade Alliance, hemp is fast-growing crop that naturally suppresses weeds. Translation? It tends to resist many diseases and doesn’t require lots of farming or water. With 20 percent of your daily iron and five grams of protein per serving, hemp milk is also pretty healthy. (Not much calcium, though.)

Health Score: 9/10

Environmental Score: 9/10

Image: Eden Soy