Hipsters look out: Soy milk could be an environmental wrecker
It's a staple among environmentally-conscious foodies but new research has shown soy milk could be doing more damage to the earth than the humble cow's' milk it was made to replace.
The popular plant-based milk causes less carbon emissions than cow's milk but is also the key driver of rapid deforestation across South America and the Amazon.
And new research has shown that while cows feed on soya for their diet, it takes 11 times as much soya to create a litre of soy milk than a litre of cow's milk.
The study from University of Nottingham and the Sustainable Food Trust divided the total amount of soya fed to cows and found each kilogram could produce 85l of regular milk.
But the same kilogram of soya produces just 4.25l to 7.5l of soy milk.
"Milk produced from dairy cows given diets containing soya bean meal is a more sustainable use of land than producing human drink products directly from soya beans, especially when cows are grazed on pastures," the study in the Journal of Applied Animal Nutrition concluded.
Author Richard Young said the calculations did not take into account the impact of other types of feed given to British dairy cows but maintained that milk from dairy cows would still cause much less deforestation than soy milk - even when other feeds were included in the diet.
Social demographer Mark McCrindle said Australia was different to the UK because the local love for dairy farmers meant that most soy drinkers were driven by health reasons although environmental consciousness was starting to play a part.
"If we think about the history of non-dairy it was firstly allergy based and then it moved to a more mainstream health driver and in recent time there's been an environmental factor in people drinking it," he said.
"Will this report see people ditch soy milk? I think that those other factors are strong enough reasons for people to continue to be supportive of soy. But they may substitute it to another non-dairy option."
Naomi Borg occasionally drinks regular cow's milk but prefers soy for health reasons.
After hearing about the study's finding the 21-year-old said she wished brands were more transparent about the environmental impact.
"I didn't know anything about the environmental impact. I always thought (soy milk) was more environmentally friendly since it didn't come from our produce," she said.
Originally published as Hipsters look out: Soy milk could be an environmental wrecker