Somehow, that does not sound particularly appetizing – plant milks – yet according to Gourmet News magazine there is a growing market for plant-based milks. Per-capita consumption of cow’s milk has been falling. I am okay with that. The article calls almond milk “the new white milk,” while soy milk is still ahead in popularity. According to Packaged Facts publisher David Sprinkle, consumers choose plant-based dairy alternatives for numerous reasons: either they are vegans, vegetarians and people concerned about antibiotics and growth hormones often found in cow’s milk, lactose intolerance, milk allergy, and the genetic disorder phenylketonuria.
Fortunately, phenylketonuria is extremely rare, though serious. Sufferers are advised to severely limit their consumption of several foods including meat, chicken, fish, eggs, nuts, cheese, legumes, milk and other dairy products, as well as starchy foods, such as potatoes, bread, pasta, and corn. Limiting one’s consumption of all those foods alone makes the genetic disorder a very serious one. It is important to note that these foods do not cause phenylketonuria, but that these protein-rich foods must be avoided if one is diagnosed with this disorder.
If avoiding milk because you are vegan, there is no point in recommending cheese instead. However, if one is vegetarian, the milk is acceptable (depending on one’s definition of vegetarian) as well as most cheeses. The cheeses that would not be acceptable for vegetarians would be those that are produced with traditional animal rennet – a coagulant that is used less and less often. Avoidance of milk because of lactose intolerance makes sense. That intolerance is not a problem caused by aged cheeses. The younger fresh cheeses have very little lactose themselves, compared to milk. For persons avoiding dairy products due to concerns about the use of antibiotics and growth hormones, the use of those hormones is entirely avoided in milk destined for cheese making, and if an animal is on antibiotics, that animal is not headed to the milking parlor. Milk containing antibiotics does not make successful cheese. If the person’s resistance to dairy products is because of a milk allergy, that person might try skipping cow milk and cow milk cheese (the bulk of dairy products) as the occasional low tolerance to cow milk may be the problem.
In the meantime, while milk consumption falls, the consumption of cheese continues to rise.