No one can deny the American dairy industry is in trouble: In November Dean Foods, the country’s largest milk producer, declared bankruptcy; last week, the 162-year old Borden Dairy Company filed for bankruptcy protection, citing multiple factors such as historically low prices, declining demand, and (in typical 21st-century fashion) competition from Walmart. Many dairy farmers are blaming non-dairy alternatives such as oat milk for their decreased sales, and take particular umbrage with use of the word “milk” to describe alternative products. The industry has lobbied the FDA for new labeling guidelines, which has led to lively discussions about lactating almonds and cool, creamy glasses of nut juice. While farmers wait for the federal government to address the issue, some states have been taking the matter into their own hands, like Kentucky, which last week saw a bill introduced outlawing the use of the term “milk” to describe any sort of liquid that does not come out of “healthy, hooved mammals.”
Louisville’s WDRB reports that the bill was introduced by Republican state senator Matt Castlen and would limit use of the term “milk” to dairy produced by cattle, sheep, goats, and yaks. Castlen’s bill, which has many Republican sponsors, would theoretically protect consumers from being duped by a container covered in pictures of almonds and whose nutrition label lists every ingredient, none of which involve dairy.
According to WDRB, reactions to the bill on social media have not been kind, with constituents calling it a waste of time and money.