Almond Milk Leads to 10,000 Fewer Dairy Cows in California

New almond crops are reducing the number of cows exploited for milk.

Dairy farmers in California are opting for more sustainable crops. Bloomberg writers Leslie Patton and Lydia Mulvany analyzed the shift in California from dairy to almonds, revealing that 350,000 acres of almond groves have been incorporated into the state’s agricultural lands in the last decade. In contrast, the number of dairy cows in the state has fallen by 10,000 in the period between January and July of this year. According to Patton and Mulvany, California dairy farmers are actively replacing animal farms with almond crops. One such example comes from the acquisition of mega-dairy George Borba & Son’s by Olam International—a Singapore-based company that produces almonds and pistachios. While in the 1950s his then-dairy farm did not grow almonds, Wagner says that now “there are almond trees everywhere” and that “the economics for the trees has been very good.” Though almonds have previously been categorized as a water-intensive crop, according to an exposé published in the New York Times, it takes 15.3 gallons of water to produce 16 almonds, as compared to four glasses of milk which require 143 gallons of water to produce. “Americans consume the most water by eating meat and dairy products,” the exposé revealed, “primarily because a lot of water is needed to grow the crops to feed the animals.” Almond milk is driving the exponentially growing dairy alternative market which is estimated to reach $35 billion by 2024.

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