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Dairy Industry Compelled to Consider Dairy-Free Products

As meat industry giants incorporate plant-based products, the dairy industry feels the need to change.

A feature on dairy news outlet Dairy Reporter explores the repercussions of The Farm Animal Investment Risk and Return Initiative (FAIRR) launched by a collective of investors with over $1 trillion in holdings. In its demand letter to 16 large food corporations (including Nestle, Unilever, and Walmart), FAIRR inquired how companies plan to use plant-based diversification of their product lines to avoid the environmentally destructive “protein bubble” of continuing to rely on animal products for profit. Tyson responded by investing in vegan company Beyond Meat early last week and, while mostly aimed at meat production, the ripple effect of the FAIRR demand is being felt by big dairy. Corporate accountability charity ShareAction campaigns manager Claire Richards advised Dairy Reporter that “There is no escaping that dairy is subject to the same social and environmental pressure points as meat,” listing welfare issues, antibiotic usage, methane outputs, and polluting byproducts as parallel environmental and ethical concerns. The dairy-alternative industry—driven by plant-based milks and the millennials who love them—is predicted to reach $35 billion by 2024, a number Richards says the dairy industry cannot ignore. “Both as a push and pull effect of changing consumer tastes, the non-dairy aisle increasingly rivals flavored and standard milks on both range and price.” Richards further advises, “For companies that recognize and embrace this as an opportunity, diversification into non-dairy options does not need to be a threat.” Government subsidies of ailing industries such as corn (mostly used for animal feed), meat, and dairy only serve to prop up industries that are no longer able to sustain themselves. Richards points out that the future of food lies in the pressure that big corporations are feeling from consumers, investors, policymakers, and activists alike.“Big food companies have helped shape the tastes and purchasing habits that have brought us to this point,” Richards says, “and they also have the product expertise and marketing insight to help drive diets in a more sustainable direction.”

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