Almond milk has become the favoured milk alternative for those trying to avoid dairy and soy. It's recommended as part of the super-popular paleo diet, and has vitamin E and protein, but is it really OK drink.
I had only recently started using almond when a friend pointed out to me the devastating impacts of the almond milk industry. I really appreciate his vigilance and for bringing these things to my attention. I typically try to make my own from organic Australian almonds which come from Victoria and South Australia (still a long way from here), but every now and then I was buying some commercial varieties too - for convenience sake. Not any more!
This is some of what I just learnt....
- It takes 5 litres of water to grow ONE almond! (10% of California's water goes to almond farming)
- Most of the almond milk sold in Australia comes from California.
- Demand for almond milk has overtaken soy milk in the US, Britain and soon Australia.
- California grows over 80 per cent of the world's almonds, but has been experiencing a record-breaking drought.
- Farmers have been drilling into aquifers to meet rapidly growing almond demand.
- Over-pumping is causing subsidence of almost 30 cms in places and could trigger earthquakes.
- California uses 60 per cent of the US's managed beehives to pollinate the almond trees.
- Around a quarter of these bees are dying from the pesticides used in the almond plantations.
There are of course many other ecological impacts involved in a large highly-mechanised monoculture and intense concentration of production in one place.
Did you know that most almond milks sold in the supermarket have 97.5% water? Just 2% is actually almond plus a list of other ingredients including emulsifiers, sweeteners etc.
Also did you know that most 'raw' almonds aren't actually raw. Since 2007 in the US all almonds must be pasteurised. This is done by steaming, roasting, or applying chemicals.
It's still not law in Australia to pasteurise almonds, but regardless most almonds (organic too) in Australia are already being pasteurised.
If you still want almond milk, my suggestion is to either grow your own (if you're in the right climate - I'm not) or support local organic almond growers that are not pasteurising (you can find a source here: http://santosorganics.com.au/articles/are_your_almonds_pasteurised.html).
Personally, I think I might abandon almond milk, and simply have a handful of these super healthy nuts and a glass of water. That'd solve the problem of waste almond milk packaging too.