Dairy farmers don’t care much for soy and I know a lot of dairy processors aren’t wild about it either, even though some of them also make so-called soy milk.

“There’s no such thing as soy milk. It’s soy juice. But they couldn’t sell soy juice, so they called it soy milk. Because anytime you say ‘soy juice,’ you actually start to gag.”   – Lewis Black

Dairy farmers don’t care much for soy and I know a lot of dairy processors aren’t wild about it either, even though some of them also make so-called soy milk.

As the fluid milk sector continues to scrape and paw to regain years of lost ground against the onslaught of competing beverages, its leaders have expressed dismay that anything other than the miraculous substance that secretes from a bovine udder is allowed to be called milk.

So it’s appropriate, as we celebrate June Dairy Month, that the industry is taking a stand for real dairy.

“The FDA has allowed the meaning of ‘milk’ to be watered down to the point where many products that use the term have never seen the inside of a barn,” Jerry Kozak, chief of the National Milk Producers Federation, said in a press release announcing a new campaign to fight the misnomers. “You don’t ‘got milk’ if it comes from a hemp plant, you can’t say cheese if it’s made from rice, and faux yogurt can’t be made from soy and still be called yogurt.”

After nearly a decade of first addressing this issue, NMPF has submitted another petition urging the FDA to stop dairy-specific terms, such as “yogurt,” “cheese” and “ice cream” from being used by products that are in fact made from non-dairy ingredients.

Meanwhile, the group has turned to social media to drum up support for the cause, launching a Facebook page. “They Don’t Got Milk” had 818 “fans” as of the morning of May 25. The page has attracted both genuine fans leaving their comments in support of real milk, as well as critics – mostly vegans attacking the very idea that milk is consumed at all.

“We are not saying that these products shouldn’t be sold. Consumers should have options. Consumers select foods for a variety of reasons,” the site’s administrators state on the page. What they are saying is that “putting a white fluid into the same package as milk, with pictures showing uses for it just like milk, with phrases on the carton like ‘the perfect alternative for milk,’ putting it in the dairy case right beside milk and including the word ‘milk’ in the name of the product, all confuse the consumer into thinking these imitation products are nutritionally the same as real milk, when in fact they aren’t the same.”

The FDA failed to act on the initial petition, which was submitted February 2000, so NMPF “is again asking our regulators to defend the letter and the spirit of regulations intended to prevent false and misleading labeling on consumer products,” Kozak said. “The use of these terms shouldn’t just be determined by the common and convenient vernacular that marketers prefer; they should be used according to what the law allows.”

Mr. Black’s comments above notwithstanding, I think it would perfectly acceptable to market alternatives as “beverages” rather than milk. And it just makes sense. I mean, if there has to be a distinction between genuine dairy products like “ice cream” and “frozen dairy dessert,” then there ought to be a distinction between what’s really milk and what’s not milk at all.

So it’s about time for some action on this, to protect the integrity of real dairy and make it clear to consumers exactly what they’re buying and, from our industry’s standpoint, what we feel is the superior product.

For more information, check out the petition’s Facebook page at www.facebook.com/theydontgotmilk. Hope to see you there …