The concept of milk has become more complicated over the last decade. When I was growing up the possible answers to “what kind of milk do you want” were skim, 2% or whole. Now milk from a cow is no longer the presumed default. The same question can be answered with soy, almond, cashew, hemp, rice or oat.
While the lactose-tolerant may roll their eyes whenever a new non-dairy milk becomes popular, the overall trend away from dairy milk consumption is decades in the making. According to the United States Department of Agriculture, while overall dairy consumption has increased since the 1970s, consumption of milk is down 40% over the same period. Alternative milks are not a fad.
The current new kid on the block is definitely oat milk. Created in Sweden, oat milk came to the US in 2016 after having caught fire in Europe. After popping up at coffee shops and Whole Foods across New York City, Oatley, the company that first sold oat milk had supply chain problems and unexpectedly ran out across the city. A black market sprouted rapidly with oat milk prices surging past $75 a gallon.
Spending black market prices on oat milk is just silly because oat milk is the first of the alt milks that can be made quickly, easily and cheaply at home. Making milk from dried soy beans or nuts is a time-consuming process. All require overnight soaks in water before making and sometimes recipes call for enzymes and other additions to keep things on track. Also, it’s far cheaper to buy pre-made nut milk from the supermarket than to buy all the nuts you’d need for a half gallon of alt milk.
You could go from wanting a nice glass of oat milk to drinking a nice glass of oat milk in under 10 minutes. It’ll cost you only pennies.
It’s a big world. Never stop looking for the milk that’s right for you. ￼
To read more about the history of alternative milk, check out this week's Scene section.