Midwest Dairy Association

Dairy Imitators

All Milks are Not Created Equal

There are many imitation “milks” out there, including rice, coconut, almond and nut, hemp, and soy beverages. However, these drinks are not technically milk and are not nutritionally equivalent to cow’s milk.

Cow’s milk products are the richest source of well-absorbed calcium. According to researchers from Creighton University, the calcium in cow’s milk is absorbed 25% better than that found in soy milk. An 8-oz serving of milk contains about 300 mg of calcium. By comparison, it would take 500 mg of calcium in an 8-oz serving of fortified soy milk to equal that amount of calcium.

Many of these milk alternatives use fortification to mimic the nutrient profile of cow’s milk and there is no standard nutrient profile across brands. Here is how some of the most common dairy alternatives stack up:

  • Soy beverages are made from soybeans and are a good source of protein. However, according to the Protein Digestibility Corrected Amino Acid Score (PDCAAS), soy protein is a lower quality protein than the whey protein found in dairy products.
  • Rice-based beverages are generally processed from brown rice and are fortified with nutrients such as calcium and vitamin D. Rice beverages typically contain only one gram of protein compared to eight grams in cow’s milk.
  • Nut-based beverages can be ground from any nut and the most popular is almond. Almond beverages only supply one gram of protein per serving and lack many of the natural benefits found in almonds.
  • Seed-based beverages, such as hemp, are newer to the marketplace. Their nutritional benefit is touted to be their omega fatty acid content. Similar to the other beverages, they also fall short on protein.

Additional Resources

Milk’s Unique Nutrient Package

Fact sheet study aid to illustrate milk’s unique nutrient package.

Download PDF

Safety and Quality

American milk and dairy products are among the safest and most highly regulated foods in the world. Learn more about milk safety and quality.

The Science of Milk

“The Science of Milk” video, featuring Dr. Lloyd Metzger, PhD, professor, South Dakota State University. Runtime: 3 minutes.

See How Your Milk Stacks Up

Does your dairy aisle drink give you 9 essential nutrients for a QUARTER?

Download PDF