Milk

The amount of liquid milk consumed per capita in the U.S. has tumbled more than 40% since 1975. Meanwhile, sales of alternative dairy products are rising steadily. Tulsa World file

Legislation pending at the state Capitol would ban a pernicious product that seeks to undermine America’s youth — almond milk.

Or perhaps we should say “milk.”

Rep. Jim Grego, vice chairman of the House agriculture committee, has introduced House Bill 2994, which would ban sales of milk substitute products in Oklahoma if they are labeled with the word milk.

Only milk produced by cows, goats or other hooved mammals could be sold as milk in the state, if Grego’s legislation passes. Milk substitutes made from almonds, soy, coconut, rice or anything else would have to remove the m-word from their packaging if they want to stay in your grocer’s “dairy” case.

Milk — cow’s milk, we mean — is struggling with American consumers. When Borden Dairy Co. filed for bankruptcy protection earlier this month, The Associated Press reported that the amount of liquid milk consumed per capita in the U.S. has tumbled more than 40% since 1975.

Meanwhile, sales of alternative dairy products are rising steadily. In addition to being friendlier to those with lactose intolerance, nondairy milk can offer fewer carbohydrates and calories by volume. When supplemented, they can be as good or better as sources of calcium, vitamin D and other nutrients. Nonmilk milk prices are generally higher and most people can taste the difference, but an increasing portion of the American market is moving away from Elsie.

If Grego’s bill is meant to keep milk alternatives out of Oklahoma, we doubt it will work. Repackaged “mylk” will appear in shopper’s carts overnight. If it’s meant to bolster the pride of suffering dairymen during challenging times, any effect there would be short-lived if consumer trends follow their current arcs.

The real m-word here is marketplace, which many Oklahoma legislators like to honor as beyond their interference, except when it suits them to do otherwise.

We don’t care what Grego prefers on his cornflakes, but if he wants to tell 4 million Oklahomans what counts as milk, he’s only going to discover that he can’t defeat free enterprise.

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