What Is Milk?: A Harder Question To Answer Than You'd Think

Is this a question too basic to deserve serious consideration?

Not according to a new article in The Atlantic, which details a sort of existential crisis for what constitutes milk. The uncertainty was prompted by a recent announcement of naming recommendations from the FDA:

Plant-based milk, the agency said, could be called “milk” if its plant origin was clearly identified (for example, “pistachio milk”). In addition, labels could clearly state how the product differs nutritionally from regular milk. A package labeled “rice milk” would be acceptable, but it should note when the product has less calcium or vitamin D than milk.

Seems innocuous enough, but the piece continues:

Rather than prompt a détente, these recommendations are sucking milk into an existential crisis. Differentiating plant-based milk and milk requires defining what milk actually is, but doing so is at odds with the acknowledgment that plant-based milk is milk. It is impossible to compare plant-based and cow’s milk if there isn’t a standard nutrient content for cow’s milk, which comes in a range of formulations. This awkward moment is the culmination of a decades-long shift in the way the FDA—and consumers—has come to think about and define food in general. At this point, it’s unclear what milk is anymore.

My solution is much simpler: If it hurts my tummy, it’s definitely milk.

Hard not to agree with this quote from the piece:

Many plant-based milks, [Charlotte] Biltekoff said, don’t look or taste much like dairy milk but are accepted as milk because they’re used in the same way: splashed in coffee, poured into cereal, or as an ingredient in baked goods.

Yep. Sounds like milk to me.