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The dairy industry has, for years, come under scrutiny for its carbon footprint. According to a report by FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nation), the sector emits 4 % of all human-caused emissions, mostly in the form of methane, an especially potent greenhouse gas. More and more people are trying plant-based milk options.

Have you tried some options of plant-based milk and felt the flavour and texture was too watery? You got to try pea-milk! A creamy milk alternative with many additional benefits!

Background personal story

(If you want to jump directly into the scientific facts, you can skip this section part)

When I was working on Changeit app, on November 2020, I realize how high was the CO2 footprint of cow-milk comparing to non-dairy alternatives and decided to change my consumption habits.

(A single cup of cow milk produces 600g of CO2 and non-dairy options around 200g !)

Since then, I start shifting (slowly, but steady!) the consumption of dairy-milk to plant-based milk. I tried different options (rice, almond, oat) and oat plant-based milk was my favourite. As I was still preferring cow´s milk flavour, I first started by mixing half-half with oat milk, but after two months I stopped buying cow-milk.

Although my main reason to change to non-dairy milk was the carbon footprint, I also started feeling extremely relieved for knowing I stopped supporting a system where the cows are mistreated.

I have to say that sometimes I was still missing the flavour of cow milk, but not anymore! Since, two weeks ago, I found a very tasty alternative to cow milk: pea milk!!! It is so delicious! And after doing some research I found out pea milk also has enormous nutritional benefits.

Bellow you will find information about pea-milk nutritional value, its environmental footprint and potential downsides.

Pea-milk - Nutritional value

Made of yellow peas, this allergens-free beverage is lactose-, soy-, nut-, and gluten-free.

The percentages might vary a bit from brand to brand, but in comparison to cow milk (and also other plant-based milk options), pea milk has on average:

  • more calcium
  • same or more protein (depending on the brand)
  • less saturated fat
  • less sugar (with some exceptions: Barista version, Chocolate version)

Using specific examples, I compared the nutritional values of dairy-, almond-, oat-, and pea-milk options.

Figure 1. Comparison of nuritional values between different types of milk (g per 100 ml): Cow milk (1.5 % fat brand Rewe, Germany) , Almon milk (Alpro, UK), Oat milk (Oatly, Netherlands), and Pea milk (Vly, Germany).

Disclaimer: Consuming fat is important for our body to function properly. While unsaturated fats such as omega 3 and omega 6 are considered essential because humans cannot synthesize them, saturated fat is less desirable. Pea milk contains more unsaturated fat and less saturated fat than cow milk, therefore being a good nutritional option. If you still would like to have an option with a reduced amount of fat, there is the unswettened version of Pea milk which has 0 g of sugar and a 1.8 g of total fat.

Environmental footprint

On average, non-dairy milk emits 3 x less CO2 per liter compared to dairy-milk.

A report comparing pea-, almond-, soy-, and dairy milk shows that pea milk, produces 3 x less CO2 per liter when compared to cow-milk or 4 x less if we consider CO2 emissions per gram of protein per liter of milk (Table 5, Figure 8 on the study report of Life cycle assessment of Ripple non-dairy milk). Production of pea milk also takes less water per gram of protein produced comparing to dairy milk (Table 8 on the study report of Life cycle assessment of Ripple non-dairy milk).

Figure 2. Comparison of carbon dioxide emissions between different types of milk (CO2 emissions per kg of protein in a Liter of milk). Adapted from figure 8 at study report of Life cycle assessment of Ripple non-dairy milk.

After searching more about Vly brand I was glad to found out that:

  • 82% of their packaging comes from renewable raw materials (their goal is to reach 100% as soon as possible)
  • If you order online they calculate the CO2 amount utilized for the transportation and do offsetting by collaborating with Carbfix. Carbfix is a company using innovative technology that speeds up the natural process of turning carbon dioxide (CO2) into stone, with the ultimate goal of fighting off climate catastrophe and to reduce emissions.

Potential Downsides

  • Certain types are high in sugar

    Options of pea-milk with chocolate contains more sugar than cow milk (although it has less when compared with chocolate cow-milk options). So, try to avoid these sugary options and before buying milk check how many grams of sugar per 100 ml it has.

  • Contains sunflower oil (corresponding to more unsaturated fat than cow milk)

    Sunflower oil is high in omega-6 fatty acids — a type of fat found in vegetable oils that most people consume in excess — and low in omega-3s, which are beneficial to health. Is not that omega-6 fatty acids are unhealthy; they are considered one of the “good” fats and an important part of a healthy diet. But too many omega-6s can interfere with the way the body utilizes omega-3 fatty acids and thereby limit their numerous health benefits, such as reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes and obesity.

  • It does not contain Vitamin D3

    It’s important to choose supplements and foods that contain vitamin D in a form that your body can use effectively. Pea milk is fortified with Vitamin D2, but not with Vitamin D3 (animal vitamin D) which is more absorbable. This can be a disadvantage especially for people deficient in vitamin D.

Conclusion

Pea milk is a smart choice for those looking for a sustainable, high-protein, hypoallergenic substitute for cow milk.

Overall, pea milk has a great nutritional value and its environmental footprint is much lower than cow-milk, not only regarding greenhouse emissions but also in water usage. These reasons certainly make it worth your try!

Climate Change App

If you want to start living a more sustainable life, our app - Changeit - gives you simple actions you can start taking now to reduce your CO2 footprint. We designed our app to help busy people that want to fight climate change.

We compiled all the information in easy-to-read actions and notifications that will help you adopt more sustainable behaviors without taking much of your time.

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Written by : Carolina Freitas (PhD)

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