The great plant-based ‘milk’ debate

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The rise and rise of plant-based dairy alternatives seems to be getting the farming community hot under the collar.

I guess it proves those who say “going vegan won’t change anything” wrong.

In June, the Court of Justice of the European Union ruled that vegan alternatives cannot use words like milk in product descriptions.

The case was brought by the German Competition Authority against TofuTown (sounds like my kind of place).

The EU Court ruled plant-based alternatives cannot be described using the terms ‘milk’, ‘cream’, ‘butter’, ‘cheese’ or ‘yoghurt’, as these are reserved by EU law for animal products. Finally, a reason for supporting Brexit (although there’s plenty of other reasons for being a ‘remoaner’).

Truth is, the dairy industry is panicking about the fact it’s losing sales to healthier, more ethical (not hard) to vegan-friendly alternatives. ( http://vegfestexpress.co.uk/tabs/blog/2017/02/dairy-free-plant-milks-market—the-future ).

In almond milk etc as “milk” on their websites – and to even stop stocking it next to dairy milks – maybe they’re scared dairy buyers will catch a conscience as they browse the shelves?

So, it seems as vegans up the ante in criticising the dairy industry, it is resorting to desperate measures to fight back. Remember, it is also pressure from the dairy industry that has led to the badger culls in the UK – despite the fact there is no evidence at all that badgers spread BOVINE TB ( https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2016/jul/13/badger-cull-expansion-flies-in-face-of-scientific-evidence ). So, quite rightly, activists have drawn parallels with the dairy industry. Quite simply, buying dairy milk leads to dead badgers.

The furore follows last year’s great Gary Facebook debate, when Sainsbury’s launched their own brand of vegan cheese ( https://veganonadesertisland.com/2016/10/02/the-great-gary-review/ )

Sainsbury’s had some free marketing over that one – somebody thought that it was wrong to call the product “cheese”. It seems the desperation goes on and one…

So, why can’t market forces just accept that ethical living is on the rise? Big supermarkets are getting in on the act, major multi-nationals are making money out of veganism and the “middle class” vegan has a huge part to play in the economy? Or, are those of us who are anti-capitalist just too prominent in the vegan movement? Revolution cannot be allowed to happen – remember!

Personally, I think there are too many rich and powerful players in the animal agriculture industry for politicians to allow it to fail – despite the fact we could feed the world many times over if we all went vegan tomorrow. So, while veganism was “allowed” to exist as a niche product line, the fact the number of vegans has exploded beyond even our wildest hopes as kicked the meat and dairy industry (it is one combined industry if we’re honest) into attack mode.

I’ve read posts on Facebook in the past about reserving the words burgers and sausages for meat products – but they’re just shapes! You get different meat varieties of sausages and burgers, so why not meat-free versions?

I have noticed in the numerous stories about veganism on national news sites that non-vegans in society as a whole now feel it necessary to go into attack mode in the dreaded comment sections. Does this come from a sense of guilt or a fear that their cosy lifestyle (of pain and suffering) is under threat?

 

The Great Gary Review

Veganism is big business on social media.

Stories connected to vegans automatically get multiple shares and provoke debate on news posts, therefore, the Gary/Vegan Cheese debate shouldn’t really come as any surprise. It certainly hasn’t done Sainsbury’s any harm. You couldn’t buy this much advertising! Several national news outlets even picked up on the debate and it went viral quicker than many cat videos.

If you missed it, basically, Sainsbury’s has released a number of own-brand vegan cheeses – something which got the vegan community instantly excited – it doesn’t take much with us lot! Anyway, one less than vegan social media user became upset over the term “cheese” when it comes to dairy-free products and posted a long rant to this effect.  She ended with “call it Gary or something”. So vegans did. Instantly, and hilariously, the ranter’s joke backfired and sent the products’ new moniker viral. I’m sure non-vegan Garys are over the moon.

It all proves two things: Vegans do have a sense of humour and new vegan products sell themselves in the world of social media.

Personally, I don’t care what you call it. I see it as rather petty to get offended over what a product is named. In fact, Sainsbury’s haven’t actually labelled them “vegan cheese” on the packaging – instead they are presumptuously called “Deliciously Free-From…” then Cheddar Style etc.

 

Much of the publicity surrounding the release centred on the fact that the cheeses are coconut-based. The cheeses actually contain between 22 per cent and 24 per cent coconut oil and they are not soya-free. So if you don’t want soya, you’re better off with Violife or Vegusto. Personally, it doesn’t bother me and claims soya gives men boobs and the such-like are pretty nonsensical – it is certainly no quick fix for sex-change patients. Also, many meat products also contain soya and many animals bred for meat are fed on the stuff.

 

I decided to try the new products, including a cheese spread and new lasagne, so I could share my thoughts with you lovely people.

The lasagne was something I was very excited about, but it really isn’t as good as some of the home-made offerings I’ve tried. It is, however, vegetable and not soya mince-based. It also says it “serves one”, which in supermarket terms, means serves one with chips, a salad, garlic bread and pudding!

I avoided going down the lazy microwave route and cooked it properly. But it still stuck to the bottom. Once out of the plastic dish, It was still a little watery and doesn’t have any real spice kick. But there is a fair amount of tasty veg and the pasta tasted nice and creamy. I’d have it again – probably with lots of chips.

 

The Garlic and Herb Soft Cheese is a lovely breakfast treat on toast. It certainly doesn’t skimp on the garlic, it has a real kick and a nice, light texture. It’s delicious in fact. And, as with the cheeses themselves, there is no underlying coconut taste or, indeed, after-taste. Plus, it’s actually softer and more spreadable than many similar products on the market.

 

Now let’s look at the cheeses themselves. I’ll start with the

 

. This is a white cheese with a creamy taste and soft texture. It has a medium-strength hit and would work very well in a salad. I can’t actually remember what “real” cheese tastes like, so I have to judge the products on their own merits.

The Cheddar Style is probably the most traditional alternative, and I would say it has a cheesy taste given what I’ve said above. It’s the kind of vegan cheese I would have in a sandwich with pickles.

 

I approached the Wensleydale Style with Cranberries with some trepidation, as I, generally, don’t like sweet and savoury mixed. But I was pleasantly surprised. It’s certainly colourful – it looks like ice cream, but the sweet aftertaste isn’t unpleasant and it’s another creamy one. This is something that would work well on crackers.

 

Finally, comes the best – Cheddar Style with Caramelised Onion. This is the one that made angels dance around my mouth and spread glitter over my tongue! The powerful onion taste is to die for, making this one that would rule over the cracker kingdom.

 

At £2.25 each for a 200g pack, they are cheaper than many other vegan cheeses and they come in re-sealable packaging – which is always a bonus. All in all, they are certainly a hit with me.