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  • Collegian staff

Battle of the milks: Willamette's take on alternative milk discourse

Updated: Oct 25, 2021

Jesse Buck

Lifestyles editor

Mary Wang

Production manager

Boots, the Collegian mascot, floats in a bowl of milk. Graphic by Mary Wang.

Alternative milks have grown in popularity over the last few decades, and Willamette’s campus has certainly not been isolated from this phenomenon. Given that liberal arts students are notorious for their particularity (some may even say snobbery) when it comes to alternative milks, our staff endeavored to evaluate WU students’ stance on their favorite milks using the effective community outreach tool that is social media. We polled students on the Collegian Instagram (@willamette_collegian), giving them the choice between cow, almond, oat, coconut, soy and rice milk. Read our findings and analysis below.


We conducted our research through two rounds of voting. The first round consisted of the choice between almond milk versus cow’s milk, oat milk versus rice milk and coconut milk versus soy milk. From there, we narrowed down the final three milk contestants to cow, oat and coconut. The polls received a total of 185 votes.


The First Round Losers

Rice: 21%

Most people only encounter rice milk in horchata and that is its ideal form. No need to pursue it further.

Soy: 42%

This sweet milk alternative seems like it’s fallen out of fashion given the many other options available these days. There has been some controversy about soy milk’s [high levels of estrogen], making it a less favorable option for people with thyroid conditions. However, as of this writing, there has been no proven link between soy milk and cancer risk.

Almond: 46%

Almond milk seems to be one of the first milk alternatives people are introduced to. Of the nut milks available, it has definitely proven to be the most popular. However, almond milk has not been without its controversies. According to the University of California San Francisco, almond milk production has taken a significant [toll on the environment] due to the large amount of water and pesticides involved. So if you’re thinking about going dairy free for environmental reasons, almond milk is not the best way to go.

Surprisingly, this milk did not make the cut to advance to the second round. Could almond milk be going down the same path as soy?


Coconut: 11%

We were absolutely stunned that coconut made it to the second round given the divisive comments.

Cow: 43%

These somewhat surprising results indicate that the mainstream, classic option is still a top choice for many in the Willamette community. Despite the popularity of alternative milks among the youth, traditional dairy milk remains tried and true. There is some curiosity about how many people that chose this option are lactose intolerant.

Dairy advocates were vocal:

Of course, it is important to note that the societal shift towards dairy free alternatives to cow milk is in part due to the environmental and ethical concerns that go along with dairy consumption. Cow milk has by far the greatest impact on the environment when compared to all other alternatives, requiring [144 gallons of water] to produce just one gallon of milk. Additionally, the dairy industry famously subjects cows to [cruel treatment and excessive confinement], resulting in dramatically shortened life spans and poor quality of life for the animals.

Oat: 46%

Our audience’s champion was oat milk. Oat milk’s texture is its best quality, especially when compared to the creaminess of other alternatives. Choosing oat milk over other options at a cafe does promote a superiority complex.

No matter the difference in opinion, whether it is cow, soy or oat, everyone can unite around chocolate milk.

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