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Is oat drink better for the environment than cow’s milk?

One of the biggest and most crucial challenges today, is the climate change. Scientists and researchers agree that we must reduce our consumption of animal-based foods and increase plant-based food consumption, not just for the sake of our own personal health but also for the health of the planet.

Global food production accounts for approximately one third of greenhouse gas emissions, which contribute to climate change. The UN food- and agriculture organisation, FAO, estimates 14,5% of all emissions come from the meat and dairy industries. This is more than the total combined global emissions from all forms of transport including boats, trains, cars and airplanes.  Also worth mentioning is that 38% of the earth’s ice-free area is used for food industry production and of such area 75-80% is deployed for livestock production.

A Swedish study*, based on Swedish conditions, shows that by replacing cow’s milk with oat drink, greenhouse gas can be reduced by -80%, the land use by -79% and energy consumption by -60%. Choosing a plant based diet contributes to a more sustainable consumption which helps our planet.

*The Life Cycle Assessment was made by RISE (Research Institute of Sweden, previously SIK).
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  • Would it be viable to produce and market a condensed / concentrated version of Oatly milk, to be diluted at the point of consumption. If technically viable, it would seem to further benefit your environmental marketing, through reduced CO2 emissions in the distribution of the product. It occurs to me that shipping a product that is over 90% water from Sweden to the UK for example is rather suboptimal. Another benefit to consumers would be reduced storage footprint in smaller kitchens.
    Nick Perry
  • Hi Nick,

    Thanks for getting in touch!

    Unfortunately it would not be possible to produce a concentrated version of our oat drink. Due to the way we manufacture our products the texture and consistency of our oat drink would not able to be produced from a concentrated or condensed version.

    All the best
  • Does the carbon footprint figure on the carton include transport from Sweden to the UK?

  • Hi Norman,

    Thanks for the great question!

    Yes the carbon footprint on the carton takes into consideration the transportation from the manufacturing facility to a central distribution point within the country that the product is being sold in. In the case of the UK, figures are calculated to a distribution point in central London.

    You can check out our sustainability report here which includes a life cycle analysis of a carton of oat drink. You can see in detail how much the distribution of the product contributes to the carbon footprint on page 38 (the life cycle analysis).

    All the best
  • What were the cows fed on in the study?

    In the UK if cows are fed only natural pasture, not just grass they emmit far less methane, they also build soil to the extent they can be carbon neutral. Contrast this with the industrial monoculture of crops such as soya and oats, that destroy, ecosystems through ploughing, fertiliser and herbicide use and you end up with a complex picture.
  • Hi there,

    You raise a really good point! For this study the most common Swedish conditions were used as measurements. In the case of the types of dairy farms, natural pasture grazing is not the most common so this was not used. It was large scale industrial dairy farms as is the norm in Sweden and the majority of dairy farming countries.

    Unfortunately it is not the case that natural pasture grazing cows are carbon neutral. A number of factors affect the amount of carbon that is bound to the soil, such as the amount of carbon already in the soil, the climate, and how much the soil is plowed to name a few. If more carbon is bound to the soil than is released by the entire process of the cow producing milk and this milk being manufactured, one could say the cow is carbon neutral. However, as cows grazing in this way still produce methane, which is 28 times stronger than carbon dioxide in terms of its green house gas effect, as well as carbon dioxide, significantly more carbon would need to be bound to the soil than currently is during the process.

    You are absolutely right that monocultures are incredibly damaging to ecosystems and also to the climate. We are in no way supporting or promoting monocultures of any kind of crop. We are currently involved in a research project with SLU (the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences) where ten farmers will increase the amount of crops grown for human consumption on their farms. This is part of wider research project, UNISECO, which aims to find and promote sustainable farming practices throughout the EU.

    An important goal of ours is to facilitate and contribute to the discussion that needs to take place concerning the environmental impact of the food sector. We completely agree that this is complex. By basing our actions on the current research on the food sector and sustainability (as well as health and other factors) we hope that more consumers will have access to the information and yummy products they need to make sustainable choices concerning their food.

    All the best

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