State Senate to Weigh In on Milk Definition

Feb 26, 2020

A bill to prevent companies from marketing soy milk and almond milk as “milk” is headed to the Senate floor.

What exactly is milk? Does soy milk count? What about almond milk? Lawmakers are considering a bill that would define milk as the lacteal secretion of a healthy hooved mammal, essentially preventing makers of soy milk and almond milk from marketing their products as “milk.”

Credit Mike Mozart / Flickr

The bill was introduced by Republican Delegate Barry Knight of Virginia Beach, who says he’s worried about suicide rates among dairy farmers. 

“If this is a small help towards them, a good-faith gesture, and knowing that we care maybe it will help that situation too," Knight says. "I’m a farmer. I totally understand hard times. I hit hard times myself, and a little bright light at the end of the tunnel helps you get through the day.”

The House of Delegates overwhelmingly approved of the bill, including 22 Democrats. Now it’s being considered on the Senate side, where Democratic Senator Ghazala Hashmi of Richmond was one of two senators to vote against it in committee. 

“Consumers in Virginia and throughout the country know when they are buying soy milk or almond milk that they are not buying dairy milk," Hashmi explains. "And in fact they’re actually purchasing those products because they are seeking to avoid dairy consumption whether it’s for health needs or other concerns.”

Even if the Senate approves the bill and the governor signs it, the prohibition against marketing soy milk and almond milk won’t go into effect quite yet. The bill requires 11 other states to take similar action before the marketing prohibition is enacted.

This report, provided by Virginia Public Radio, was made possible with support from the Virginia Education Association.