Millions of Americans have replaced dairy milk with soy, rice, oat, coconut, pea, almond, cashew, hemp, flax, hazelnut and quinoa milks. Non-dairy milks generated $1.4 billion in U.S. sales last year, up 54 percent since 2012. What explains their popularity? Non-dairy milks contain no cholesterol and less fat and calories than dairy milk nor do they represent environmental destruction and cruelty to animals like dairy milk.

Now, Americans are drinking so little milk, the dairy industry is turning it into cheese. There is such a surplus of cheese, the US government has bought 11 million tons to distribute to food banks.

In addition to dumping cheese and undrunk and unmarketable milk in school lunch programs and other federal food programs, farmers also “manage” the milk surplus by simply killing cows, like the 50,000 destroyed per week during a milk glut in 2009. Yes, a week.

Trying to support dairy farmers and safeguard the health of Americans at the same time finds the USDA talking out of both sides of its mouth. Even as it recommends “low-fat” diets that certainly preclude cheese, it has worked with the industry group, Dairy Management and the food outlets Pizza Hut, Taco Bell, Burger King, Wendy’s and Domino’s to “cheesify” menus and get Americans to eat more cheese.

Despite the ubiquitous “Got Milk?” ads, milks sales have been falling for decades. Nor did the low-fat craze help. All that unused fat had to go somewhere, said the documentary Fed Up narrated by Katie Couric, and it ended up in the dairy industry’s cheese operations.

Milk marketers have tried to portray fat and cholesterol-milk as a health food, even advertising it during the Olympics. It tried to help people “lose weight” with milk with these suggestions that sound like satire out of the Onion.

“Grab a carton of milk at the drive-through instead of a soda.”

“Sip on a cappuccino or latté instead of black coffee.”

“Enjoy a banana and glass of milk for a mid-morning snack.”

“Add milk to risotto and rice dishes for a creamier texture.”

“Order a milk-based soup like corn chowder, potato leek, or cream of broccoli soup as a first course at dinner.”

“Make a ‘mocktail’ in a goblet with milk and sugar-free hazelnut syrup”

“Milk your dessert with puddings or custards”

Posters of milk mustache-wearing actors, sports figures, musicians and models have been shipped to 60,000 US elementary schools and 45,000 middle schools in outrageous promotion of abuse of public/private firewalls. Schools have allowed milk promotions which promised students they could win an iPod, Fender guitar and other prizes if they visited a milk marketing site. Students at three California high schools got a chance to create their own “Got Milk?” campaigns to sell milk to their peers and win a $2,000, an all-expense-paid trip to San Francisco to present their ideas to the milk advertising agency.

Even if dairy milk had a benign effect on human health, its effect on workers, animals and the environment is far from benign from manure spills and fish kills to atrocities against workers and animals. Last year manure runoff f rom a dairy farmed killed 60,000 fish in Iowa.

Male calves are an unwanted byproduct of the dairy industry to keep cows pregnant and yielding milk and ripped from their mothers at birth, sometimes before they can even walk, to be sold for “bob veal.” Mother chase after their newborns and the bellows of mother cows deprived of their young are so loud, they regularly inspire people living near the farms to call the police, according to published reports.

No wonder people are drinking soy, rice, oat, coconut, pea, almond, cashew, hemp, flax, hazelnut and quinoa milks and the dairy industry is struggling.

Martha Rosenberg is author of the award-cited food exposé “Born With a Junk Food Deficiency,” distributed by Random House. A nationally known muckraker, she has lectured at the university and medical school level and appeared on radio and television.

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