Milk Side Effects and Benefits

By Adriane Marie •  Updated: 01/11/23 •  11 min read

What are milk benefits and side effects? Is milk vegan? Gluten free? Acidic or alkaline? Low fodmap? Good for you? Healthy? Sustainable? Here are milk pros and cons: all the info on milk that every ethical consumer wants to know…

milk benefits and side effects

Food is something we consume every day. If you’re like me, you do all the research you can to make sure you don’t hurt yourself, the planet, animals or others when shopping. As an ethical consumer myself, I am giving you all the info I’ve found on milk benefits and side effects.

You are going to learn all about milk benefits and side effects. This will include milk benefits for your health and potential risks, milk water footprint and carbon footprint, sustainability, if milk is vegan or impacts animals in other ways, and much more. 

After learning if milk is good or bad for you, the environment, animals and human rights, you will be able to make the best choices you can the next time you buy food.

This post is all about milk benefits and side effects that every ethical consumer should know.

Milk Side Effects And Benefits


Milk side effects may include:

Milk health benefits may include:

Additionally, milk is…

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Water footprint: low, it takes 1,020 liters of water to produce 1 kilogram of milk / 122 gallons of water to produce 1 pound of milk

Carbon footprint: low, 1.9 CO2e to produce 1 kilogram or 2.2 pounds of 2% milk, a car driving equivalent of 4.5 miles or 7.25 kilometers

Destruction: high, milk production is relatively destructive, lots of land usage required for pasture, grain and forage, solid waste (excrement/manure) runoff into soil and freshwater, deforestation for feed crops, animal agriculture leading cause of: species extinction, ocean dead zones, water pollution and habitat destruction, responsible for up to 91% of Amazon destruction

Milk is…


Kills: none, milk production does not require any animals to die

Harms: mother cows and calves are distressed due to separation within 24 hours after birth, male calves slaughtered for veal, female calves fed artificially, locked in tiny cages, cows genetically modified to grow so obese that many become lame (unable to walk) shocked with electric prods, shackled with chains and dragged, beaten, prods poked up rectums, live last few months in crowded feedlots with hundreds or thousands of others, without pasture, often without shelter, must stand in mud, ice and their own waste, dairy cows eventually slaughtered for beef once milk production has ended

Indirectly kills or harms: male calves, in most cases the dairy industry sells “unwanted” male calves to be slaughtered for veal, as pregnancy must occur for female cows to lactate and produce milk, wildlife and ecosystems, habitat contamination (water and soil pollution), wildlife habitat destruction (deforestation/land clearing), wolves and coyotes killed to prevent predation on livestock

Milk is…


Health and safety: varies, overall, agriculture continues to be one of the most dangerous industries, farmworkers may be subject to dehydration, heat stroke, unprotected exposure to harmful, toxic chemicals and pesticides, unsafe machinery and clean drinking water may not always accessible

Living conditions: varies, laborers are often exploited, they may face tough working conditions including long hours in the sun and heat performing physically exhausting tasks, labor laws and rights may or may not be in place, even if worker protection exists, employer violations may go unreported, refugees and migrant workers are especially vulnerable to abuse and mistreatment, fearing consequences of job loss or deportation

Wages: varies, generally farmworkers earn meager wages, there are many cases of underpaid agricultural workers, wage theft and no overtime payment or benefits

Milk has…

Where does most milk come from?

The world’s top milk producing country is USA, followed by India and Brazil.
The world’s top milk exporting country is New Zealand, followed by USA, Germany, Denmark, Lithuania, France, Netherlands, Canada, Singapore and Costa Rica.
In the United States, Wisconsin has the most dairy plants (199 dairy product plants).

Is milk nutritious?

Milk is high in protein, calcium, vitamin B12, and riboflavin but also high in cholesterol, saturated fat and often contains antibiotics and hormones such as rBGH (recombinant bovine growth hormone) which is a genetically engineered synthetic hormone by Monsanto to increase milk production levels, resulting in cow mastitis infections, ultimately requiring more antibiotics.

What are some milk substitutes and milk alternatives?

Check out Switch4Good’s Dairy Free Meal Plan for recipes, ideas and tips on ditching milk and dairy for good!

Is milk alkaline or acidic?

Is milk alkaline or acidic?

Milk is acidic when processed cow’s milk (most common) and neutral when raw cow’s milk.

What is the pH level of milk?

Milk has a 6.5 pH level when processed cow’s milk and 7.0 pH level when raw cow’s milk.

When you eat food, it breaks down to an ash residue that can be neutral, acidic or alkaline. Minerals such as potassium, calcium, magnesium, sodium, zinc, silver, copper and iron produce an alkaline ash; whereas sulfur, phosphorus, chlorine and iodine, which are in meat, coffee, dairy and alcohol, leave an acid ash.

Going alkaline easier than ever with this: Acidic and Alkaline Foods List

Is milk gluten free?

Is milk gluten free?

Yes, milk is gluten free. Milk does not contain gluten when unflavored. Flavored milks, however, may contain gluten.

While celiac disease may not be as rampant as many marketing trends lead us to believe, you may have a gluten sensitivity…

Celiac and gluten sensitivity symptoms are similar and may include:

There are hundreds of potential symptoms, many of which are also symptoms of other conditions.

Going gluten-free easier than ever with this: Gluten and Gluten Free Foods List

Is milk a common food allergen?

Is milk a common food allergen?

Yes, milk is a common food allergen. Many people experience allergic reactions to milk.

A group of the eight major allergenic foods, AKA the Big-8, include:

Severe food allergies can be life threatening. Following ingestion of a food allergen, a person with food allergies can experience a severe, life-threatening allergic reaction called anaphylaxis. 

Persons may still be allergic to and have serious reactions to foods other than the eight foods identified by the law.

Be aware of common dietary restrictions and food allergens with this: The Big 8 Most Common Food Allergens List

Water footprint of milk?

Water footprint of milk?

Milk has a relatively low water footprint compared to other foods and beverages.

It takes 1,020 liters of water to produce 1 kilogram of milk / 122 gallons of water to produce 1 pound of milk.

Did you know that water is a finite, non-renewable resource?

How much water does it take to produce an apple? A serving of rice? A steak dinner?

We need to be aware of “water footprints”. That is, the amount of fresh water utilized in the production or supply of goods we consume. As it turns out it takes significantly more water to yield foods that come from animals than foods that come from plants. Imagine how much water a cow needs to consume to generate a piece of beef. Not only how much water a single cow drinks, rather all the water that went into producing the crops that the cow ate.

Find out how much water your food consumes with this: Water Footprints of Foods and Ingredients List

Carbon footprint of milk?

Carbon footprint of milk?

Milk has a relatively low carbon footprint compared to other foods.

It takes around 1.9 CO2e to produce 1 kilogram or 2.2 pounds of 2% milk, a car driving equivalent of 4.5 miles or 7.25 kilometers.

Food not only has a water footprint but also a carbon footprint, known as CO2e, which stands for carbon dioxide equivalent. Since carbon measurements are a bit more difficult to comprehend, it is common to equate CO2e to the distance which a car drives in miles or kilometers.

When calculating carbon emissions, some factors may include…

But that’s not all!

It’s best to keep the following in mind when grocery shopping:

Find out how much carbon your food emits with this: Carbon Footprints of Foods and Ingredients List

Is milk sustainable?

Is milk sustainable?

No. Milk production is unsustainable. Milk production requires extensive land usage for pasture, grain and forage. Solid waste (excrement/manure) runoff destroys soil and freshwater. Deforestation occurs for feed crops and animal agriculture is the leading cause of: species extinction, ocean dead zones, water pollution and habitat destruction.

A 2018 Oxford University study – which is the most comprehensive analysis to date of the damage farming does to the planet – found that ‘avoiding meat and dairy is the single biggest way to reduce your impact on Earth’ as animal farming provides just 18% of calories but takes up 83% of our farmland.

Consuming animal products and byproducts is not environmentally friendly and is one of the worst things for the Earth. Not only is meat production wasteful, it causes enormous amounts of pollution. The industry is one of the biggest causes of climate change.

Read more about ‘What Makes Food Sustainable Or Unsustainable?’

Is milk vegan?

Is milk vegan?

No, milk is not vegan. Milk is dairy, the byproduct of a cow, sheep or goat, therefore making it an animal-derived food. A mother cow, mother sheep or mother goat’s milk must be used in order to produce milk. 

Animals of factory farming are suffering. They live in horrific conditions that often include confinement, physical abuse and unnatural environments…so much so that they need to receive antibiotics to keep from getting ill or spreading disease. Growth hormones allow all kinds of animals to become fatter faster and live short lives.

Because we cannot see for ourselves how these animals live and what they endure does not mean it isn’t happening. The meat, poultry and dairy industries do everything they can to distance us from knowing how our food comes to be in order to keep us in the dark about what we support each time we buy animal derived products and byproducts.

Go vegan for animals!

It’s the best way to help animals and it’s not as difficult as you may think. Speak for animals with your actions, for they cannot speak at all.

Going vegan is easier than ever, at a glance with this: Vegan and Non Vegan Foods List

Does milk have human rights issues?

benefits of buying fair trade, labor rights, human rights and workers rights issues

Yes. Tthere are concerns with dairy farming and milk production.

It’s important to stay aware of human rights concerns and worker exploitation that may come with specific brands.

Did you know the single largest employer in the world is agriculture? The labor involved behind each and every product cannot go unrecognized. 

Some known problems include workplace health and safety, child labor, gender inequality, inadequate pay, wage theft and exploitation. Workers can even experience harassment, humiliation and violence and unfair employers often fail to provide laborers with access to shade, drinking water, restrooms and breaks. Consequently, laborers can face nausea, dizziness, heat exhaustion, dehydration and heat stroke -the leading cause of farmworker death! 

Such mistreatment is like modern day slavery. Workers are often afraid to report issues because they fear it will result in losing their jobs or deportation. 

Fair trade organizations fight to ensure better social, environmental and economic standards. 

We can improve people’s lives with foods we eat every day simply by buying products that are certified fair trade. 

Be sure to read up on this list of ‘Foods You Should Always Buy Fair Trade

This post was all about milk side effects and benefits.


Harvard, The Nutrition Source, Milk

PETA 12 reasons to stop drinking cow’s milk

Dairy – USDA ERS

Dairy: World Markets and Trade – USDA Foreign Agricultural

Adriane Marie

Hi, I'm Adriane, creator of HEALabel! I organize info for you to comprehensively see how purchases impact health, environment, animals and laborers. Stay aware because you care! Subscribe below to get my weekly newsletter with tips, new info and other ethical consumer insight.

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