Former Dairy Drops Cow’s Milk to Begin Producing Vegan Milk Instead

When the 90-year-old Elmhurst Dairy closed its doors in October 2016, it was the last milk-packaging plant within New York City limits. Everyone thought the Queens, N.Y., dairy was done and gone. Instead, in March 2017, something wonderful happened. Elmhurst began producing plant-based milk.

You read that correctly. A dairy went vegan. Elmhurst Dairy has dumped cow’s milk and all the cruel heartache that went with it. Today, under the simplified name “Elmhurst,” it produces four flavors of vegan milks instead.

Elmhurst rolled out these new offerings, called “Elmhurst Milked,” at the Natural Foods Expo West in Anaheim, Calif. in early March 2017. Its four new milks include almond, walnut, cashew and hazelnut.

Elmhurst's debut at Natural foods Expo West in March 2017.  Photo credit:  Elmhurst Instagram account

Elmhurst’s debut at Natural foods Expo West in March 2017. Photo credit: @elmhurstnutmilk Instagram account

According to Elmhurst, its new vegan milks have four times more nuts per serving and use “no emulsifiers, thickeners, whiteners or frankenfood proteins.” For those who don’t like such additives, that means no stabilizers or gums like carrageenan, locust bean or xanthan.

What Happened to Elmhurst Dairy?

“Pasteurized fluid milk has sort of gone out of style,” Elmhurst CEO Henry Schwartz told The New York Times in 2016, as the old dairy was closing up. “There isn’t much room for our kind of a plant. I tried to keep this open because it was my father’s plant and he asked me to do so.”

Elmhurst Dairy had no cows on premises. It hadn’t for many years. Instead it served as a midway point between the cows and the cereal bowl, serving as a milk packaging plant. The dairy’s problem was plummeting profits – something the entire dairy industry struggles with these days.

Why do they struggle? Because, at least in part, consumers are turning away from animal milk and seeking plant-based versions instead.

Cows are just milk machines in modern dairy life.  Photo credit: Thinkstock

Cows are just milk machines in modern dairy life. Photo credit: Thinkstock

Andrew Novakovic, Cornell University professor of agricultural economics, told The New York Times cow milk consumption was at its highest levels in the late 1940s. Since then, it’s been declining, especially recently. In 2010, consumers used about 240 pounds of milk per person. By 2015, that number was halved to about 120 pounds each year.

Some people switch to plant-based milk purely out of outrage over the treatment of dairy cows and their calves. Others understand how ultimately unsustainable the dairy industry has become and refuse to be a part of it. Still others believe animal milk to be less healthy than plant-based versions.

Recognizing a Consumer Shift and Embracing It

Schwartz told The New York Times in August 2016 that he’d struggled to keep the family dairy open “long past the years that it was economically viable.” In fact, he said, “[t]he family did so at a very high cost, but is unable to continue to do so without ongoing losses.”

Instead of walking away, though, Elmhurst saw what’s going on and decided to climb on board the plant-based train.

Consumers are choosing plant-based milks over animal milks. Photo credit: Thinkstock

Consumers are choosing plant-based milks over animal milks. Photo credit: Thinkstock

You don’t need a cow, a goat or any other animal to have nourishing milk for humans to drink. Animal milk is intended for animal babies, not humans.

We literally steal it from mother cows who produce it so they can feed the calves we force them to give birth to. Then we send the male calves off to live in horrible little boxes until they’re butchered for veal a few weeks later. The female calves become the next generation of dairy cows and the misery goes on and on. It’s a weird, cruel merry-go-round that we’ve become much too blind to really see anymore.

We are so used to cow’s milk as a human food that we forget it was never intended for us. It doesn’t seem odd to drink it, until you really stop to think about it. Would you drink the milk from a wolverine or a beagle? No, that’s not appetizing at all. We accept cow’s milk as drinkable only because we’ve been raised to view it as acceptable and nutritious.

Now that we have great tasting, healthier alternatives, it’s time for the dairy industry to move past cows and plunge into plant-based milks.

Almost half of all Americans now use plant-based milk regularly. Clearly, an industry change is imminent. It can be voluntary or it can be a rougher road. Dairy producers, it’s up to you. There’s a way to survive, if you’ll just embrace it.

Bravo to Elmhurst for doing exactly that. They’ve ridden the tsunami of change and acknowledged the consumer shift away from dairy to plant-based products. Elmhurst has figured out that “plant-based” and “humane” are the future of milk. I’ve seen their milk in my local grocery stores, and now that I know their story, I’ll become a customer.

A dairy that goes vegan is a phenomenon well worth supporting. Someday perhaps a change like this will be unremarkable. For now, though, it’s a pretty big deal.

Photo credit: Thinkstock


Louise A
Lara A4 months ago


Louise A
Lara A4 months ago


Marie W
Marie W1 years ago

Thanks for posting.

Jerome S
Jerome S2 years ago


Jim Ven
Jim Ven2 years ago

thanks for sharing.

Panchali Yapa
Panchali Yapa2 years ago

Thank you

Melania P
Melania P2 years ago

I read about this some weeks ago, how cool!

Mark p
Mark p.muc2 years ago

thanks for info...

Jaime J
Jaime J2 years ago

Thank you!!

Karen N
Karen N2 years ago

For anyone interested . . . If you would like to read about a farmer who turned vegetarian . . . here is the link from Hillside Animal Sanctuary, UK.[UNIQID]&u=4c95cca2af7aa16d5d44b5a9e&id=c09c914043