"Alternative milks can be made from just about any substance. They have quinoa milk and sunflower milk and hemp milk and flax milk. So you're seeing that there are many of these alternative milks coming out, and they're good for different things. But many of them can be used cup for cup in place of regular milk, what we would consider regular milk, cow's milk," said Natasha Lantz, Education & Community Outreach Director for the Marquette Food Co-op.
When most people think about milk, they think of cow's milk. Whole, 1 percent, or 2 percent.
"Everything in milk is the same except the fat level. They just take out some fat. They don't add any sugar to it, which is nice. There is sugar on the label but that is naturally occurring sugar when you look on the nutrition label. They don't add any sugar, they don't add any water," said Mary Charlvois, Registered Dietician at Marquette General Hospital.
But those are not the only options out there. Many people consume goat's milk as well. But that's not even the extent of it.
"There's a lot more attention drawn to the fact that some people are lactose intolerant. And so, you have a higher population of people that are choosing different alternative milks," said Lantz.
Hemp milk, coconut milk, soy milk, sunflower milk, oat milk, and the list goes on. Lantz says it seems like new forms of milk are being created every day. But just because they're labeled as 'milk,' doesn't mean that's what it will taste like.
" I think people get it in their heads that it should taste like milk. But it doesn't. It's just an alternative beverage that you can use the same way that you would milk," said Lantz.
Dairy milk, such as cow or goat milk, is most commonly consumed in the U.S. In order to be sold and consumed, though, dairy milk must be pasteurized. Pasteurization is the process of heating milk up to a certain temperature in order to possibly kill any potential bacteria that would be in the milk.
There's also ultra-pasteurization, which involves heating the milk up for a shorter period of time at a much higher temperature. Ultra-pasteurization has a longer shelf life. But why must milk be pasteurized?
"Raw milk, currently in Michigan, is illegal. The only way that a person, a consumer, could purchase raw milk would be to own part of the animal that it came from. So that is through a herd-share program. So whether that's a dairy goat, or a dairy cow," said Lantz.
There's also organic milk. According to both Lantz and Charlvois, the only difference between conventional milk and organic milk is what the cow is fed.
"It's just a difference of how the cows are raised and fed. Organic milk, milk that comes out of cows that are fed organically, there's no chemicals, there's no hormones, there's nothing added. It's just the same old cow, just fed a little bit differently," said Charlvois.