The Dominion Post

Federated pettiness

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Recently, Federated Farmers protested about terms currently being applied to plant-based products in the New Zealand market. Exemplary here was almond milk, concerning which Chris Lewis, a spokesman for the group, said, ‘‘It’s definitely not a milk under the definition in the Oxford Dictionary.’’

But the OED supplies at least 14 definition­s of ‘‘milk’’, and even includes one for almond milk, dating to the early 15th century. As one 18th century attestatio­n reads: ‘‘Emulsions made with almonds are commonly called milk of almonds.’’

Of course, New Zealand does regulate food labelling. Sausages must be at least 50 per cent ‘‘fat free meat flesh’’. Icecream must be sweet and at least 10 per cent milk fat. Unlike these, however, the word ‘‘almond’’ functions to alert the potential consumer to the nature of the milk they are buying. Nonetheles­s, almond milk has its own problems. Its production has been connected with droughts, pesticide contaminat­ion, and the destructio­n of natural environmen­t.

Conversely, a recent investigat­ion estimated that Fonterra produces over a quarter of NZ’s CO2 emissions, 89 per cent of those coming straight from the farm.

The OED attests another definition of milk, namely, ‘‘something pleasant and held to be nourishing to the mind or spirit’’. In view of the climate catastroph­e, I think this meaning provides a better point of departure.

Cameron Coombe, Dunedin

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