Recently Linda McCartney’s brand has launched a range of organic plant-based drinks! This adds to their collection of vegetarian sausages, cocktail sausages, rolls, pies, meatballs, pulled pork, katsu chicken bites, burgers, vegemince and more. In this new range they’ve introduced barista coconut, barista oat, rice and soya at reasonably affordable prices (£2/L). I haven’t been able to give these a try yet so I’m not sure what they taste like, but I am interested to find out (my go to is Minor Figures Barista Oat (Organic)). Having read a previous review for Linda McCartney’s frozen veggie sausages being relatively low at 0.75, I was quite sceptical about their alternative milks, although at least the milks had upgraded to Organic. It turns out that I’m really disappointed with the company’s total lack of transparency. Their ‘our story’ is the only place with any sustainability information about the products and this is almost comically short and uninformative. They also have a long section on growing your own food which is great for helping people starting out but says nothing to the sustainability of their own products.
Linda’s oat milk is mostly made of water, 10% oats, 2% soybeans and then some sunflower oil and sea salt, all of which are organic except the sea salt (and water lol). There is no information about where these ingredients are sourced on the website. Considering this I’m just going to have to guess. The ingredients can all be sourced very sustainably but whether they are is unknown and really needs to be addressed! Additionally, there is no information on the packaging or waste.
A report from 2018 (USA) found that glyphosate was found at unsafe levels in 26/28 of popular oat-based cereal/oat-based food marketed to children tested in the study. This is incredibly concerning as scientific research strongly links glyphosate to cancer, despite frequent denials from the producer of the pesticide Roundup, agrochemical giant Monsanto. Since Linda’s oats are Organic we can be rest assured that there’s no glyphosate in the oat milk. Organic means artificial pesticides, fertilisers and other chemicals cannot be used in the production of the product and that the highest environmental and animal welfare standards available have been met. This is greatly more sustainable than non-organic farming techniques as use of pesticides is a key driver of the biodiversity loss and insect decline, which significantly jeopardises the future of food security.
As Linda’s is UK-based, you’d expect the oats to be from the UK as they can be grown here, but this is uncertain. The sunflower oil can be produced in the UK as well, again whether this happens is unknown. The salt and water could also be produced in the UK. However, the soya beans would have to be imported. From June 2020 - June 2021 the UK imported 749,670 metric tons of soya beans, mostly from Brazil followed by USA; although most of this soya is used to feed animals. Globally, 90% of soya goes towards feeding animals. The carbon footprint of this soya transport from potentially Brazil or USA would be very high.
Oat milk production demands far less land and water usage than diary and significantly lower emissions. It also needs much less water than almond and rice milk to produce although slightly more land. It’s clear that alternative milk is a far better choice for the planet and oat milk appears to be one of the most sustainable out of that bunch.
However, the process of making oat or alternative milk varies greatly between different brands (e.g. Oatly, Pacific foods, Elmhurst Milked, Silk), therefore new life cycle assessments (LCA) need to be carried out for each brand and type of alternative milks (LCA is a technique for assessing the potential environmental impacts associated with the creation of a product or service). But Linda’s range has absolutely no description of production, energy usage, sources of energy or waste! Normally, oat milk is made from combining whole oats with water and then either a mechanical breakdown process of blending and straining or addition of enzymes to biologically breakdown the fibre into soluble and insoluble parts. Additional flavourings and ingredients are normally added alongside oil, and it's heat-treated to increase its shelf life before packaging. This is a fairly simple process and has far lower carbon emissions than dairy milk production. However, due to the lack of transparency Linda’s has shown, I am unable to rate them higher.
Unfortunately, there is way too little information on anything about who makes this product. There is also no information on the breakdown of the workforce or wages of the workers. The link to the gender pay gap report doesn’t work, nor can it be found online. I thought this was pretty strange… Without any of this information it makes it very difficult to review!
Linda McCartney were bought by ‘The Hain Celestial Group’ in 2007, which has a UK subsidiary called the ‘Hain Daniels Group’, named after acquiring ‘Daniels group’. Side note: on the Hain Daniels Group’s website their slogan is “Our Vision is to make it Easier for Everyone to lead a Healthier, Balanced Lifestyle” and has a slide show of fruit and vegetables but the products of the brands they own are mostly highly sugar-based jams, jellys and syrups… I thought this was highly ironic and disingenuous. Anyway, the parent Hain Celestial Group are a worrying lot. The company has come under fire for falsely labelling their products as Organic when they haven’t been, leading to bail outs of $7.5 million dollars in compensation. Once again, highly contradicting the words, “We operate ethically, treating our colleagues, partners and our communities with respect” found on Hain Daniels website. This may raise alarm bells about whether this milk definitely is Organic.
Overall, I was disappointed. Linda’s needs to put transparency as its number one priority right now. Let the consumer know: where your ingredients are sourced, how they are transported to you, what the manufacturing procedure is and how energy intensive this is, where and what type of energy you source, how you handle waste, what the packaging is made of and how you are paying and treating your workers.