The biggest battle Muscle Milk has is being a by-product of the dairy industry. This industry is notoriously bad for the environment and the fact that it is nearly impossible to obtain sourcing information for Muscle Milk leads the consumer to believe it is sourced from big dairy. The beverage does have some nutritional value as it is a good source of protein and vitamins. The underlying issue is that plant-based protein is simply more sustainable than dairy based. Muscle Milk is owned by PepsiCo who are strongly dedicated to further their SDGs so there is hope for the future regarding the production of the protein supplement drink. The product is priced around $7 for four recyclable cartons. At this price point, Muscle Milk is cheaper than plant based competitors but there are more sustainable and transparent options out there.
The main ingredients for Muscle milk Pro series are water, milk protein isolate, calcium caseinate (milk derivative), containing less than 2% of sodium caseinate (milk derivative), and cocoa (for chocolate flavor). The beverage has 32g of protein with only 1g of sugar and 2g of fat. The product also contains 20 vitamins and minerals. Milk protein isolate is a blend of casein protein and whey protein that comes from a milk filtration process that removes most or all lactose and minerals. This makes milk protein isolate more friendly to those who are lactose intolerant. Whey protein is typically waste created during the cheesemaking process that has led to very harmful environmental effects. Leftover whey has been dumped into sewers and or waterways resulting in contaminated soils. Turning whey into a by-product of the cheesemaking process and packaging it as nutritional supplement helps reduce the waste and contamination associated with it. Calcium caseinate is another by-product of milk that takes casein protein and combines it with hydroxide. While utilizing cheese by-products like whey is more beneficial to the environment than wasting it, milk protein isolate is still a product resulting from the terribly unsustainable dairy industry. The dairy industry is notorious for greenhouse gas emissions, overuse of natural resources, and contamination of water and soil. Lastly, muscle milk is packaged using Tetra Pak cartons which are recyclable.
There is no official information regarding the manufacturing of Muscle Milk available to the public. One thing is for sure and that is that the production of Muscle Milk includes a pasteurization process. This process is important to sterilize milk products and make them safe to consume. However, pasteurization uses heat and water which requires lots of energy and milk by-products come from the priorly mentioned dairy industry which has an extreme amount of work to do to become more sustainable. There has been some controversy surrounding the production of Muscle Milk in the past. CytoSport, the manufacturer of Muscle Milk, was criticized in 2010 for the discovery of metals in their Muscle Milk protein powders. This is not to say that metals are still being found in the drink, but it does point to a time where the manufacturer was careless with the product they were putting out. Since there is no official publicly available information from Muscle Milk on its production, we can only hope that labor conditions and sourcing are done in a sustainable manner. The brand does have organic and non-GMO products but it does not look like the Pro Series is either of those things.
Muscle Milk is manufactured by CytoSport, Inc who is owned by PepsiCo. CytoSport is located in Walnut Creek, CA but besides that there is no readily available information about its sourcing and other factors. PepsiCo is ranked 7th out of 569 on its ESG risk rating by Sustainalytics, an ESG investing research and ratings company. PepsiCo also releases annual sustainability reports on their website along with a tab discussing their sustainability goals and philanthropy work. The sustainability reports point to good progress across many SDGs, although their goals leave more to desire. Why attempt to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 20% and not 100% by 2030? PepsiCo is on the right track by taking SDGs seriously and it is also nice to see such detailed sustainability reports. I simply would urge PepsiCo to aim higher as one of the largest companies in the world.