By Emily Ledger
In recent years, milk alternatives have become a major market, with a wide variety of options available as a growing number of people choosing to opt for non-dairy options.
There is now a huge number of products on the market and everyone has their preference when it comes to dairy alternatives. We can choose from soy, almond, cashew, coconut, oat, hazelnut, rice – and now, hemp!
While hemp milk (marketed as ‘hemp drinks’ for legal reasons) has been around for decades, it has really started to hit the big time in recent years. You can now find pure hemp and hemp blends drinks in many major supermarkets in the UK.
Hemp milk used to be the monopoly of specialised brands, like Good Hemp – however, big companies are continuing to bring out their own offering.
Animal wellness and an evolving environmental consciousness (dairy milk has a high carbon footprint) are among the most common reasons for switching to milk alternatives – and many have claimed that hemp offers the greenest option yet.
Hemp milk is only one of the thousands of end products that can be made from the low-THC plant. In fact, the crop has been used for thousands of years for the production of anything from clothing, weapons and buildings to medicines and fuels.
However, the cultivation of hemp is still tightly restricted in the UK, with significant limitations placed on which parts of the plant can be harvested. For example, the CBD-rich leaves and flowers (which contain extremely low levels of THC) are not permitted to be harvested and must be destroyed – despite a thriving CBD industry in the country.
In addition to being a healthy dairy alternative – as well as a source for countless products – hemp is also thought to be an incredibly green plant, environmentally speaking.
Evidence shows that hemp requires small amounts of water and does not need maintenance with chemical pesticides that damage the environment. The deep-growing roots of hemp can also help to improve soil structure and quality by increasing nutrient levels.
There is a growing movement in the UK to reform hemp regulations to allow us to take advantage of the many economic and environmental benefits of the ancient crops.
An Innovative Farmers project, coordinated by the Soil Association is investigating how the crop could help us transition to a low-carbon economy.
Pleasant Lands is a campaign headed by drug reform campaigners Volteface which aims to work with government officials to help make the hemp sector a viable industry in the UK.