Will eating almonds lead to disaster? If anything, it's not just almonds

Luc Williams

As Polly Foreman points out in an article for Plant Based News, Fr almonds it became famous around 2010 when it appeared on the market plant alternative to cow's milk. Back then, it was simply called “Almond milk“, and it's about something that today in stores most often functions as “almond drink“. One of many plant alternatives to cow's milk, including: soy, rice and oat.

As the search for an alternative to cow's milk is often motivated ecology, opponents of this approach draw attention to the environmental aspects of raw materials, which constitute the basis for these alternatives. And it must be admitted that almonds have a lot going on in this matter. However, as Foreman points out, still less than dairy.

More innocent than alfalfa for cows

Almonds are seeds from fruits that grow on a tree called almond tree. The fruits themselves are flattened, oblong and covered with a grey-green, fibrous skin. When the fruit ripens, the skin splits and a inside there is a seed with a seed – an almond. A delicious nut that has long been widely used in cooking, with particular emphasis on confectionery. It is valued for its beneficial effect on the stomachs of people prone to heartburn. And you can make a delicate drink from it, which is a great addition to coffee, instead of milk.

Almonds are produced like a long and wide world, although rather warm – Algeria, Italy, Iran, Spain, Morocco, Australia, Tunisia… But they are the main producer United Statesand more specifically – California. As Foreman writes – 80 percent world production it comes from there.

And here we come to the biggest sin of almonds – it cannot be denied that their production consumes huge amounts of water: to obtain half a kilogram, it requires 7,302 liters. Meanwhile, between 2012 and 2016, California experienced a series of apocalyptic droughts, which critics like British tabloid journalist and TV presenter Piers Morgan were quick to link to the popularity of milk, sorry, almond drink. Indeed, Foreman writes that almond production is responsible for as much as 9%. freshwater consumption in California. The production of alfalfa intended for feed for farm animals, including dairy cows – responsible for 16%…

Of course, this does not mean that the issue of almonds should be ignored. The problem has clearly intensified in recent years, when demand for them has actually increased significantly. Businesses, wanting to take advantage of this, began planting almond trees in areas that were already struggling with drought, such as the western part of the San Jaquin Valley. It takes huge amounts of water to keep them there. Still less than for the above-mentioned alfalfa.

Of course, cow's milk is the worst

However, if we are talking about the phenomenon of apocalyptic droughts related to the climate catastrophe, the main culprits can be found in completely different areas of the food industry. I don't think anyone will be surprised when I say that it's about meat and dairy products. According to many studies, including: published by a team of hydrologists from the University of Victoria led by Tara J. Troy in Nature in March 2020. It was this group that showed that beef and dairy production is the leading cause of water scarcity in the western United States.

According to the report Food and Water Watch from 2023, dairy farming alone uses 142 million gallons of water per day (a gallon of liquid is approximately 3.78 liters). In turn, a 2022 study by Hannah Ritchie from the University of Oxford showed that it takes 371 liters of water to produce a liter of almond drink and 371 liters of cow's milk.

Moreover, when looking at the impact of a food product on the environment, not only the water footprint is taken into account, but also other factors, such as the level of greenhouse gas emissions, the degree of pollution generated and the amount of space occupied. According to Foreman, in all three cases the almond drink does quite well. For example, it has the lowest emission level of all white coffee additives: 0.7 kg per 1 liter of drink. An oat drink weighs 0.9 kg, a rice drink – as much as 1.18 kg. Of course, cow's milk is the worst – 3.15 kg per 1 liter. It doesn't expand in space either – we need half a square meter to produce 1 liter. For the same amount of milk – almost nine square meters.

There is another crime to which almonds contribute greatly – the disappearance of bees. To produce almonds, almond trees must be cross-pollinated – pollen from one flower is transferred by an insect to the crack of another flower on the same plant. Bees are specialists in this responsible and precise work, which is why beekeepers rent their hives to almond growers. According to a 2020 report by the Guardian, this practice led to the death of a record number of bees. Let us remember, however, that even the death of bees is caused not only by almonds, but primarily by pesticides, parasitic diseases and habitat loss.


Luc's expertise lies in assisting students from a myriad of disciplines to refine and enhance their thesis work with clarity and impact. His methodical approach and the knack for simplifying complex information make him an invaluable ally for any thesis writer.