Rice? Soy? Goat? Knowing your 'milk' options
If you've strolled past the dairy case lately, you might have noticed that it has grown to ranch-size proportions. Dozens of products are labeled "milk," and they spill over onto the nonrefrigerated shelves. Gone are the days when selecting a carton of milk was simple: whole or skim.

Just look at the choices. Low-fat hemp milk for your cornflakes? Omega-3 organic in your coffee? How about some grass-fed goat milk?

For their part, milk producers are not happy with all the beverages that call themselves "milk" on shelves. The nation's dairy farmers have asked the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to require nondairy products to be labeled something other than "milk."

"We're not saying products that come from grains, seeds, nuts and so on shouldn't be on the shelves, only that they be labeled 'artificial milk' or 'imitation milk,' " says Chris Galen, spokesman for the National Milk Producers Federation. (The federation has a Facebook page devoted to the effort, called "They Don't Got Milk.")

A spokesman for the Texas Association of Dairymen says that although he doesn't see the proliferation of "milk" products as a positive development, he tries to look on the bright side. "It's almost like flattery—they want to be related to the natural goodness of milk, but milk alone has it," Darren Turley says.

Meanwhile, the FDA recently responded to the milk producers federation with a letter saying that the agency is currently focusing its efforts elsewhere.

In any case, for consumers, sorting through the health claims is enough to make you feel cowed. You could spend a whole morning reading labels.

We've taken a look at 11 popular "milk" beverages. We've noted their major ingredients, whether they're a dairy product, calories, calcium, cholesterol, price and what registered dietitians have to say about them.

Chalk it up to the milk of human kindness.

Notes: Prices are per half-gallon except where noted and may vary by store. Brand names used for this story are indicated in parentheses.

"RDA" means recommended daily allowance, as outlined by the FDA.

Almond milk (Blue Diamond)

Major ingredients: Filtered water, almonds

Dairy? No

Calories per 8 ounces: 40

Calcium RDA: 20 percent

Cholesterol: 0 milligrams

Price: $2

Dietitian says: The calcium is added, as opposed to occurring naturally as in dairy products and is not as well-absorbed by the body. This applies to most nondairy milks.