Go easy with the milk... Starbucks outlets will be topping up with non-dairy options as part of its carbon reduction programme. Pictured here is a drive-through counter in Rodeo, California. Image Credit: Bloomberg

Seattle (Bloomberg): The latest blow to the downtrodden dairy industry has been delivered by none other than Starbucks Corp., with the coffee giant looking to condition customers to use milk alternatives in a bid to reduce its carbon footprint.

While Starbucks accounts for just 0.3 per cent of US milk production, the decision to formally declare an emphasis on non-dairy options may encourage other food-service outlets to follow suit. That could add momentum to the shift toward oat, nut, soy and other alternative beverages for health and environmental reasons.

American cow-milk consumption has fallen about 2 per cent each year since the 1970’s, according to the US Department of Agriculture.

It’s a trend that has helped put plenty of American dairy farmers out of business and led to two big US processors - Dean Foods Co. and Borden Dairy Co. - into bankruptcy. Dean is one of Starbucks’ key suppliers.

Marketing group Dairy Management Inc. said that while it shares Starbucks’ commitment to sustainability, the industry’s environmental footprint is small and shrinking due to innovative farm practices and new technologies. “Both plants and animals play a critical role in the health of the people and the planet,” the group said.