There’s no shortage of alternative milks. Soy milk, almond milk, oat milk, cashew milk, rice milk, coconut milk, hemp milk, flax milk—the dairy aisle is starting to feel like a misnomer.
But Bored Cow wants to bring the dairy back to alternate milk. Their key ingredient is an animal-free whey protein provided by Perfect Day. Perfect Day has taught a bunch of microflora—bacteria, essentially—to create whey protein in the same way that a cow does. The end result is an exact replica of the protein from cow’s milk, no cows required.
Bored Cow uses that protein as the base for their milk recipe and then fortifies it with vitamins and minerals. The end result is “animal-free dairy milk”—an alternate milk that’s as close to the real thing as possible. So much so that if you have a dairy allergy¹, you can’t drink it.
Unlike other alternative milks, Bored Cow appears focused on younger clientele—its three flavors are currently only packaged in small, 11 oz cartons, seemingly designed for individual consumption. Their marketing also leans heavily into the health benefits of Bored Cow. A common criticism of some plant-based milks is the sugar content—Bored Cow has no sugar, plus more protein than other alternate milks, and the aforementioned vitamins and minerals.
But none of that matters if it doesn’t taste good, and unlike other milk alternatives, the bar is a lot higher for a brand that claims to be real dairy milk sans cows. Is Bored Cow as creamy and flavorful as they claim, or will they have to rebrand to Bored Tastebuds? In search of an answer, I ordered a 12-carton combo pack of all three flavors ($39.99 + $5.99 shipping, coming in at $3.83/carton) and put each of them to the test.
I started with chocolate, as this is where I had the most hope for Bored Cow. I have consumed a lot of chocolate milk in my lifetime, as a child and well into adulthood. For years, Nesquik was a sponsor of the New York Cosmos, and every time I went to a game I would pick up several bottles of Double Chocolate to drink on the train ride home.
Unfortunately, Bored Cow did not deliver on the promise of whole milk creaminess here, coming in much closer to Yoo-hoo chocolate drink than Nesquik.² It was like a glass of very skim milk with chocolate flavoring—it didn’t taste bad, but you wouldn’t mistake it for the real thing.
Taste and consistency-wise, you’ll likely have more luck with chocolate oat milk, which has a lot of added sugar. Probably not what health-conscious parents want to hear, but I don’t answer to Big Parenting.
I don’t like vanilla-flavored milk. Whenever I’ve accidentally picked up vanilla almond milk instead of the unflavored variety, my tastebuds have suffered. So, perhaps unsurprisingly, I did not like vanilla Bored Cow, which is unfortunate, as it’s the closest you can get to “regular” milk from them.³ I didn’t mind the consistency as much here, but the flavor was just overpowering.
I did end up using an entire carton in small bits as creamer in my morning coffee. You really don’t need to add much to turn your entire coffee into a treacly sweet concoction. If that’s what you’re into, then vanilla Bored Cow might be your ideal creamer, as you’ll get that sweet flavoring without any added sugars.
I was never a big strawberry milk kid, or even just a strawberry kid, so I saved the strawberry flavor for last. I ended up liking it the most—maybe because I didn’t have any milk memories to compare it to. The flavoring was very fruity and fresh, and the thinner consistency felt right for the flavor. I don’t know if Bored Cow has turned me into a strawberry milk kid—I wouldn’t go out of my way to grab a carton—but I’ll happily finish the rest of my supply.
Adding fuel to my suspicion that Bored Cow is primarily marketed toward children, not men in their thirties, my box of 12 cartons came with an activity booklet featuring a word search, word scramble, crossword, some kind of code-breaking exercise, an entire “bored” game, and a quiz to find out which Bored Cow mascot you are (I got Sue, the strawberry milk cow, natch).
The activity booklet seems like a fun way to indoctrinate your kids (and to be clear, I am advocating for indoctrinating your kids)—the crossword has clues like “a harmful, industrial, and all too common way of making dairy products” and “what every cow deserves.” Competing for kids’ attention is a tough game, and it’s smart of Bored Cow to take its branding seriously and make it fun while helping kids understand what makes their milk different.
Should you try Bored Cow?
Bored Cow is intriguing. Dairy milk without the cow—whose ears wouldn’t perk up a little? It’s hard to imagine my dairy-obsessed friends—the ones who actually drink milk, out of a glass and everything—going for Bored Cow. But born and bred milk drinkers are on the decline while plant-based milk is on the up and up, and health-wise, Bored Cow appears to have some benefits over other alternative milks. If you’re a vegan who is looking for a solid protein source, Bored Milk is particularly interesting, as dairy whey protein has all of the essential amino acids you need.
But Bored Cow is probably most attractive to vegan or vegan-sympathizer parents looking for a sugar-free milk replacement for their kids. I’m not a kid, so I can’t speak for the tastebuds of kids out there, but I think the three flavors here are good enough, especially if you didn’t grow up on real milk. And if they don’t like the milk, at least they can make themselves a cow-themed board game.
Not lactose intolerance—Bored Cow is lactose-free. (And nut free!) ↩
Yoo-hoo uses real dairy whey, but not any actual liquid milk, making it much closer to chocolate water than chocolate milk. That’s why you’ll see it marketed as “chocolate drink.” ↩
I did read in a press release that they’re planning an “original” flavor for sometime later this year. ↩