The History of Milk
In honor of National Milk Day, I am posting a paper I wrote on the history of milk while in culinary school. I learned so much about milk doing the research for this paper.
Earliest Record of Milk
Milk has been a part of the human diet in all of recorded history. As far back as 4,000 B.C. pottery has been analyzed and show traces of milk. In 3,100 B.C. carved stone evidence showed that cows were domesticated in Ancient Egypt. A stone
Testing on human bones & pottery showed that with the exception of a small part of the population in Europe, most people did not have the enzymes to digest the lactose in milk. Additionally, due to the lack of refrigeration milk could not be kept. Archeological evidence shows that milk was usually cultured and made into cheeses, kefir, yogurt, or even just clabbered (allowed to naturally clot on souring). This fermented milk provides highly bioavailable protein, enzymes, beneficial lactobacillus probiotics, vitamin K2, and other nutrients. Culturing milk also reduces or completely eliminates the lactose, thus making it digestible to adults everywhere. On a side note, in 1275 A.D. when Marco Polo arrived in Mongolia he wrote that the Mongolians made powdered milk, which was another way of preserving the milk.
Milk in the Americas
Apparently the Americas didn’t have cattle. In 1525 the first cattle were brought to the Americas by Spanish settlers. They were taken to Vera Cruz, Mexico. They were allowed to be wild in addition to domestication and multiplied greatly throughout “New Spain.” It was 1624 when cattle were brought to North America at Plymouth Colony. Records again show that milk was made into cheese and butter and was a source of nutrition and even a chief food item during food shortages in western areas.
The First Dairy Farms…The Problems Begin
As the population grew in America and increased demands were made for milk the first “dairy farms” appeared. By the War of
A Call for Milk Cleanliness Certification
These bad conditions continued for years until the death of his child spurred Dr. Henry Coit into action. He had already called for a Medical Milk Commission to oversee or “certify” milk for cleanliness two years prior, but now he pressed forward as a wounded parent of a preventable tragedy. In 1893 this commission was formed and after years of work raw milk once again became safe, but the milk cost 4 times more than uncertified milk.
The Beginning of Pasteurization
While Dr. Coit worked on this in New Jersey, another man, Nathan Straus, lost his child to diphtheria from contaminated milk in New York. He was the co-owner of Macy’s Department stores. He was a wealthy influential man. Straus knew that Louis Pasteur had developed a method to kill microorganisms in wine, stopping it from turning into vinegar. He (Pasteur) had proved that this pasteurization would also kill germs in milk. By 1895, and at considerable cost to Straus, commercial pasteurizing machines were introduced in the United States. Straus also set up and subsidized “milk depots” in New York City to provide low cost pasteurized milk. By 1917, pasteurization of all milk except that from cows proven to be free of tuberculosis was either required or officially encouraged in 46 of the country’s 52 largest cities.
Although sources do not have any dates, it appears that cultured milk was falling out of favor to fresh milk in the
Inventions that Helped the Milk Industry
The Smear Campaign Against Raw Milk
How Increased Demands for Milk Changed Production
Due to the many milk campaigns in the mid to late 1900’s claiming milk to be a necessary component to good health, to weight loss, necessary for bones, etc., milk production had to increase to meet the demands of the public. Add to milk consumption the various products now made with milk and consumed at alarming rates – cheese, sweetened yogurt, ice cream, flavored creams, and whipped creams. The answer was to find a way to make cows produce more milk. They were fed more and more grain, which broke down their immune systems, so anti-biotics had to be given on a regular basis. They were pressed into smaller and smaller areas, some not even having the opportunity to see the light of day. This was called efficiency, but the cows again suffered and got diseases from the crowded unsanitary conditions. Americans were being pressed by the
Modern Milk Missing Enzymes
Even if modern milk was still nutritious, Americans weren’t drinking plain milk anymore. Adults and kids alike, having been overexposed to sweets, thought milk was uninteresting. So highly sugared “flavored” milks were introduced to entice them into drinking this “nutritious” product. Yogurt, the natural, nutritious food of the hippy era (and one of the original cultured milk products from centuries past) was replaced with highly sugared and over-processed yogurts lacking any natural healthy enzymes. Those enzymes were killed in the pasteurization process. When this fact finally became widely known, manufacturers had to add back live enzymes and the war of “who had the most” began. Then more missing enzymes were discovered and some manufacturers added those back. But still today I’m going to say there is not a pasteurized commercial product that contains all the original enzymes that were found in the unpasteurized yogurts from organically raised grass-fed cows. This is my opinion based on the fact that on a regular basis a new enzyme is discovered that they didn’t know about previously.
Is Industrialized Milk is Bad for You?
So the tide is turning. The facts are coming out that dispute the erroneous “facts” of the 20th century. In the book Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon of the Weston A. Price Foundation many pages are devoted to the history and the reasons why industrialized milk from modern cows is bad for you – and the cows. The Weston A Price Foundation was founded by Dr. Weston Price, a dentist who wondered why people’s teeth were getting worse instead of better, why our jaws just didn’t seem to have room for all our teeth anymore. He searched the world over looking at groups of people who were untouched by civilization and made a remarkable discovery: fourteen groups of people from various parts of the world all enjoyed superb health. These people were healthy, untouched by the disease that plagued the rest of the world. They were strong, healthy people. Their children were strong and healthy. Their face structure was strong and well able to hold all the teeth. The teeth were in good condition, showing no signs of decay. He studied their diets and their lifestyles. His research branded him a lunatic at the time, but is now highly regarded as a truthful source of scientific facts. There are just too many details to write in this brief paper. I wish I could include them all.
Lactose Intolerance or Milk Allergy?
One of the facts that Fallon writes about, which is not in any of the other research is that in addition to the lactose intolerance problem, there is also the issue of milk allergies. When a person is allergic to milk, as opposed to having a lactose intolerance, they are usually allergic to the milk protein called casein. It is one of the hardest for a person to digest. The age-old practice of fermenting (souring) milk “partially breaks down the lactose and predigests casein. The end products, such as yoghurt, kefir, and clabber, are often tolerated by adults who cannot drink fresh milk. Butter and cream contain little lactose or casein and are usually well tolerated…”
Again, I wish I could write more about what was written in Nourishing Traditions. The incredible detail and research is fascinating.
My research has helped me stand firmer in my belief that the standard milk of today is not good for you. It has helped me realize that reaching for the “organic” milk at the store is not as beneficial as I thought. I need to be looking for milk from grass-fed cows. Organic grass-fed is better. And the best is raw milk from a dairy farm and raw milk products – cheeses, yogurts and the like.
Best Dairy Products to Consume:
1) Grass-fed Butter/Ghee:
2) Grass-fed Amasai, Kefir, Yogurt
3) Grass-fed Raw cheeses
4) Grass-fed Raw Milk
There was a site that had some amazing information on the history of milk, how different feeds change the nutrients of milk, more in-depth information on pasteurization and homogenization, and the benefits of cultured milk. I encourage you to read it. It also has some awesome graphics.
This Article is copyrighted by Linda A Nietz
 The Holy Bible
 Chart of Old Testament Patriarchs and Judges, John Whitcomb, Whitcomb Ministries, 1977
 BioMed Research International: Role of Microorgamisms Present in Dairy Fermented Products in Health and Disease
 Milk & Dairy related Inventions by Mary Bellis
 Livestock in Plymouth Colony, Craig S. Chatier, MA
 Dairying in California through 1910, Robert L. Santos, Southern California Quarterly, Summer 1994
 “A Brief History of Raw Milk’s Long Journey…” Raw-Milk-Facts.com
 “A Brief History of Raw Milk’s Long Journey…” raw-milk-facts.com
 Dairy Heritage “History,” www.dairyheritage.com
 “A Brief History of Raw Milk’s Long Journey…” raw-milk-facts.com