History of Dairy Products: Milk

About dairy products, history and information on goat and cow milk, nutritional value, fat and vitamins.


The 1st goats were domesticated around 7000 B.C. in Iran, and cattle a little later, around 6000 B.C. in Greece. It is not certain when humans 1st started milking their domesticated animals. One of the earliest milking scenes in existence today, which shows a goat being milked, is on an Elamite seal from 2500 B.C. Milk, especially in its soured forms, as cheese, yogurt, etc., made a big difference in the life of Neolithic man, providing all-season, high-quality food that sustained him when the growing season was over, when he could no longer collect leaves and berries, and when game was scarce.

Today, the subject of milk is controversial, and not just because of the Milk Fund scandal, during which it was discovered that influential dairymen had poured money into Richard Nixon's campaign fund, in exchange for an increase in Federal milk price support. The major reason for the controversy is the large amount of artificial additives, in the form of antibiotics and other chemicals, that find their way into our daily milk, via the cow and the food she eats.

There is also the question of whether milk, in its fresh form, is a suitable food either for adults or, in large quantities, for children. The reason for this doubt lies in the belief that milk protein requires too many pancreatic enzymes for digestion, and therefore places a heavy demand on a possibly already overworked system. Further, milk is thought to be mucus-forming, and there are also the problems arising from lactose intolerance and allergies. Many peoples, such as the Chinese and the Maoris, traditionally do not use dairy products, and still maintain themselves in good health.

On the plus side, however, is the fact that milk is a superior source of complete protein, as well as of calcium and riboflavin (Vitamin B2). It also contains smaller quantities of the other B vitamins, a small amount of vitamin C, and, usually, added vitamin D. Attention has been focused recently on the cholesterol problem, to which milk, with its animal-fat content, may contribute. However, there are tribes in Kenya who drink 9 to 14 quarts of whole milk daily, but because their diet is adequate in all other respects, their blood cholesterol is remarkably low. In other words, their balanced diets include nutrients that produce lecithin, which neutralizes the harmful effects of cholesterol. Using skim milk would appear to be the solution here, but remember that calcium, before it can be utilized, must react 1st with fat; therefore skim milk should always be drunk with meals or with a snack containing fat. Certified raw milk is best; pasteurization causes calcium to be lost, as well as the destruction of enzymes, antibodies, and hormones.

Nonfat dry milk is a good source of additional protein, vitamins, and minerals in the diet because it can be added to bread, cooked cereals, etc. However, the heating process used to dry it destroys one of the amino acids, lysine, thus making it an incomplete protein, and not suitable as a fresh milk substitute. The same is true of canned evaporated milk; the high heat used to process both canned and dry milk also drastically reduces the vitamin content of both. Keep your dry milk in an airtight container, in a cool place, and it will last indefinitely.

Goat's milk compares very favorably with cow's milk. Its value lies in the fact that it is more easily digested by infants, invalids, and those allergic to cow's milk. The curds are smaller and more soluble, and the fat in goat's milk is more easily assimilated.

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