Milk – An Increasingly Complicated Choice
In today’s world, there are a multitude of alternatives to traditional cow milk.
No longer are your choices limited to 1%, 2%, whole, or skim – now you can find goat or almond milk almost anywhere, with many more choices available per request. And so, we have started this blog series to help de-mystify the world of milk, in hopes of helping you make the best choice for you!
While humans naturally drink milk as babies, this is not true of older children and adults. One needs only to look at other mammals, such as deer or elephants, to see that this is the natural course. In the wild, once growing to a certain size, mammals (the only type of animal capable of producing milk) slowly wean their young off of the drink, replacing it with more substantial foods. This same process used to happen with humans, and is why many around the world suffer from lactose intolerance.
This all changed around 10,000 B.C., when humanity first domesticated animals and began to take advantage of their resources. This is not to say that milk immediately became the drink of choice for humanity – instead it slowly spread across the world remaining mainly a source of nutrients for farmers. Originally, most of this milk came from sheep, but the woolly animal was phased out for well-known cow milk during the late Middle Ages.
The big moment in the spread of milk came in 1862, when French scientist Louis Pasteur developed a technique that now bears his name, pasteurization. This heating of milk fundamentally changed the industry, as it (1) significantly reduced the chance of drinking diseased milk and (2) allowed for the transportation of milk over long distances. Soon after, the milk bottle and milk crate were invented, and the white drink became commonplace in American homes. By the 1970s, the average American was drinking 30 gallons of cow milk a year.
Since then, however, that number has dropped by over 30%. While some of this is due to a rise in other forms of dairy (especially yogurt), a lot of it can be traced back to the rise of alternatives. Consumption of almond milk, for example, has grown by 250% in just five years. This diversification of the marketplace can create problems for those trying to live healthy lives – different brands make different health claims, all promising a better, happier life if you would just drink their product. And so, I am here to clear it all up for you. Over a series of blog posts, I will look at the health benefits of different milk sources, from the common cow to new competitors such as oats in order to help you make the right choice for you and your family.