All About Cow's Milk

Before looking into the various milk substitutes that have become popular over the past decade, it is important to begin by setting a baseline. For the purposes of this series, as you might expect, we are going to go with cow milk, as it remains by far the most popular variant. Coming from the udders of cows around the world, most U.S. milk is produced in Wisconsin and California. While all cows produce milk, the makeup of the white drink is heavily dependent on the type of cow. The Holstein cow, for example, produces a much less fatty milk than the less popular Jersey cow, who produces milk with a 5.5% fat concentration.

After creation, the milk is put through a complicated process, destroying all potentially dangerous bacteria and completely separating all milkfat. The end result of this is a large vat of skim milk, at which point fat is strategically reintroduced to the liquid, resulting in the creation of the four variants commonly found in grocery stores around the country – skim, 1%, 2%, and whole.

While it had long been held up as a healthy way to start your day, cow milk’s health potential has recently come under close scrutiny. Every morning, articles promoting the health benefits are cancelled out by articles claiming that milk is poisoning America. In reality, the truth lies somewhere in the middle.

On the positive side, cow milk is a great source of both calcium, providing 30% of the recommended daily adult allowance in one cup. In addition, it contains a significant amount of protein – more than double that of any milk substitute. The only real negative for a healthy adult is the high fat content, which can be parried by drinking skim or 1%. It is worth mentioning that a significant amount of the population – sometimes estimated to be nearly half – suffer from some degree of lactose intolerance. If this is the case for you, milk is in no way healthy and should only be consumed in limited quantities. But, for those who are not afflicted, milk can offer many potential benefits.