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Mooove over

Hudson Cooper - Columnist
Posted 9/17/20

“Milk comes from contented cows.” The Carnation company in 1907 used that slogan to convince Americans that a better quality of milk came from cows that leisurely grazed on lush grasses. Then the …

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Mooove over


“Milk comes from contented cows.” The Carnation company in 1907 used that slogan to convince Americans that a better quality of milk came from cows that leisurely grazed on lush grasses. Then the cows were calmly brought to the barn where the farmer, sitting on a wooden stool, would milk them.

At today's modern dairy farms when the seasons change and snow or ice prevent grazing, cows are fed indoors. Large troughs containing grass silage provide food for the herd. I am not sure if sticking their heads between metal rods to get at the silage makes them contented but that's progress.

So, cows deliver the milk to farmers but how does the milk get to consumers? At the turn of the 20th century delivering milk was a personal process. In very rural areas the farmer often rode to his cow-less neighbors and for a price ladled milk into their pails. In more populated areas, farmers clip-clopping down the street with horse drawn wagons delivered cans of milk, often twice a day because of the lack of refrigeration.

Baby boomers probably remember having a metal box where bottled milk deliveries were made daily. On occasion the milk man, as he was called, would slip in a promotional treat like Hostess Cupcakes or a new type of breakfast cereal. Siblings would race to the door to be the first ones to get the treat.

I remember finding a small sample of Cap'n Crunch in the milk box. It was just sweet enough to compete with Sugar Frosted Flakes, Sugar Pops and Sugar Smacks. Eating bowls of those sugary cereals resulted in two things. Once the sugar hit their system, children would be bouncing off the walls inside their school buses.

Secondly, dentists became very rich. Years later when research showed the ill effects of sugary cereals, the industry took action to address the problem. Changes were made almost immediately. As proclaimed by Herbert Plainfield, president of the Amalgamated Breakfast Cereal League, “Our producers of cereals aimed at the youth of America must make drastic changes to our products.”

So almost overnight they removed the word “sugar” from the boxes while keeping it coating their cereals. Sales continued when children realized that Frosted Flakes still “Taste Great!”

In the United States, consumers buy about 8 billion dollars of cold cereal yearly. That is a lot of snap, crackle and pop that requires milk. If you thought cereal boxes went through a big transformation, take a walk down the milk aisle. If you see a carton just labeled “Milk” check the expiration date because it may have been around since Richard Milhous Nixon was President.

Nixon is remembered for many things. But to my millennial readers, his middle name of Milhous brings up images of Bart's best friend on The Simpsons. In fact, one of the show's creators, Matt Groening, named the cartoon character Milhouse after the former President. Nixon resigned as President in 1974 rather than face impeachment for covering up the Watergate Scandal. But that was 46 years ago and as the proverb says, “it's no use crying over spilled milk.”

As part of the health food mania, milk has gone through an unprecedented transformation. It started years ago when milk companies introduced skim milk. Containing no more that 0.2% of fat, people believed that pouring that over huge bowls of Count Chocula every morning would help them lose weight.

The problem was it tasted like watered down milk. So manufacturers amped up the fat content to 1% and 2%. That lasted a few years until a scientist at the International Conservancy of Stomach Gas discovered that the lactose in milk caused flatulence in humans, not to be confused with the odiferous ozone-killing byproducts of grass grazing cows.

Enter the hordes of people who suddenly were lactose intolerant. Joined by their family members forced to sit with them at the breakfast table, they demanded changes. So, milk companies went back to the lab and added lactose free products to the dairy section.

Those additions to what used to be called milk, pails in comparison (pardon the pun) to the revolution going on now in the dairy aisle. Competing for shelf space you can choose from a wide assortment of containers using the name milk. As of now you can buy organic milk, soy milk, grass milk, oat milk, goat milk, hemp milk, coconut milk, banana milk, sesame milk and the nut that started it all, almond milk.

What do all these new milks have in common? Other than goat milk, none of the underlying products naturally give milk like a cow and that is the udder truth. (I promise, no more puns today). Realizing, for example, that it is impossible to milk an almond, factories soak and grind almonds before adding an excess of water to produce their product. Sure, it tastes good, but is it milk?

Milk companies who get their product from cows are beginning to lobby to force the “milk imposters” to use the word juice on their containers.

Fearing that it might cause orange, lemon, apple, pineapple and cranberry growers to sue to retain the word juice for their liquids, it is possible that the Supreme Court will refuse to hear the milk or juice case.

The Supreme Court has, as the saying goes, “bigger fish to fry” such as in the case of People vs. Filet-O-Fish.


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