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Humans are a curious species. Our constant desire to find better things has driven us to create new beginnings. We’ve always wanted to taste new foods, get new appliances, and try out efficient cooking methods. A similar driving force has led us to the evolution of milk and dairy products around the world. Some of the dairy varieties we see today were not available in the recent past. It was born from our inventions over several years.
Someone might have watched an animal feeding its young and thought, “Can we taste this?” “. I think it was a deeper question like “What do babies get milk that we don’t get?”. This could have led people to try milk as adults and thus introduce milk consumption into our lives.
The first use of milk by humans dates back 10,000 years. Our ancestors drank milk as it was. However, another question struck us and opened the doors to today’s wide range of dairy products. What can you do with milk? That’s when we started looking at milk from the perspective of nutrition, flavor, culture and trade.
Are you already curious to know more about the evolution and history of dairy products? Let me guide you through the chapters below.
The initial journey of milk – Small steps!
The best part is knowing the earliest history of milk and dairy products. We might have started consuming the milk of other mammals to avoid starvation. In addition, infants have always needed milk from their mother or a wet nurse. A wet nurse is a woman employed to nurse another woman’s child. Thus, milk began to become mainstream as humans changed, adapted and evolved.
Let’s take a closer look.
● The beginning
The use of dairy products began in modern Turkey around 8000 BC. The civilization of the time was smart enough to process animal milk into cheese, butter and yogurt to increase the longevity of the milk due to a lack of refrigeration.
● It all started with the domestication of cattle
The ancient dairy industry was set in motion by the domestication of cattle. Soon the domestication of sheep and goats gained momentum over time.
● A sudden challenge
Everything was fine when Mother Nature stepped in and turned everything upside down. People and livestock traveled, bringing with them a genetic mutation known as lactose tolerance, which emerged soon after the invention of dairy products. Like other mammals, humans were not designed to digest the natural sugar found in milk, lactose, after infancy.
● A glimmer of hope!
Around 6000 BCE, some adult humans developed the ability to digest lactose. This ability has passed through the genes of generations in Europe, Africa and the Middle East.
For a long time, the situation remained the same. In the millennia since, little has changed with milk, except that more and more people have come to respect it for its nutritional value and flavor. The milk gained enormous popularity among some of the early American settlers who transported cows across the Atlantic.
When innovation meets milk!
Raw milk is extremely perishable. So he stayed close to the farm and milking area over the years. People drank milk almost immediately after milking as a beverage if it was not made into cheese or butter.
Soon, the global industrial revolution brought us into a modernized era of large-scale productions. Has this changed the fate of milk? No, the challenges for milk lovers have remained the same despite the industrial revolution. Why is that? This is because milk could not travel long distances from dirty city newspapers due to raw milk-borne diseases like tuberculosis, scarlet fever, typhoid, and diphtheria.
What could have been the next step? Kill pathogenic germs in milk? It happened by pasteurization.
Pasteurization is the process of destroying dangerous germs by heat and boiling. However, it was not a silver bullet.
● Louis Pasteur’s invention in 1864 had an immediate impact on wine and beer.
● After 20 years, a German chemist named Frans Von Soxhlet proposed applying the method to milk.
● Chicago was the first city to make pasteurization mandatory for all milk sold in 1908.
● In 1948, Michigan became the first state to implement a similar law.
● In 1987, what had previously been a state-by-state rule became a national standard. Thus, pasteurization started slowly.
Pasteurization wasn’t the only innovation with milk in the past. Do you know? A development in the 17th century resulted in the creation of chocolate milk, which is still a popular drink among children and adults.
Chocolate milk – a drink derived from milk
● Hans Sloane, an Irish botanist, visited Jamaica in the late 1600s and received a drink of cocoa and water from the islanders.
● He found it disgusting and decided to make it more appetizing by adding milk and sugar.
● Sloane brought his formula back to England, where it was made and sold as medicine, although it is unclear if he was the first to mix milk and chocolate.
And it didn’t stop!
Moreover, it was high time to increase the shelf life of raw milk without turning it into cheese and butter. This brings us to the invention of powdered milk.
Powdered milk has established a nutrient solution to ensure milk portability and extended shelf life. These characteristics have made powdered milk a popular choice for hikers and outdoor enthusiasts.
Do you know? A Russian scientist invented the technology to make powdered milk at the turn of the 19th century, which retains all the nutrients in milk while being a fraction of the dry weight.
No more milk derivatives!
Milk has become the essential beverage in the American diet. The Civil War caused a surge in the popularity of milk in our diets. The Union Army food supply included newly produced condensed milk, with 60% of the water removed and sweetener added. It was quickly followed by unsweetened evaporated milk on the market.
Milk continued to grow in the 20th century as processes to make it safer and more efficient to produce led to expansion and development.
20th century: the journey of milk becomes widespread
● In the United States, the Second World War contributed to the processing of milk. Doctors recognized a pattern of malnutrition in many young men who had grown up penniless.
● Moreover, while food restriction was an indelible part of the country’s war effort, milk was not rationed and demand soared.
● At the end of the war, school lunches with milk as part of the meal emerged as an ideal approach to managing both child nutrition and the boon to milk production. It aimed to fight against malnutrition and famine.
● Malnutrition was already being treated in many areas through government-funded dairy programs that began in 1940.
● Meanwhile, President Harry S. Truman signed into law the National School Lunch Act in 1946.
● The Special Milk Program helped pump an additional 400 million pints of milk into US schools, on top of the milk already on school lunch menus.
Over the years the rules have changed, but the end result is that milk is now also common in schools.
The pressure on organic milk has grown rapidly. To be labeled “organic,” things had to follow strict agricultural regulations, such as time spent grazing. There are good reasons for making these decisions, and the research backs them up. Cows that spend more time on pasture are happier, their milk tastes better and they give more feed, studies show.
The current state of milk in the world
Milk’s pioneering spirit lives on today. Milk drinks aren’t just milk with chocolate sauce and strawberry toppings anymore. It is way beyond that for milk lovers to enjoy and prefer.
Ultrafiltered milk is a breakthrough in the industry. Ultrafiltration is a mechanical filtering process that separates and removes some of the lactose and water from milk, resulting in a higher protein concentration.
Therefore, low-sugar, high-protein milk is produced. The technique is decades old and was created to process whey, but has now been adapted to produce nutritious milk. The researchers envision a similar approach to producing cheese.
Flavored milk is one of the fastest growing segments of the milk market. Milk is available in a variety of flavors these days, including some ready-made flavors like tutti-frutti, banana, root beer, vanilla, coffee, chocolate mint, and even spiced. the pumpkin.
It’s quite strange and impressive how milk has gone from pasteurization and powdered milk to ultra-filtered milk and pumpkin spice milk. The world’s first consumption of milk is so far removed from how we view milk today. Almost everything about milk has changed over the years, except milk lovers are still widely available. I must say that milk is a leading food in the fight against malnutrition and starvation, especially in children.
I think we should pay homage to those who first discovered milk as an edible. The endless cycle of milk has never stopped since then.
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