Artist rendition of an Auroch,
ancestor of the modern cow
Aurochs, the wild ancestors of modern cows, once ranged over large areas of Asia, Europe and North Africa.
Aurochs were first domesticated 8,000 to 10,000 years ago in the Fertile Crescent area of the Near East and evolved into two types of domestic cattle, the humped Zebu (Bos indicus) and the humpless European Highland cattle (Bos taurus).
Some scientists believe that domesticated cattle from the Fertile Crescent spread throughout Eurasia, while others believe that a separate domestication event took place in the area of India and Pakistan.
Through analyzing degraded fats on unearthed potshards, scientists have discovered that Neolithic farmers in Britain and Northern Europe may have been among the first to begin milking cattle for human consumption.
The dairying activities of these European farmers may have begun as early as 6,000 years ago. According to scientists, the ability to digest milk was slowly gained some time between 5000-4000 B.C.E. by the spread of a genetic mutation called lactase persistance that allowed post-weaned humans to continue to digest milk.
If that date is correct, it may pre-date the rise of other major dairying civilizations in the Near East, India, and North Africa.
Discovery Channel"Early Brits Were Original Cheeseheads," (Discovery Channel Website; accessed Oct. 8, 2007) BBC"Early Man 'Couldn't Stomach Milk'," www.bbc.co.uk (accessed Oct. 30, 2007)
Temple of Ninhursag
Although there is evidence of cattle domestication in Mesopotamia as early as 8000 B.C.E., the milking of dairy cows did not become a major part of Sumerian civilization until approximately 3000 B.C.E.
Archaelogical evidence shows that the Ancient Sumerians drank cow's milk and also made cow's milk into cheeses and butters.
The picture to the left is of a carved dairy scene found in the temple of Ninhursag in the Sumerian city of Tell al-Ubaid. The scene, which shows typical dairy activities such as milking, straining and making butter, dates to the first half of the third millennium B.C.E.
At least as early as 3100 B.C.E., the domesticated cow had been introduced to, or had been separately domesticated in, Northern Africa.
In Ancient Egypt, the domesticated cow played a major role in Egyptian agriculture and spirituality.
Attesting to its central role in Egyptian life, the cow was deified. The Egyptians "held the cow sacred and dedicated her to Isis, goddess of agriculture; but more than that, the cow was a goddess in her own right, named Hathor, who guarded the fertility of the land."
"The ancient Hebrews...held milk in high favor; the earliest Hebrew scriptures contain abundant evidence of the widespread use of milk from very early times. The Old Testament refers to a 'land which floweth with milk and honey' some twenty times. The phrase describes Palestine as a land of extraordinary fertility, providing all the comforts and necessities of life. In all, the Bible contains some fifty references to milk and milk products."
"The first cattle to arrive in the New World landed in Vera Cruz, Mexico, in 1525. Soon afterword, some made their way across the Rio Grande to proliferate in the wild. They became known as 'Texas Cattle.' Soon after, some of the [Spanish] settlers transported cattle to South America from the Canary Islands and Europe. More followed, and cattle multiplied rapidly throughout New Spain, numbering in the thousands within a few years."
The first cows were brought to Plymouth colony in 1624.
"The cattle present in 1627 in Plymouth included black, red, white-backed and white-bellied varieties. The black cattle may have been of a breed or similar to those today called Kerrys. Kerry cattle are descended from ancient Celtic cattle and were originally native to County Kerry Ireland..."
Craig S. Chatier"Livestock in Plymouth Colony," Plymouth Archaeological Rediscovery Project website (accessed Oct. 9, 2007)
Spanish California Missions
"The Jesuit Priest, Eusebio Kino, introduced cattle to Baja California in 1679 as part of the missionary effort to establish mission settlements... Milk became a blessing to missionaries in time of need."
During a food shortage in 1772, Junipero Serra stated that "...milk from the cows and some vegetables from the garden have been [our] chief subsistence."
In 1776, at the Mission San Gabriel, Father Font wrote that "The cows are very fat and they give much and rich milk, which they [Native American women at the mission] make cheese and very good butter."
Robert L. Santos"Dairying in California through 1910," Southern California Quarterly, Summer 1994
Milk Maids and the Smallpox Vaccine
Man receiving smallpox vaccination
In the 18th century it was common folk knowledge in Europe that milk maids (women who milked cows) seemed to be immune from the smallpox plagues when they swept through Europe.
In 1796, English physician Edward Jenner developed a vaccine for smallpox based upon this folk knowledge.
"Recognizing that dairymaids infected with cowpox were immune to small-pox, Jenner deliberately infected James Phipps, an eight year old boy, with cowpox in 1796. He then exposed Phipps to smallpox-which Phipps failed to contract. After repeating the experiment on other children, including his own son, Jenner concluded that vaccination provided immunity to smallpox…"
In the United States, compulsory smallpox vaccination was introduced on a state by state basis, beginning in the early 1800s.
In the early 19th century, the alcohol distillery business in the United States began to grow. Large amounts of swill (spent-grains) were produced as a byproduct of whisky and other alcohol production. Many distilleries opened dairies and began feeding their dairy cows with the waste swill. The low nutritional content of the swill lead to sickness in the cows and in the humans who drank their milk.
"Confined to filthy, manure-filled pens, the unfortunate cows gave a pale, bluish milk so poor in quality, it couldn't even be used for making butter or cheese."
Raw-Milk-Facts.com"A Brief History of Raw Milk," www.raw-milk-facts.com (accessed Oct. 9, 2007)
Louis Pasteur (1822-1895)
French chemist and biologist Louis Pasteur, considered one of the fathers of microbiology, helped prove that infectious diseases and food-borne illnesses were caused by germs, known as the "germ theory."
Pasteur's research demonstrated that harmful microbes in milk and wine caused sickness, and he invented a process - now called "pasteurization" - whereby the liquids were rapidly heated and cooled to kill most of the organisms.
In 1883 a struggle known as the "milk war" broke out between milk farmers/producers and milk distribution companies in New-York.
Milk farmers demanded a higher price for their milk. When the distribution companies refused to pay more the farmers organized "spilling committees" that blocked roads, seized shipments and dumped out their own milk instead of selling it to the distributors.
These "spilling committees" created a "milk famine" in New York City and forced the milk distribution companies to pay the farmers higher prices for their milk.
"One of the first glass milk bottles was patented in 1884 by Dr. Henry Thatcher, after seeing a milkman making deliveries from an open bucket into which a child's filthy rag doll had accidentally fallen. By 1889, his Thatcher's Common Sense Milk Jar had become an industry standard. It was sealed with a waxed paper disc that was pressed into a groove inside the bottle's neck. The milk bottle, and the regular morning arrival of the milkman, remained a part of American life until the 1950s, when waxed paper cartons of milk began appearing in markets."
Distributing certified raw milk
Dr. Henry L. Coit's "Baby Keep Well" clinic, 1906
In the mid-to-late 1800s milk-born illness was a major problem.
Milk produced at unhygienic production facilities (like distillery dairies) served as a medium to spread diseases like typhoid and tuberculosis. These diseases created a public health crisis that led to skyrocketing infant mortality in the cities.
As a result, "[i]n 1889, two years before the death of his son from contaminated milk, Newark, New Jersey doctor Henry Coit, MD urged the creation of a Medical Milk Commission to oversee or 'certify' production of milk for cleanliness, finally getting one formed in 1893."
Raw-Milk-Facts.com"A Brief History of Raw Milk" (www.raw-milk-facts.com; accessed Oct. 9, 2007)
Commercial Pasteurizing Begins
In 1895, commercial pasteurizing machines for milk were introduced in the United States.
"By 1917, pasteurization of all milk except that from cows proven to be free of tuberculosis was either required or officially encouraged in 46 of the country's 52 largest cities. The proportion of milk pasteurized in these cities ranged from 10 percent to 97 percent; in most it was well over 50 percent."
Congress passed the Capper-Volstead Act, allowing producers of agricultural products, such as milk, to "act together in associations" to organize collective processing, preparation for market, handling, and marketing of milk and other agricultural goods.
The act was of historic significance as it granted producers of milk and other agricultural products special exemptions from monopoly laws to help farmers raise the price for their products.
"Milk marketing orders came into existence as a result of the Agricultural Marketing Agreement Act of 1937...The rationale for the legislation was to reduce disorderly marketing conditions, improve price stability in fluid milk markets, and ensure a sufficient quantity of pure and wholesome milk.
The orders are regulations approved by dairy farmers in individual fluid milk markets that require manufacturers to pay minimum monthly prices for milk purchases."
Dairy farmers in the countryside outside New York City were hit hard by the Great Depression.
Milk prices in New York City fell so low that the milk distributors were paying farmers less for their milk than it cost them to produce it.
As things got desperate, dairy farmers organized the Dairy Farmers Union (DFU). Led by Archie Wright, a former organizer for the radical Industrial Workers of the World, the DFU went on strike in 1939.
During the strike, DFU members blocked roads and halted market-bound trucks. They confiscated milk and spilled it out on the roadsides. In some cases they threw bottles of kerosene on trucks that did not stop. The picketers fought non-strikers who tried to cross their lines, and State troopers who intervened.
"Federal assistance in providing milk for school children has been in operation since June 4, 1940, when a federally subsidized program was begun in Chicago. It was limited to 15 elementary schools with a total enrollment of 13,256 children. The schools selected were located in low-income areas of the city. The price to the children was 1 cent per one-half pint, and children who could not pay were given milk free, the cost being paid through donations by interested persons."
The Works Progress Administration (WPA) was formed on May 6, 1935, as a part of President Franklin D. Roosevelt's New Deal plan to bring the United States out of the Great Depression. The WPA differed from other New Deal programs in that it focused on providing work for artists, educators, writers and musicians.
The two posters pictured here were painted by artists under commission from the WPA. Like many WPA projects, these paintings served a dual purpose: to employ artists and to create increased demand for milk. As such, these paintings (and many others like them) were a form of federally subsidized dairy advertising.
At its height, the WPA employed over 3 million people.
Margaret Bing"A Brief Overview of the WPA," www.broward.org (accessed Oct. 16, 2007)
National School Lunch Act Passed
In 1946, President Harry Truman signed the National School Lunch Act into law. The act was designed to provide nutritious lunches to the nation's children. The reasoning behind the act was laid out in its text: "It is hereby declared to be the policy of Congress, as a measure of national security, to safeguard the health and well-being of the Nation's children and to encourage the domestic consumption of nutritious agricultural commodities and other food, by assisting the States, through grants-in aid and other means, in providing an adequate supply of food and other facilities for the establishment, maintenance, operation and expansion of nonprofit school lunch programs.”
The Secretary of Agriculture prescribed three types of lunches which would be acceptable under the act, designed as Type A, Type B, and Type C.
It was mandated that each lunch include between 1/2 to 2 pints of whole milk.
"The SMP provides milk free of charge or at a low cost to children in schools and child care institutions that do not participate in other Federal child nutrition meal service programs. The federally assisted program reimburses schools for the milk they serve."
Dairy Act of 1983 & Creation of the National Dairy Board
"The Dairy Production Stabilization Act of 1983 (Dairy Act) authorized a national producer program for dairy product promotion, research, and nutrition education to increase human consumption of milk and dairy products and reduce milk surpluses. This self-help program is funded by a mandatory 15-cent-per-hundredweight assessment on all milk produced in the contiguous 48 States and marketed commercially by dairy farmers. It is administered by the National Dairy Promotion and Research Board (Dairy Board). The Dairy Act provides that dairy farmers can direct up to 10 cents per hundredweight of the assessment for contributions to qualified regional, State, or local dairy product promotion, research, or nutrition education programs."
In 1990, the U.S. Congress passed the Fluid Milk Promotion Act to promote the sale of milk and to allow collective, producer financed, generic milk advertising.
The act stated that "fluid milk products are basic foods and are a primary source of required nutrients such as calcium, and otherwise are a valuable part of the human diet," and mandated that "fluid milk products must be readily available and marketed efficiently to ensure that the people of the United States receive adequate nourishment."
"The Food Guide Pyramid was introduced in 1992 to illustrate a food guide developed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to help healthy Americans use the Dietary Guidelines to choose foods for a healthy diet.
The Food Guide Pyramid is a graphic tool that conveys 'at a glance' important dietary guidance concepts of variety, proportion, and moderation. These concepts are not new—with varying emphasis, they have been part of USDA food guides for almost 100 years."
The 1992 Food Pyramid recommended that 2-3 servings of milk and other dairy products be consumed daily.
In 1993, the California Milk Processor Board was formed to increase milk consumption. Their first major public success was the creation of the "Got Milk?" advertisement campaign.
In 1995, the "Got Milk?" slogan was registered as a federal trademark by the National Dairy Boards and the "Got Milk?" campaign went national.
"Awareness of GOT MILK? is over 90% nationally and it is considered one of the most important and successful campaigns in history…The Dairy industry spends $150-million annually to support GOT MILK?, including use on those Milk Mustache ads. In addition, the 'brand' has become a hot property with over 100 product licensees."
MilkPEP"About the CMPB," www.gotmilk.com (accessed Oct. 16, 2007)
Nov. 5, 1993
Artificial Bovine Growth Hormone Approved by FDA
On November 5, 1993, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved genetically engineered Artificial Bovine Growth Hormone (rBST, rBGH, BGH) for commercial use in the United States.
"In March 1993, before rbST was approved, an FDA advisory committee concluded that the use of rbST -- and any increased risk of mastitis and resulting increased use of antibiotics in treated cattle -- would not pose a risk to human health.
Monsanto Co.'s Posilac, the only rbST product approved for increasing milk production in dairy cattle, was first marketed in February 1994."
In response to the FDA approval of Artificial Bovine Growth Hormone (rBST, rBGH, BGH), the Pure Food Campaign launched a series of protests around the country where milk was spilled in symbolic protest.
Jeremy Rifkin, an organizer of the Pure Food Campaign, stated that there was widespread public concern over the safety of rBST and that "We believe this product is a hazard to health."
New York Times"Grocers Challenge Use of New Drug for Milk Output," Feb. 4, 1994
FDA Issues rBST Labeling Guidelines
In 1994, the FDA issued labeling guidelines for milk (and dairy products made with milk) produced by cows that have not been treated with rBST. In its guidelines the FDA stated: "Because of the presence of natural bST in milk, no milk is 'bST-free,' and a 'bST-free' labeling statement would be false."
The FDA advised that the following statement should be included on all products labeled as being made with milk from cows that are not treated with rBST: "No significant difference has been shown between milk derived from rbST-treated and non-rbST-treated cows."
"Dairy producer board members of the National Dairy Board (NDB) and the United Dairy Industry Association (UDIA) create Dairy Management Inc.™ (DMI) as the organization responsible for increasing demand for U.S.-produced dairy products on behalf of America’s dairy producers; direct coordination between national and local dairy promotion programs begins.
DMI forms the U.S. Dairy Export Council® (USDEC) to leverage investments of dairy processors, exporters, dairy producers, and industry suppliers to enhance the U.S. dairy industry’s ability to serve international markets. Both dairy checkoff dollars [funds collected from farmers for collective generic advertisements] and USDEC membership dues fund the organization."
In December 2001, Suiza Foods Corporation acquired Dean Foods Company and formed the "new" Dean Foods Corporation. The new Dean Foods Corporation became the nation's largest dairy processor and distributor with more than 25,000 employees and $10 billion in revenues.
Dean Foods Company "A Brief History of the New Dean Foods Company," www.deanfoods.com (accessed Oct. 22, 2007)
PETA's lawsuit claimed that the CMAB's "Happy Cows" advertising campaign constituted false advertising. They charged that the idyllic living conditions of the "Happy Cows" were in stark contrast to the large factory farm reality of most dairy cows in California.
The suit was thrown out by the California Superior Court in 2002. PETA appealed the decision to the California Supreme Court, which refused to review the case in 2005.
PETA "PETA Sues the California Milk Board for False Advertising," www.unhappycows.com (accessed Oct. 17, 2007)
Jan. 5, 2004
Dean Foods Acquires Horizon Organic
On January 5, 2004, Dean Foods, the nation's largest dairy processor and distributor, acquired Horizon Organic, the nation's leading organic milk and dairy product processor.
Dean Foods Company"A Brief History of the New Dean Foods Company," www.deanfoods.com (accessed Oct. 22, 2007)
Milk and Weight Loss Ad Campaign Initiated
In 2004, Dairy Management Inc. and the National Dairy Promotion and Research Board initiated a nationwide advertising campaign with the slogan "3-A-Day. Burn More Fat, Lose Weight."
The advertising campaign ran television, print and internet advertising claiming that the consumption of 3 servings of milk or other dairy products each day could help with weight loss.
Physicians Group Files Lawsuit Demanding Lactose Intolerance Warnings on Milk
In October 2005, the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) filed a class-action lawsuit on behalf of all residents of Washington, DC, against a number of large milk companies demanding lactose intolerance warnings on milk.
PCRM filed the lawsuit "To help raise public awareness about lactose intolerance...on behalf of all residents in Washington, D.C., who may purchase milk without realizing the serious digestive distress it can cause. Filed in the Superior Court of the District of Columbia on October 6, the suit calls for all milk cartons sold in D.C. to carry labels warning of milk’s possible side effects."
For many years, milk consumption in Japan had been on the decline, creating a surplus milk problem in Japan. The Japanese island of Hokkaido alone had to dispose of nearly 900 tons of surplus milk in a single month.
Sensing an opportunity, Hokkaido liquor store owner Chitoshi Nakahara decided to see if he could ferment this excess milk into beer.
The experiment worked, and Nakahara began selling "Bilk" in local liquor stores in 2007.
In response to a 2005 complaint from the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine(PCRM), the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) published a letter regarding The National Fluid Milk Processor Promotion Board (and others) advertisements that claimed drinking milk helps with weight-loss.
The letter stated that the FTC had been "advised by USDA staff that the Dairy Board, the Fluid Milk Board, and other affiliated entities that engage in advertising and promotional activities on behalf of the two boards, have determined that the best course of action at this time is to discontinue all advertising and other marketing activities involving weight loss claims until further research provides stronger, more conclusive evidence of an association between dairy consumption and weight loss..."
A lawsuit (still in appeals as of Oct. 31, 2007) was also filed by the PCRM against a number of milk retail companies, including Kraft Foods and General Mills, to prevent them from making milk weight-loss claims.
"The Kroger Co. announced today [Aug. 1, 2007] it will complete the transition of milk it processes and sells in its stores to a certified rBST-free supply by February 2008.
The Company said its decision was based on customer feedback in the markets it serves.
Headquartered in Cincinnati, Ohio, Kroger is one of the nation's largest retail grocery chains...At the end of the first quarter of fiscal 2007, the Company operated (either directly or through its subsidiaries) 2,458 supermarkets and multi-department stores in 31 states..."
CNN"Kroger to Complete Transition to Certified rBST-Free Milk by Early 2008," Aug. 1, 2007
Apr. 16, 2007
Nation's Largest Organic Dairy Violates Organic Rules
On April 16, 2007, Aurora Organic Dairy, the largest organic milk producer in the country, and supplier of organic milk to Wal-Mart, Target, Costco, Safeway and many other large stores, received a notice of proposed revocation from the USDA for willful violations of the 1990 Organic Foods Production Act.
The revocation letter from the USDA described 14 violations committed by Aurora Organic Dairy and stated: "Due to the nature and extent of these violations, the NOP proposes to revoke Aurora Organic Dairy's production and handling certifications under the NOP."
According to the Cornucopia Institute, a farm policy research group, the practices of Aurora are "a 'horrible aberration' and that the vast majority of all organic dairy products are produced with high integrity."
FTC Affirms the Legality of 'rBST Free' Labels on Milk
In Feb. 2007, the Monsanto Corporation (producers of rBST) filed a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission alleging that a number of milk processors were engaging in "false and deceptive" advertising by labeling their products as being free of the artificial growth hormone rBST and thereby inferring that milk from cows injected with the growth hormone is inferior.
In its response to the compliant filed by the Monsanto Corporation the FTC wrote that its"staff agrees with FDA that food companies may inform consumers in advertising, as in labeling, that they do not use rBST.”
The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) released its 968 page report "Animal Cloning: A Risk Assessment,” and announced to the public that milk from cloned cows had been approved for human consumption.
In its Jan. 15, 2008 press release announcing the report and its conclusions, the FDA wrote that "meat and milk from clones of cattle, swine, and goats, and the offspring of clones from any species traditionally consumed as food, are as safe to eat as food from conventionally bred animals.”
Market in Venice, CA Raided by Police for Selling Raw Milk; Three Arrested
"The owner of a Venice health food market and two other people were arrested on charges related to the allegedly unlawful production and sale of unpasteurized dairy products...
The arrests of James Cecil Stewart, Sharon Ann Palmer and Eugenie Bloch on Wednesday marked the latest effort in a government crackdown on the sale of so-called raw dairy products.
Prosecutors in Los Angeles alleged that Stewart, 64, operates a Venice market called Rawesome Foods through which he illegally sold dairy products that did not meet health standards because they were unpasteurized...
Palmer, 51, has operated Healthy Family Farms in Santa Paula since 2007 without the required licensing for milk production, prosecutors allege. She and her company face nine charges related to the production of unpasteurized [raw] milk products.
Bloch, a Healthy Family Farms employee, is charged with three counts of conspiracy."