In order to satisfactorily introduce this subject, it is important to first ask the question; what is milk?
Milk is a fluid [that is] secreted by the mammary glands of females for the nourishment of their young; … used as a food by humans.Merriam-Webster’s dictionary
Dictionary.com defines it as “
An article by Olivia Solon suggests the possibility (and availability) of non dairy-derived milk and related products. The term milk has also been used to describe the substitutes used to produce non-dairy beverages that resemble the real product both in color and texture. Indeed, products such as soy-milk, rice-milk, coconut-milk, or even almond-milk have existed for years.
The availability of non-animal dairy substitutes solves the problems of methane gas production in dairy farms. Methane production is a major concern for the environment, as the animals produce lots of greenhouse gas that contributes to the greenhouse effect.
Again, the availability of dairy substitutes solves the ethical problems associated with dairy problems. One can consume the dairy product without the guilt of knowing that a calf was sacrificed somewhere to enable milk production.
History of Milk
Humans learnt to domesticate animals from as early as about 9000 to 7000 BC; cattle, goats, and sheep were among the first animals to be domesticated.
People then learnt that they could exploit the animals for consumable products such as meat and milk.
Later on, the domesticated animals were used to produce other secondary resources such as hair, wool, skin, and also to provide labor in the farms.
Dairy products used as dressing for burns
Historians believe that domestication of animals originally began in Southwest Asia, from where the practice spread to other parts of the world.
Some of the earliest Egyptian records show that the burn treatments consisted of using burn dressings of milk from lactating mothers (specifically mothers of male babies).
Dairy products were historically not a large part of the diet in many parts of the world over a long period.
The reasoning for this could have been because the communities never kept animals as they relied on hunting and gathering, or they simply did not keep the dairy species.
Milk consumption became common in these regions comparatively recently, due to the European colonialism and political dominance over much of the world.
The increasing demand
With the coming of the industrial revolution, urbanization sprung up and people started moving from the rural; areas to the urban centers.
The rising populations in the urban centers created demand for food, and dairy products became very popular.
In fact, in the Middle Ages, milk was referred to as the virtuous white liquor because alcoholic beverages were safer to consume than water.
The rising demand for dairy products resulted into increased production of the dairy products to meet the demand for the urban center dwellers.
Some unscrupulous traders began to add water into the milk to meet the demands and increase their profits.
This not only reduced the quality of the product, but also made it unsafe for human consumption.
Safety Issues Associated with Milk
The rising concerns for the quality and safety of dairy products necessitated standardization in the dairy industry. Consequently, a legislation in 1875 made it illegal to adulterate milk on any form.
Earlier on, Louis Pasteur had developed a method (pasteurization method) to kill pathogenic micro-organisms in food products to make them safe for human consumption. Packaging of properly pasteurized commercial grade milk to make the standard uniform and to reduce contamination of milk later followed.
Packaging assured consumers of quality and safety of the dairy products. These efforts paid off as consumption soon increased by over 90 percent.
Where does milk come from?
By convention, all female mammals should be able to produce milk. However, there are special cases in which some of them are unable to produce. Humans do not produce it for commercial purposes.
There are milk-banks where the expressed commodity is stored and given to infants whose mothers cannot produce milk. This blog is specifically concerned with dairy milk.
FAO documents cow milk as the largest contributor to the commercial dairy products market.
In the West, commercialization of dairy production is very common. The system allows production of large volumes of high quality milk consistently to meet the high demands for the products. They have automated/semi-automated farms to reduce production costs and to maximize the economies of scale.
Their dairy cattle are pure breeds of high producers such as the Holstein. They have continually improved the cows for increased milk production.
The Holsteins consist about 90% of the dairy cows in the United States and 85% in Great Britain. Other high yielding dairy cows in the United States are Ayrshire, Jersey, Guernsey, Brown Swiss, and the Dairy Shorthorn.
Subsistence dairy production
In Kenya and most African countries, the dairy sector largely lies in the hands of the informal sector. Subsistence farmers with one or two indigenous cows (with <10 l/day) produce the most milk.
The production is very low and is labor intensive. The animals walk long distances to the pastures and watering points. Tropical diseases are also a challenge for the farmers, limiting their capacity to produce more milk.
Luckily, the dairy sector has seen a very big boost in the recent past in Kenya. Farmers have realized the need to do commercial dairy production.
Many farmers have adopted the high yielding exotic breeds that produce more hence increasing the farmer’s income. There is ready market for the dairy products in Kenya, making dairy farming a very lucrative venture.
Other Milk Producers (apart from cattle)
Aside from cattle; buffaloes, goats,sheep, camels, donkeys, horses, reindeer and yaks also produce milk. In fact, people have consumed their products and/or used them for making other dairy products.
Goats, sheep, and buffaloes are relatively high producers globally after cows. Goats milk has a close resemblance to human milk. It can be a better substitute for human milk.