Milk is a very important product in the diet of humans. It’s a precious and valuable commodity produced from cows. Nevertheless, most of the time people are less aware about the progressive journey of milk through different ages to what we see in the present day. In this regard, the paper seeks to trace the history of cows, milk and dairy products in the world. It will explain the origin of domestic cows and movement of cows across continents. This will also include an element of technological advancement, which has been made in the milk industry, for instance, homogenization, pasteurization, fortification, milk bottles along with milk packaging. Finally, it will explain the invention of various dairy products, for instance, yogurt and cheese.

The origin of domestic cows has remained a puzzle for archaeologists for many centuries. Pursuant to this, different theoretical frameworks have been proposed, each providing alternative chronological and spatial models that show the starting point for the spread of domestic cows. It is claimed that the first step towards domestication was made in southwest Asia.  As the pastoralists from Southwest Asia migrated to the Europe, the domesticated cattle reached Europe[i]. In as much as something may appear to have developed presently it must have had a humble background.

a)      Medieval Period

Evidence available suggests that the breed of cattle that is most related to the present day Brown Swiss dairy breed were there in the Bronze Age, 1200-3500BC in Switzerland[ii]. The common dairy breed found in the present day North America originated from Europe. The breed Holstein and Ayshire originated from the Netherlands and Scotland respectively[iii]. Additionally, the breed Guernsey was nurtured on the Isle of Guernsey while Jersey was nurtured on the Isle of Jersey. During the medieval period, cattle served three main functions: providing labor for the farming communities; providing edible meat; and milk for family use. Gradually, the value of milk increased as society begun considering it as a valuable product. Consequently, during the onset of 5th century A. D, farmers and families in Europe prized their cows highly because of the milk commodity[iv].

Archeology has revealed interesting facts about the middle age. Evidence of use of domestic ruminants has been discovered in faunal from various sites in Europe, and most of them date to the Neolithic phases[v]. It is therefore logical to conclude that milk was available for human consumption during this moment. Whether or not the Early Neolithic Europe inhabitants had the required genetic adaption to aid in digestion of lactose in fresh milk, it is unclear from modern phylogenetic data and it is irrelevant considering the various varieties of low lactose which can be easily made from milk[vi].

Johannes Gruss identified an unstructured black residue which was on a ceramic container from the Hallastatt period[vii]. After carrying out some chemical tests he found that it was overcooked milk. Even though the analyses would have lacked the required rigor needed for any scientific investigation, this early work led the discovery of a model of artifact analysis. Development of biochemical procedures, for instance, liquid and gas chromatography, immunology and stable isotopic analysis and mass spectrometry have offered a great deal for reliable identification of residues[viii].

b)      The Mid Centuries

Cows were first brought in the U.S in 1600s by the earliest colonists[ix]. Intercontinental migration from Southwest Asia saw the domesticated Taurine cattle enter the African continent.

Afterwards, the Zebu breed commonly associated with the African continent migrated into Africa from the Indian and Arab continent[x]. In fact, genetic analysis of taurine depicts that the taurine cattle partly diverged from the Holocene, which led to the suggestion that there is a high chance that the breed was independently domesticated. Further genetic analysis reveals the early presence of Taurine cows in continental Europe and African Taurine cows. It was also established that there must have been possible genetic interaction between Zebu and Taurine cows in Africa[xi].

c)      The 19th Century

It was until the start of the 19th century that breeding organizations were established in the North because of the demand for hybrid breeds capable of producing high quantities of milk[xii]. The movement of live animals resulted in slow dispersal of genes from South to North and vice versa. This is because translocation and migration became discouraged due to the dangers involved. Later on, major cattle movements started from the centers of livestock domestication that were specifically located in the eastern Mediterranean and Western Asia, Southeast Asia, Indus Valley, North Africa, and Andes of South America[xiii]. The result of the movements was increased chances of interbreeding, and consequently broadening of the livestock genetic diversity. This ease of movement encouraged farmers to conduct large-scale replacements of their indigenous breeds with high performing exotic breeds[xiv].

In 1832, M Dirchoff discovered the formula for producing dried milk, but failed to patent his discovery[xv]. As a result, the patent was formally claimed by Griwade who then boasted of the dried milk procedure accumulating riches from its use[xvi]. Later on, in 1837, William Newton invented the vacuum drying process and patented the design[xvii].

The pasteurization technique was discovered by Louis Pasteur, between 1862 and 1877 while doing research regarding the cause of wine and beer spoilage[xviii]. He discovered that organisms responsible for causing spoilage could be inactivated in wine by applying heat at temperatures which are below its boiling point. Later, the pasteurization process was applied to milk. In 1773, pasteurization of cream was done in England with an aim of improving the quality of butter. Nevertheless, it had already been introduced in Boston before 1773; however, no official recognition had been given. The first pasteurization experiment was completed by Louis Pasteur and Claude Bernard in April 1862[xix].

The New York Dairy Company is regarded as the first industrial unit to produce milk bottles. Before the invention of the milk bottle, milk was given to customers using their jugs. It is still not clear when milk bottles started to be utilized. In 1878, the first patent for a milk container was issued, and it was christened the Lester Milk Jar[xx]. Whiteman P. Lewis is accredited for holding the original patent for a glass milk bottle and a tin clip. The US patent was issued on 23 of March 1880[xxi]. Tin 1884, Whiteman’s brother developed a new design for a milk bottle that had a unique dome shaped tin cap[xxii]. This particular bottle had cream line marks and was very vital at the time. Additionally, prior to the 1930s, milk bottles were round shaped. The transition to the squat bottle took place in the 1940s, consequently becoming a popular style[xxiii].

In the mid 19th century, pasteurization of milk was still at its infancy stage; hence, there were challenges in ensuring that safe milk was provided to the public. Milk supply became increasingly insecure and unhealthy and this took place at a time when many individuals in the United States were migrating from rural to urban cities. Milk from the rural areas could be transported for longer distances and the storage temperatures were higher compared to the previous one. Milk produced in regions near cities came from cows which were kept under crowded and unhealthy conditions. As a result, many city dwellers that used the milk, especially children who were most vulnerable fell sick and succumbed.

The unfolding events prompted public reformers and activists during the late 19th century to put milk top on their agenda. In 1914, a decision by the Illinois Supreme Court proclaimed that there is no food having impurities compared to milk.  This prompted the adoption of legislations in 1920, which were implemented countrywide. The United States Public Health Service drafted the Model Milk Health Ordinance and was actively promoting it for adoption at the grass root level. However, this law was not welcomed by milk sellers and producers because they perceived the first regulations to be unconstitutional and unwarranted. In response, state and local authorities relied on their fundamental legal police power to enforce regulation. Since they had a lot of evidence regarding the potential threats resulting from consumption of raw milk, the proposed legislations were seen to be valid leading to the implementation of police power by the government.

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In 1899, Auguste Gauline designed a homogenizer to carry out homogenization. He acquired a patent for it. Homogenization breaks down large fat globules into tiny ones. The process prevents cream from breaking up and rising, which is a common phenomenon with un-homogenized milk. Since then, more than one hundred patents have been given to other devices intended for small size particles. Auguste’s model comprised of 3 piston pumps and the product was forced through hair like tubes under significant amount of pressure. Even though, the method had been invented, many consumers were not convinced that the method was good.

In some cases, homogenized milk was not successfully sold until around 1919 that people from Torrington, Connecticut bought much of it. The skepticism went on for several years until Michigan dairy started convincing milk drinkers regarding the advantages of homogenized milk such as easy digestion process. Sales person were sent to numerous locations carrying a sample of milk curd that was partially digested and had been harvested from the stomachs of the company’s employees. The aim was to convince suspicious housewives about homogenized milk benign characteristics. This campaign was fruitful as sales begun increasing.

d)      20th Century

The onset of the 20th century saw the growth of milk commercialization as a favorable enterprise. In 1937, milk marketing orders were officially made operational after the implementation of the Agricultural Marketing Agreement Act of 1937. The logic behind milk marketing orders was to discourage a disorderly marketing environment, advance price stability, and ensure enough quantity of wholesome and pure milk. These laws were endorsed by dairy farmers in individual fluid milk markets that required manufacturers to give minimum monthly prices for any milk purchases. The marketing orders were also designed to fulfill not less than one of the following goals: limit or allot the quantity of any grade, size of the commodity which is marketed, offer disposition and control of extra goods along with developing reserve pools, inspection of goods which are covered under the market order.

Organic dairy is believed to have begun at around 1940 in England with Sir Albert Howard’s writings[xxiv]. He learned about organic practices in India during the 1920s. J.I. Rodale is the man who is credited with the birth of the organic movement. The organic movement is based on a significant principle: healthy soils results in healthy crops, animals, human and planet. Organic dairy came into the marketplace during the 1990s, consequently growing into a major group[xxv]. Triumph of organic dairy is attributed to various essential events, including response to Monsanto’s introduction of the recombinant Bovine Growth Hormone in 1994[xxvi]. Consumers have relied on assurances from certified organic dairy as being a trusted source of pure dairy products.

Between 1950s and 1960s, dairies began to introduce the square paper carton, which replaced plastic bottles. The new packaging method enabled milk to be carried easily[xxvii]. It also allowed for display in given spaces since they were better than old glass bottles. This also allowed for reduction in the cost of milk to the consumer because paper carton was cheaper. John Van Wormer was the man behind paper cartons. The idea of paper milk struck his mind one morning after he dropped a milk bottle. It broke and the milk spilled everywhere. According to him this was a bad way to begin a day. In 1915, he patented his product and called it Pure-Pak because it could be thrown after-use. Van Wormer took ten years to perfect a machine that was capable of making containers.

However, most Americans were attached to milk packaging in bottles. Nonetheless, an increase in the cost of making glass worked in his favor. Soon firms were producing their own paper milk cartons. Before 1950, Van Wormer firm was making 20,000,000 paper milk cartons a day[xxviii]. In 1992, United States Department of Agriculture developed the Food Guide Pyramid. It was meant to illustrate a food guide that had been developed by the United States Department of Agriculture. It was intended to aid healthy Americans utilize the Dietary Guidelines when selecting foods. The Food Pyramid recommended 2 to 3 servings of milk and additional dairy products to be consumed on a daily basis[xxix].

The California Milk Processing Board was established in 1993 so that it could increase consumption of milk. Their first public achievement was the development of “Got Milk?” advert campaign. In 1995, the National Dairy Boards registered the slogan as a federal trademark. The campaign also went national. “Got milk?” campaign had spread over 90% nationally and it is regarded as one of the most victorious campaigns in milk history. In order to support the “Got Milk,” the dairy industry had to spend $150 million annually[xxx].

In 1993, the Food and Drug Administration permitted genetically engineered Artificial Bovine Growth Hormone for commercialization[xxxi]. Before the approval of the growth hormone, FDA advisory committee unanimously concluded that its use will not cause any harm to human health. The hormone was first marketed in February 1994.  Its approval drew sharp reactions to the country. For instance, the Pure Food Campaign staged protests in the country in which milk was spilled. This was a symbolic protest. Pure Food Campaign organizer Jeremy Rifkin stated that the safety of the hormone was hazardous to human’s health. In 1994, FDA recommended labeling instructions for milk produced from cows which had not been treated with the growth hormone[xxxii].

Fortification of milk entails the addition of Vitamins A, D, iron, and calcium using a peristaltic pump. Milk fortification started early this century. Vitamin D fortification of milk in United Kingdom is said to have started in 1923. In 1939, the U.S, the Food and Nutrition Council of American Medical Association set a limit not exceeding 400 IU of vitamin D per quart of milk[xxxiii].

e)      The 21st Century

In 2005 Physicians Group filed a law suit on behalf of Washington, DC residents demanding lactose intolerance warnings on milk[xxxiv]. The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) lawsuit helped to raise public awareness regarding lactose intolerance because consumers were likely to buy milk without knowing the grave digestive distress could cause. The suit called for milk cartons sold in D. C to contain labels showing the possible side effects of the milk.

In response to the 2005 complaint, which was raised by the PCRM, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) published a letter concerning the National Fluid Milk Processor Promotion Board adverts, which claimed that consuming milk aid in weight-loss[xxxv]. It stated that FTC had advised by USDA staff that the Fluid Milk Board, the Dairy Board along with other affiliated entities which engaged in advertising on behalf of the two boards have determined the best course of action at that was to stop all advertising along with other marketing activities related to weight loss claims until substantial research provides more conclusive evidence regarding weight loss and dairy consumption. This resulted in a lawsuit being filed by PCRM against various milk retail firms. This was aimed at preventing them from making weight-loss claims.

f)        Milk products

Yoghurt has been consumed since time immemorial. It is not clearly known how yogurt was discovered.  However, it is assumed that it was by accident, probably by the Messopotamians around 5000BC[xxxvi].During this period, herdsmen would milk sheep and goats and carry the milk in pouches that were made from an animal’s stomach. This stomachs had chymosin, a natural enzyme, capable of forming coagulum or gel when it is added to milk[xxxvii]. Considering the warm climate in this section of the world, storage condition at the moment along with the natural starter culture contained in milk resulted in formation yogurt or cheese. Fermentation most likely started within a few hours. Probably, these people observed that soured milk product tends to keep longer and they preferred the flavor of yogurt compared to that of fresh milk[xxxviii]. They also recognized health benefits of consuming yogurt and later some writers wrote about the significance of frequent consumption of yogurt because it results in longer and healthier life.

Cheese is a dairy product whose origin predates recorded history. However, there is no clear evidence which indicates where cheese-making first begun. Historical suggestions are that it either in Central Asia, Middle East, or Europe. Nonetheless, the practice had spread in Europe before Roman times. When the Roman Empire came into existence it had become a sophisticated business. Cheese-making is believed to have started between 8000 BCE to about 3000 BCE[xxxix]. Nomadic Turkic in Central Asia or Middle East may have been the first people to make cheese. Cheese making process is believed to have been invented accidentally by putting milk in a container which was made from an animal stomach. This resulted in milk turning to whey and curb by the rennet from stomach[xl].


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