35 Things You Never Knew About Milk

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Fresh milk is a diet staple in many cultures worldwide. As a part of our daily routine, it's easy to take milk for granted and not give it much thought. Actually, milk is a pretty fascinating food after all.

The History Of Milk

Although cows first came to Plymouth Colony in 1624, people have been drinking milk a lot longer. Here are a few interesting facts about the history of milk:

  1. Historians estimate that people began drinking milk as much as 10,000 years ago.
  2. Milk drinking probably began in the regions where animals were first domesticated, most likely Iran and Afghanistan followed by Turkey and parts of Africa.
  3. In the late 1800s, milk pasteurization began, helping to ease a tuberculosis epidemic.
  4. Until 1884, when the milking machine was developed, farmers had to milk cows by hand and could only milk six of them per hour. Nowadays, milking machines allow farmers to milk over 100 cows per hour.
  5. In 1942, formal milk delivery to homes began in the U.S.
  6. Until plastic milk containers were invented in 1964, milk was delivered in glass bottles.

Milk Nutritional Facts

Because milk is designed to nourish a mother's baby and help that baby grow, it naturally contains a wide variety of nutrients. The following facts will give you a good picture of the nutrition you'll get in a single cup of milk:

  1. Milk has lots of calcium; a single cup has 30 percent of the calcium you need for the day. To get that same amount of calcium you'd need to eat either 12 servings of whole grains, six servings of legumes or 10 cups of raw spinach.
  2. That same cup of milk has 26 percent of your daily requirement for riboflavin, 25 percent of vitamin D and 22 percent of your daily vitamin B12.
  3. You'll also get 11 percent of your daily potassium requirement, and 10 percent of your vitamin A and niacin.
  4. 1 percent fat milk only has 100 calories per glass.
  5. Milk is a significant source of protein, with 16 percent of your daily protein requirement in a single cup.
  6. Drinking milk may help reduce your risk of bone loss, high blood pressure, diabetes and certain cancers.

Volumes of Milk!

Producing milk involves dealing with a whole lot of it. These next few facts will help you get a handle on the numbers:

  1. One cow can produce about 90 glasses of milk in a day. That adds up to 200,000 glasses of milk in her lifetime.
  2. To produce a gallon of milk, you'll need about 345 squirts from a cow's udder.
  3. A cow's udder can contain between 25 to 50 pounds of milk at a time.
  4. To make a pound of butter, you need 21 pounds of milk.
  5. For a pound of cream cheese, you need 10 pounds of milk.
  6. For one gallon of ice cream, you'll need 12 pounds of milk.

Surprising Milk Facts

Here are a number of interesting facts about milk that may surprise you:

  1. Milk is North Dakota's official state beverage.
  2. A milk cow drinks over 117 gallons of water per week.
  3. In many parts of the United States, milk costs more than gasoline.
  4. Milk is actually 85 to 95 percent water, with the rest of its volume coming from its nutritional content.
  5. No other drink in the world naturally contains as many nutrients as milk.
  6. The protein in milk is what makes it frothy.
  7. All cows are female; males of the species are called bulls.
  8. A dairy cow can't produce any milk unless she's had a calf.
  9. If you've eaten too much spicy food and your mouth is burning, nothing will cool your mouth better than milk and dairy.
  10. Background music helps most cows increase their milk production.

Not Just From Cows

Although dairy cows produce over 90 percent of our planet's milk supply, they're far from our only source of milk, which introduces even more fascinating milk facts:

  1. Goat's milk has more butter fat than cow's milk and various strains of goats produce milk with distinctly differing flavors.
  2. Early sailors took goats on their voyages to provide them with a source of fresh milk.
  3. Goat's milk is easier to digest than cow's milk. You can digest a glass of goat's milk in 20 minutes whereas a class of cow's milk takes a full hour to break down in digestion.
  4. Nomadic desert peoples depend on dromedary milk for survival. This milk doesn't curdle like cows milk and contains lots of insulin and antibodies for health.
  5. Camel's milk is also easier to digest than cow's milk, and is appropriate for people who are lactose intolerant.
  6. Other animals that produce milk humans can drink include yaks, sheep, water buffalo, reindeer, moose, horses and donkeys.
  7. Yak's milk is actually pink!

So next time you enjoy a cold glass of milk, remember that there's a lot more to it than you might have imagined. This delicious drink is packed with nutrition, history and lots of fun facts.

Last Updated: July 29, 2012
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About Roberta Pescow Roberta Pescow holds a bachelor's degree in communications from City University of New York, Queens College and is a freelance writer and editor in the NJ area. The author of "A Life In The Service" and "A Monster's Tears," she enjoys writing informative articles, personal essays, fiction and music.  Roberta is a proud mother of two. Her other interests include fitness, photography, sculpture and meditation. She is a voracious reader and holds a 2nd degree black belt in Tae Kwan Do. Roberta enjoys decorating her hectic, but happy home and garden in original and affordable ways.  

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