I am currently reading a book in preparation for one of my exams entitled Nutrition Policy in Canada, 1870-1939 by Aleck Samuel Ostry. It was a decent read, only 125 pages!
One of the most interesting things that stuck out was the history of milk in Canada. Im going to do my best to summarise it here.
Milk – now a staple in many Canadian households, this white liquid gained popularity when many women began to step out from their homes to work in many of the industrial manufacturing jobs that boomed in the 19th century.
This was also a time when discoveries such as the value of vitamins and dietary standards were emerging. As with many of the modern day movements surrounding school food and concern over child obesity, particular attention was paid to children and infants (and their nourishment, especially birth weight). Attention to the ‘next generation’ was important in the early 1900s as it is now due to connection to the ‘future of the nation’ and the ‘health of a country’.
Milk emerged as a “protective” food as it contained many essential vitamins that were shown to maintain an acceptable birth weight – and for the many women who were unable to breastfeed their infants due to time constraints (such as working!), milk emerged as a cutting-edge alternative for breast milk. This new food also appealed to women as milk was seen as leading scientific discovery in regards to nutritional science.
In a short time, milk went from a highly adulterated and unclean product that was the culprit for numerous infant deaths and the 1927 thyphoid epidemic in Montreal pre-pasteurization to a wonderfully convenient and scientifically cutting edge food.
This boom for milk was also aided by marketing by the Department of Agriculture, following major changes pre-WWI and the War Measures Act from which a centralised food system emerged… please note that marketing has continued to play a MASSIVE role in food, and milk.. does ‘got milk’ ring any bells? I would have added a photo, but there were too many to choose from seeing as how every notable celebrity or athlete has appeared in this ad campaign..
Final thoughts: I love milk in my tea, but I don’t like being marketed to. I am actively trying to reduce my milk consumption for this reason. Also, we are the only species that drinks milk past infancy, and across species..