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The History of the Dairy Industry

June 12th, 2012 Pets

In the present day, milk and other dairy products are commonplace in our food and in our beverages. It is unlikely to open up someone's refrigerator and not see the chilled beverage, whether it's in a full-gallon plastic container or a half-gallon cardboard carton. We are able to easily obtain dairy products due to the vast commercialization of the industry that has made production of milk efficient and plentiful. Milk's dominance in our lives has a long history that starts with our ancestors across the Atlantic.

According to a study conducted by the University College, London (UCL), the first humans to garner the ability to drink milk were a group of people who lived in between the central Balkans and central Europe. Originally, scientists believed that milk was necessary for survival for humans native to northern latitudes, but the UCL study contradicts that theory. The definite purpose that milk served in terms of survival remains to be explored.

Science Daily reports that there have been other studies that have uncovered evidence of ancient south eastern European civilizations using milk in their diets. In present day Romania and Hungary, there have been milk proteins uncovered in vessels built more than 7,000 years ago. The source goes on to report that the Romans utilized goat and sheep milk in making cheese, but the strongest evidence of where the idea to drink cattle milk was first born points to Northwestern European societies in areas such as Ireland and Scandinavia.

What is a common consensus though, is that milk did gain sway throughout Europe over the last several centuries. According to the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), it first arrived on American shores in the 17th century with the arrival of immigrants. Throughout the years, a variety of different cow breeds were brought to the United States, such as Durhams, Ayrshires, Guernseys, Jerseys and Brown Swiss. It wouldn't be until the 19th century that cattle would be bred specifically for milk production.

In America's early years, milk production was a family affair, and each homestead or house would fend for themselves. At the turn of the 20th century, people began to move from rural to urban areas, where there was no room or need for cattle. The USDA reports that this inspired new technological innovations for the production of milk, resulting in the birth of milk bottles, bottling machines, pasteurization equipment and refrigerated coolers.

The Mehring machine was also invented, which not only expedited the milking process, but helped produce a cleaner product.

As buying milk became a more valid option, milk companies would try to win the appeal of their clients through advertisements that boasted about the cleanliness of their product. This was achieved with the inception of pasteurization and tuberculin testing. Pasteurization is the practice of heating a liquid to destroy bacteria and other harmful micro-organisms. The process is named after its inventor, Louis Pasteur. Tuberculin testing, on the other hand shows if the milk has traces of bovine tuberculosis.

The USDA also played a pivotal role in dairy safety and its rising popularity throughout the 1900s. According to the USDA's official website, in 1906, the USDA amended the Meat Inspection Act of 1890 and Congress gave the organization the power to inspect the cleanliness of milk production facilities. They also implemented what they termed a "score card," which gauged the health and hygiene of each farm's herd.

The USDA goes on to report that milk enjoyed a further increase in popularity after World War I, when the organization's Dairy Division went on to conceive a marketing campaign in the form of educational videos.

Throughout the rest of the 20th century, dairy would be used in a variety of ways, from butter to ice cream through both the private and public sectors. Eventually, the dairy industry would grow and expand its health and safety regulations.