Written by Samuel Phineas Upham
We have been harvesting cattle milk since the beginning of domesticated society. From the first crops planted, we’ve been milking any cattle that have wandered onto lands we farm. Anyone who has milked a cow knows that the milk is thick, and rich in fat.
We’ve also been skimming that fat from the milk we collect, using the fatty substance in all sorts of tasty treats. Traditionally, this leftover milk was regarded as “low,” or suitable only for peasants. Even in the late 19th century, we still find evidence of skepticism toward skim milk. It was viewed as devoid of taste, and laws were passed against so-called “whole milk.”
A document from 1869 calls skim milk “watery stuff [that] ceases to be legal tender.” The question seemed to lay in what the consumer bought. Those on the side of skim milk have always contended that the fat was a bi-product useful in other concoctions. Those against skim milk argued that the farmer was somehow shorting the customer by removing the fat from the milk and serving it any other way than how the cow gives it.
Skim milk played an important role throughout World War II. It came in two forms: liquid and dry. It was the first time in American history where the dairy industry and the government worked together to change people’s popular opinions on milk. Milk became a part of everything we did after the war. Middle-class house wives gave it to their children, and skim milk was marketed as a healthy substitute to the regular fatty variety.
Today, the debate is still on and the stakes haven’t changed much either.