Updated: Jun 21, 2020
Milk is one of the most popular and important beverages on the planet. We drink it when we’re babies, and when we get older, we use it in everything from ice cream to coffee. In fact, we drink it so often that most people probably take it for granted. So let’s take a step back and give milk a fresh, new look because this white liquid is really, really weird.
Here’s an icky question. If you saw a cow eating another cow, would you drink its milk? The next time you go to the grocery store, you might want to mull that over for a bit because that milk you’re about to buy probably came from a cannibal.Dairy farmers need cheap ways to keep cows healthy, happy, and squirting out milk. To fill up those jugs, bovines need a lot of energy. That’s where rendered fat enters the equation. Rendering plants take dead animals and turn those corpses into tallow. Around half of that fat is added into animal feed. So when Bessie starts chowing on her daily dose of grain, she’s probably eating her cousin.This sounds like something out of a futuristic horror movie, but cow cannibalism isn’t really that big a deal. It is if you’re feeding them ground-up protein, which can cause mad cow disease, but rendered fat is totally fine. In fact, it’s a lot better than most vegetarian options. Tallow is easier on a cow’s digestive tract than foods like sunflower seeds, increases fertility, and helps cows take milk production up a notch. And if you were to replace animal fat with grain, you’d need three million acres of corn to make up the difference. That would surely affect grocery bills.So while cows eating cows is a pretty odd thought, perhaps we should just relax and enjoy a nice glass of cannibal milk.
Skim Milk And Creamy Fabric
Once upon a time, nobody drank skim milk. A byproduct of the butter-making process, skim milk was treated like garbage and dumped into rivers along with buttermilk and whey. In the 1920s, Wisconsin dairy plants were pouring over 18,000 kilograms (40,000 lb) of these untreated milk products into the state’s waterways annually, and things were getting smelly.Facing pressure to stop stinking up the countryside (and stop being wasteful to boot), dairy companies started coming up with new uses for skim milk. In the 1940s, they sold it dried to the Allies, and in the 1950s, companies claimed skim milk could help you lose weight. Suddenly, it was a supermarket staple. But perhaps the most interesting use for skim milk had to do with the protein casein.In the 1930s, scientists in Italy and America extracted casein from skim milk, turned it into fiber, and used it in all sorts of projects. Need to upholster car seats? Casein can do that. Want to make a fake fur hat? Casein to the rescue! In fact, people thought casein was going to be the next big thing in fashion, but interest in creamy clothing began to wane in the late 1940s.However, in the last few years, casein has become fashionable again thanks to German designer Anke Domaske. Founder of fashion label Mademoiselle Chi Chi, Domaske has taken skim milk clothing to the next level. In 2011, she invented a new fiber called QMilch, or QMilk. QMilch is far more eco-friendly than the casein products of the 1930s and ‘40s. It’s made of milk unfit for human consumption, and Domaske’s process excludes the dangerous chemicals normally associated with textile production.The casein is taken from dried milk, and then it’s set inside a machine that chops it. Next, it’s heated and then spun into thin yarn. Once the fiber is finished, it’s ready for Domaske to use in her new designs. And don’t worry. You can totally wash it, and it won’t go sour. It’s also easy on the skin, which is good news for people who are allergic to cotton.
Boys And Girls Get Different Milk
You’ve probably noticed by now, but men and women are different, biologically. Our bone structure is pretty distinct, the plumbing is all different, and unless gynecologists get their hands on some Arnold Schwarzenegger science, men won’t be giving birth anytime soon. And that’s not all. Women live longer than men, guys are better at handling sleep deprivation, and ladies are pretty amazing when it comes to spotting colors.We also get different milk as babies.In a study done on rhesus macaques, a mother’s milk changed depending on whether she gave birth to a male or female. If Momma Macaque had a boy, her milk would contain 35 percent more fat than if she’d had a girl, and it would be loaded down with proteins. That’s probably because young male monkeys are more active and need that extra energy. But if Momma Macaque had a daughter, her milk would be high in calcium to give that girl strong bones. In addition to the extra minerals, female monkeys drink higher quantities of milk than males, and over time, their fat intake eventually equals their brothers’. Animals besides macaques make different milk. Cows, gray seals, and red deer do it, too—and so do humans. Scientists from Michigan State University ran tests on 72 Kenyan women and found that they produce fattier milk for boys than for girls. Other differences are even weirder. For example, they found that poor mothers produce creamy milk for their girls, but well-to-do mothers from Massachusetts produce milk with more energy for boys. So not only is human milk different for boys and girls, it also seems to change based on social circumstances.While multiple theories explain why mothers produce different kinds of milk, scientists have yet to figure it all out. Many researchers think this discovery should influence the way companies produce milk formula for infants. Those early days of milk-drinking have a lasting effect on the way kids develop, and scientists suggest that businesses should adapt their products to suit different sexes.
Most People Can’t Digest Milk
Pour yourself a bowl of cereal, and take a couple of bites. If you can eat the whole thing without coming down with diarrhea, congratulations! You’re a mutant.While many of us take milk-drinking for granted, 60 percent of adults on Earth just can’t handle the white stuff. When most humans stop drinking their mother’s milk, they stop producing lactase, the enzyme that digests the key sugar in milk. Without a steady supply of lactase, you become lactose intolerant, and if you take a gulp of milk, you’ll end up with cramps, bloating, or nausea.The other 40 percent, many of whom come from Europe, Africa, and India, are genetic anomalies. Thanks to an ancient mutation, their bodies still produce lactase, and that’s why they can drink milk after babyhood. Scientists believe this milk mutation popped up around 10,000 B.C., near present-day Turkey.No one is sure why this milk-friendly gene showed up or how it spread so quickly through Europe. For a while, researchers thought ancient Europeans lacked sunlight and adapted new ways of processing vitamin D. Others think the gene showed up as a way of supplementing European diets, so people could drink milk when crops died. Others suggest it was a way of making women fatter and thus more fertile.Scientists have a better idea of how Africans developed their milk-drinking mutant powers. While only about 25 percent of people of African descent can digest lactose, scientists think this ability has to do with the problem of drinking water. Originally, African farmers had to drink out of ponds or rivers, and that was incredibly risky thanks to germs. So Africans eventually developed the ability to process milk and thus avoid horrible diseases.