We cannot verify your location
Browse Book and Journal Content on Project MUSE
OR
title

Nature's Perfect Food

How Milk Became America's Drink

E. Dupuis

Publication Year: 2002

For over a century, America's nutrition authorities have heralded milk as "nature's perfect food," as "indispensable" and "the most complete food." These milk "boosters" have ranged from consumer activists, to government nutritionists, to the American Dairy Council and its ubiquitous milk moustache ads. The image of milk as wholesome and body-building has a long history, but is it accurate?

Recently, within the newest social movements around food, milk has lost favor. Vegan anti-milk rhetoric portrays the dairy industry as cruel to animals and milk as bad for humans. Recently, books with titles like, "Milk: The Deadly Poison," and "Don't Drink Your Milk" have portrayed milk as toxic and unhealthy. Controversies over genetically-engineered cows and questions about antibiotic residue have also prompted consumers to question whether the milk they drink each day is truly good for them.

In Nature's Perfect Food Melanie Dupuis illuminates these questions by telling the story of how Americans came to drink milk. We learn how cow's milk, which was associated with bacteria and disease became a staple of the American diet. Along the way we encounter 19th century evangelists who were convinced that cow's milk was the perfect food with divine properties, brewers whose tainted cow feed poisoned the milk supply, and informal wetnursing networks that were destroyed with the onset of urbanization and industrialization. Informative and entertaining, Nature's Perfect Food will be the standard work on the history of milk.

Published by: NYU Press

Cover

pdf iconDownload PDF (313.7 KB)
pp. vii-

Contents

pdf iconDownload PDF (25.4 KB)
pp. v-

read more

Acknowledgments

pdf iconDownload PDF (32.1 KB)
pp. vii-

A number of years ago, it became clear to me that I could spend the rest of my life writing this book. There remain many topics worth covering in more depth than I have in these pages. Milk, as many people who study it have told me, is a black hole that sucks you in and never let you escape. The real truth is that people who study milk never want to es-...

Part I Consumption

read more

1 Why Milk?

pdf iconDownload PDF (71.2 KB)
pp. 3-16

DO WE NEED to drink milk? Could we do without it? Should we? For over a century, American nutrition authorities have heralded milk as “nature’s perfect food,” as “indispensable,” as “the most complete food.” These milk boosters have ranged from consumer activists, to government nutritionists, to the American Dairy Council and its ubiq-...

read more

2 The Perfect Food Story

pdf iconDownload PDF (165.7 KB)
pp. 17-45

THE VAST MAJORITY of people in the United States today consider milk an indispensable food. For the average American family, a refrigerator without milk is a compelling reason to run right out to the store. Milk remains, despite concerns over fat and cholesterol, a daily centerpiece of American nutrition. The USDA’s food guide pyramid recommends...

read more

3 Why Not Mother? The Rise of Cow’s Milk as Infant Food in Nineteenth-Century America

pdf iconDownload PDF (96.0 KB)
pp. 46-66

GIVEN THE UNHEALTHINESS of the product in the mid-1800s, why did anyone at all, much less vulnerable infants and children, drink cow’s milk? Accounts that celebrate the perfection of “country” milk and the poisonous nature of swill milk tend to ignore another widely available and widely used source of pure milk at that time: the human...

read more

4 The Milk Question: Perfecting Food as Urban Reform

pdf iconDownload PDF (440.1 KB)
pp. 67-89

AFTER HARTLEY’S ESSAY, it took four more decades for New York City to develop a country milk system. Even with the opening of new rail lines, 70 percent of New York City’s milk continued to be from swill barns into the 1850s. State and municipal legislation in the 1860s and 1870s sought to prohibit milk adulteration and swill milk production,...

read more

5 Perfect Food, Perfect Bodies

pdf iconDownload PDF (483.8 KB)
pp. 90-123

IN THE 1880 s , a pictured advertisement began to appear in women’s magazines (fig. 5.1). It was one of the first magazine advertisements to include an image of any sort. The ad shows a small nest of baby birds being fed by their mother. Under the heading “Nestle’s Food” came a number of testimonials and citations from medical books celebrating...

Part II Production

read more

6 Perfect Farming: The Industrial Vision of Dairying

pdf iconDownload PDF (263.7 KB)
pp. 125-143

IN 1903 THE Rockefeller Foundation carried out a study of dairy sanitation with the New York City Department of Health. The result was a book called Clean Milk.1 This book laid out a system for the production of milk free of harmful bacterial contamination. The illustrated frontispiece foretold the nature of the system described within. The picture...

read more

7 The Less Perfect Story: Diversity and Farming Strategies

pdf iconDownload PDF (105.3 KB)
pp. 144-164

LOOKING AT CONSUMPTION, part 1 has shown that milk drinking is as much a product of cultural ideas as it is of material needs. It became the perfect food for the creation of perfect bodies. By questioning the idea of perfection, especially the representation of certain forms of food and certain bodies as perfect—that is, universal and complete—we...

read more

8 Crisis: The “Border-Line” Problem

pdf iconDownload PDF (123.8 KB)
pp. 165-182

ON A JULY MORNING in 1939, a crowd of dairy farmers gathered near the gate of the Sheffield Farms plant in Heuvelton, New York, at that time the largest milk receiving plant in the world.1 As members of the Dairy Farmers Union, these farmers had voted the night before not to deliver their milk to the plant. They formed a picket line at the plant...

read more

9 Alternative Visions of Dairying: Productivism and Producerism in New York, Wisconsin, and California

pdf iconDownload PDF (186.1 KB)
pp. 183-209

THE “SOCIAL” IN the social embeddedness of markets becomes particularly clear if we focus on the setting of market boundaries—in particular how certain participants are included or excluded from “entry” into particular markets. Comparing New York’s milkshed governance to a very different form of boundary politics in Wisconsin and California...

read more

10 The End of Perfection

pdf iconDownload PDF (175.2 KB)
pp. 210-240

AMERICANS LIVE IN a world filled with milk. Producing 153 billion pounds a year, the United States is “the largest milk-producing country on the planet.”1 Many of our most popular entertainment, sports, and political figures have appeared wearing the telling milk mustache. Milk...

read more

Afterword

pdf iconDownload PDF (32.1 KB)
pp. 241-243

AMERICANS LIVE IN a world filled with milk. Producing 153 billion pounds a year, the United States is “the largest milk-producing country on the planet.”1 Many of our most popular entertainment, sports, and political figures have appeared wearing the telling milk mustache. Milk...

Notes

pdf iconDownload PDF (106.4 KB)
pp. 244-270

Bibliography

pdf iconDownload PDF (116.5 KB)
pp. 271-296

Index

pdf iconDownload PDF (78.0 KB)
pp. 297-309

read more

About the Author

pdf iconDownload PDF (33.4 KB)
pp. 310-

E. MELANIE DUPUIS is an assistant professor in the Department ofSociology at the University of California, Santa Cruz. Previously, sheworked as a policy analyst for the state of New York. She is the coedi-tor of Creating the Countryside: The Politics of Rural and Environmental...


E-ISBN-13: 9780814785423
E-ISBN-10: 0814785425
Print-ISBN-13: 9780814719374
Print-ISBN-10: 0814719376

Page Count: 320
Publication Year: 2002

Recommend

UPCC logo

Subject Headings

  • Food habits -- United States -- History.
  • Dairy industry -- United States -- History.
  • Milk -- Social aspects.
  • Milk -- History.
  • You have access to this content
  • Free sample
  • Open Access
  • Restricted Access