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March 26, 2016
Table of Contents

1 Introduction
18 Notes



Milk is a translucent white liquid produced by the mammary glands of mammals. It provides the primary source of nutrition for young mammals before they are able to digest other types of food. The early lactation milk is known as colostrum, and carries the mother's antibodies to the baby. It can reduce the risk of many diseases in the baby. The exact components of raw milk vary by species, but it contains significant amounts of saturated fat, protein and calcium as well as vitamin C. Cow's milk has a pH ranging from 6.4 to 6.8, making it slightly acidic.

There are two distinct types of milk consumption: a natural source of nutrition for all infant mammals and a food product for humans of all ages that is derived from other animals.

Nutrition for infant mammals

In almost all mammals, milk is fed to infants through breastfeeding, either directly or by expressing the milk to be stored and consumed later. Some cultures, historically or currently, continue to use breast milk to feed their children until they are seven years old.

Human infants sometimes are fed fresh goat milk. There are known risks in this practice, including those of developing electrolyte imbalances, metabolic acidosis, megaloblastic anemia, and a host of allergic reactions.

Food product for humans

In many cultures of the world, especially the Western world, humans continue to consume milk beyond infancy, using the milk of other animals (especially cattle, goats and sheep) as a food product. For millennia, cow's milk has been processed into dairy products such as cream, butter, yogurt, kefir, ice cream, and especially the more durable and easily transportable product, cheese. Modern industrial processes produce casein, whey protein, lactose, condensed milk, powdered milk, and many other food-additive and industrial products.

Humans are an exception in the natural world for consuming milk past infancy, despite the fact that many humans show some degree (some as little as 5%) of lactose intolerance, a characteristic that is more prevalent among individuals of African or Asian descent. On the other hand, those groups who do continue to tolerate milk often have exercised great creativity in using the milk of domesticated ungulates, not only of cattle, but also sheep, goats, yaks, water buffalo, horses, and camels. The largest producer and consumer of cattle and buffalo milk in the world is India.
Top ten per capita cow's milk and cow's milk products consumers in 2006
! Milk (liters) !! Cheese (kg) !! Butter (kg)
183.9 19.1 5.3
145.5 18.5 1.0
129.8 10.5 2.9
122.9 20.4 3.3
116.7 16.0 4.3
119.1 9.6 1.0
112.5 22.2 5.6
111.2 12.2 3.7
106.3 11.7 3.7
94.7 12.2 3.3

The term milk is also used for white colored, non-animal beverages resembling milk in color and texture such as soy milk, rice milk, almond milk, and coconut milk. Even a substance regurgitated by pigeons to feed their young is called crop milk, though it bears little resemblance to mammalian milk.

The mammary gland is thought to have been derived from apocrine skin glands. It has been suggested that the original function of lactation (milk production) was keeping eggs moist. Much of the argument is based on monotremes (egg-laying mammals): The original adaptive significance of milk secretions may have been nutrition or immunological protection. This secretion gradually became more copious and accrued nutritional complexity over evolutionary time.

Animal milk is known to have been used first as human food during the Secondary Products Revolution, around 5,000 BC. It is presumed that when animals such as cattle were first domesticated, it was only for purposes of meat. Dairy products obtained from the animals proved to be a more efficient way of turning uncultivated grasslands into sustenance: the food value of an animal killed for meat can be matched by perhaps one year's worth of milk from the same animal, which will keep producing milk???in convenient daily portions???for years.

Milk byproducts found inside stone age pottery from Turkey indicate processed milk was consumed in 6,500 BC, some thousands of years before it is thought that adult humans had evolved the ability to digest raw milk.

DNA evidence extracted from Neolithic skeletons indicates that in 5,500 BC, people in Northern Europe, as all other peoples of the time, were still lactose intolerant . Earthenware vessels found in England and dated to 4,500 BC contain milk byproducts, indicating milk was used in some form, although perhaps not drunk directly.

In 1863, French chemist and biologist Louis Pasteur invented pasteurization, a method of killing harmful bacteria in beverages and food products.

In 1884, Doctor Hervey Thatcher, an American inventor from New York, invented the first glass milk bottle, called 'Thatcher's Common Sense Milk Jar', which was sealed with a waxed paper disk.

The town of Harvard, Illinois celebrates milk with a summer festival known as "Milk Days". Theirs is a different tradition meant to celebrate dairy farmers in the "Milk Capital of the World."

In addition to cattle, the following livestock animals provide milk used by humans for dairy products:

  • Camel

  • Donkey

  • Goat

  • Horse

  • Reindeer

  • Sheep

  • Water buffalo

  • Yak

In Russia and Sweden, small moose dairies also exist.

According to the National Bison Association, American bison (also called American buffalo) are not milked commercially, however, various sources report cows resulting from cross-breeding bison and domestic cattle are good milk producers, and have been used both during the European settlement of North America and during the development of commercial Beefalo in the 1970s and 1980s.

Human milk is not produced or distributed industrially or commercially, however, milk banks exist that allow for the collection of donated human milk and its redistribution to infants who may benefit from human milk for various reasons (premature neonates, babies with allergies, metabolic diseases , etc.).

All other female mammals do produce milk, but it rarely or never is used to produce dairy products for human consumption.

In the Western world today, cow's milk is produced on an industrial scale and is by far the most commonly consumed form of milk. Commercial dairy farming using automated milking equipment produces the vast majority of milk in developed countries . Dairy cattle such as the Holstein have been bred selectively for increased milk production. About 90% of the dairy cows in the United States and 85% in Great Britain are Holsteins. Other dairy cows in the United States include Ayrshire , Brown Swiss, Guernsey , Jersey , and Milking Shorthorn (Dairy Shorthorn).

The largest producers of dairy products and milk today are India followed by the United States, Germany, and Pakistan.

Increasing affluence in developing countries, as well as increased promotion of milk and milk products, has led to a rise in milk consumption in developing countries in recent years. In turn, the opportunities presented by these growing markets have attracted investment by multinational dairy firms. Nevertheless, in many countries production remains on a small scale and presents significant opportunities for diversification of income sources by small farmers. Local milk collection centers, where milk is collected and chilled prior to being transferred to urban dairies, are a good example of where farmers have been able to work on a cooperative basis, particularly in countries such as India.

The table below shows the numbers for water buffalo milk production. Cattle milk is produced in a much wider range.
Top ten buffalo milk producers in 2007
CountryProduction (tonnes)Note
align=right |59,210,000 align=centerUnofficial/Semi-official/mirror data
align=right |20,372,000 align=centerofficial figure
align=right 2,900,000style="text-align:center;" rowspan="2"|FAO estimate
align=right 2,300,000
align=right 958,603 align=centerofficial figure
align=right 241,500align=centerFAO estimate
align=right 220,462 align=center official figure
align=right 200,000style="text-align:center;" rowspan="2"|FAO estimate
align=right 32,000
align=right 30,375 align=center official figure
|World style="text-align:right;"86,574,539 style="text-align:center;"Aggregate

United States

In the United States, there are two grades of milk, with Grade A primarily used for direct sales and consumption in stores, and Grade B used for indirect consumption, such as in cheese making or other processing.

The differences between the two grades are defined in the Wisconsin administrative code for Agriculture, Trade, and Consumer Protection, chapter 60. Grade B generally refers to milk that is cooled in milk cans, which are immersed in a bath of cold flowing water, that typically is drawn up from an underground water well rather than using mechanical refrigeration.

  • Grade A farms are inspected every six months, while Grade B farms are inspected every two years {WI-ATCP 60.24.2}

  • Both types of farms are required to have two cleaning vats in the milk house for washing and rinsing of equipment {WI-ATCP 60.07.2(g)}. A farm also must have an additional separate sink and faucet provided for hand washing {WI-ATCP 60.07.2(h)}, unless the bulk tank was installed before Jan 1, 1979 or the farm uses milk cans.

  • Grade A milk stored in a bulk tank is cooled to 45 degrees F within two hours of milking. Grade A milk in a tank may only rise to 50 F if milk from additional milking sessions is added to the tank (potentially requiring a plate cooler to reduce the temperature of a large volume influx quickly enough) and must be cooled back to 45 F within two hours. {WI-ATCP 60.2.4(b)}

  • Grade B milk in milk cans is cooled to 50 degrees F within two hours of milking. Grade B farms cannot mix milk into cans from previous milking. {WI-ATCP 60.2.4(c)}

  • The somatic cell count (SCC) of Grade A or B cow or sheep milk may not exceed 750,000 cells per mL, and the SCC of Grade A or B goat milk may not exceed 1,000,000 cells per mL. {WI-ATCP 60.15.4}

  • The bacterial plate or loop count of Grade A milk may not exceed 100,000 per mL, while Grade B milk may not exceed 300,000 per mL. {WI-ATCP 60.15.2}

  • A bacterial plate count test is required at least once a month. {WI-ATCP 60.18.3} If the bacterial count exceeds 100,000 per mL for Grade A or 300,000 per mL for grade B in 3 out of 5 tests, the license to sell milk is suspended. The license will be revoked immediately if the bacterial count ever exceeds 750,000 per mL. {WI-ATCP 60.18.6}

It was reported in 2007 that with increased worldwide prosperity and the competition of bio-fuel production for feed stocks, both the demand for and the price of milk had substantially increased world wide. Particularly notable was the rapid increase of consumption of milk in China and the rise of the price of milk in the United States above the government subsidized price.

United States

In 2010 the Department of Agriculture predicted farmers would receive an average of $1.35 per US gallon of cow's milk (35 cents per liter), which is down 30 cents per gallon from 2007 and below the break even point for many cattle farmers.

Milk is an emulsion or colloid of butterfat globules within a water-based fluid.


Each fat globule is surrounded by a membrane consisting of phospholipids and proteins; these emulsifiers keep the individual globules from joining together into noticeable grains of butterfat and also protect the globules from the fat-digesting activity of enzymes found in the fluid portion of the milk. In unhomogenized cow's milk, the fat globules average about four micrometer s across. The fat-soluble vitamins A , D , E , and K are found within the milk fat portion of the milk.

Other proteins

The largest structures in the fluid portion of the milk are casein protein micelles: aggregates of several thousand protein molecules, bonded with the help of nanometer-scale particles of calcium phosphate. Each micelle is roughly spherical and about a tenth of a micrometer across. There are four different types of casein proteins, and collectively they make up around 80 percent of the protein in milk, by weight. Most of the casein proteins are bound into the micelles. There are several competing theories regarding the precise structure of the micelles, but they share one important feature: the outermost layer consists of strands of one type of protein, k-casein, reaching out from the body of the micelle into the surrounding fluid. These kappa-casein molecules all have a negative electrical charge and therefore repel each other, keeping the micelles separated under normal conditions and in a stable colloidal suspension in the water-based surrounding fluid.

Milk contains dozens of other types of proteins beside the caseins. They are more water-soluble than the caseins and do not form larger structures. Because these proteins remain suspended in the whey left behind when the caseins coagulate into curds, they are collectively known as whey proteins . Whey proteins make up approximately twenty percent of the protein in milk, by weight. Lactoglobulin is the most common whey protein by a large margin.


The carbohydrate lactose gives milk its sweet taste and contributes approximately 40% of whole cow's milk's calories. Lactose is a disaccharide composite of two simple sugars , glucose and galactose. In nature, lactose is found only in milk and a small number of plants. Other components found in raw cow's milk are living white blood cells, mammary gland cells, various bacteria, and a large number of active enzymes.


Both the fat globules and the smaller casein micelles, which are just large enough to deflect light, contribute to the opaque white color of milk. The fat globules contain some yellow-orange carotene, enough in some breeds (such as Guernsey and Jersey cattle) to impart a golden or "creamy" hue to a glass of milk. The riboflavin in the whey portion of milk has a greenish color, which sometimes can be discerned in skimmed milk or whey products. Fat-free skimmed milk has only the casein micelles to scatter light, and they tend to scatter shorter-wavelength blue light more than they do red, giving skimmed milk a bluish tint.

In most Western countries, centralized dairy facilities process milk and products obtained from milk ( dairy products), such as cream, butter, and cheese. In the U.S. , these dairies usually are local companies, while in the Southern Hemisphere facilities may be run by very large nationwide or trans-national corporations (such as Fonterra).


Pasteurization is used to kill harmful microorganisms by heating the milk for a short time and then cooling it for storage and transportation. Pasteurized milk still is perishable, however, and must be stored cold by both suppliers and consumers. Dairies print expiration date s on each container, after which stores will remove any unsold milk from their shelves. The process destroys the vitamin C content of the raw milk.

A newer process, ultra pasteurization or ultra-high temperature treatment ( UHT ), heats the milk to a higher temperature for a shorter amount of time. This extends its shelf life and allows the milk to be stored unrefrigerated because of the longer lasting sterilization effect, but it affects the taste adversely.


Microfiltration is a process that partially replaces pasteurization and produces milk with fewer microorganisms and longer shelf life without a change in the taste of the milk. In this process, cream is separated from the whey and is pasteurized in the usual way, but the whey is forced through ceramic microfilters that trap 99.9% of microorganisms in the milk (as compared to 95% killing of microorganisms in conventional pasteurization). The whey then is recombined with the pasteurized cream to reconstitute the original milk composition.

Creaming and homogenization

Upon standing for 12 to 24 hours, fresh milk has a tendency to separate into a high-fat cream layer on top of a larger, low-fat milk layer. The cream often is sold as a separate product with its own uses; today the separation of the cream from the milk usually is accomplished rapidly in centrifugal cream separators. The fat globules rise to the top of a container of milk because fat is less dense than water. The smaller the globules, the more other molecular-level forces prevent this from happening. In fact, the cream rises in cow's milk much more quickly than a simple model would predict: rather than isolated globules, the fat in the milk tends to form into clusters containing about a million globules, held together by a number of minor whey proteins. These clusters rise faster than individual globules can. The fat globules in milk from goats, sheep, and water buffalo do not form clusters so readily and are smaller to begin with; cream is very slow to separate from these milks.

Milk often is homogenized , a treatment which prevents a cream layer from separating out of the milk. The milk is pumped at high pressures through very narrow tubes, breaking up the fat globules through turbulence and cavitation. A greater number of smaller particles possess more total surface area than a smaller number of larger ones, and the original fat globule membranes cannot completely cover them. Casein micelles are attracted to the newly exposed fat surfaces; nearly one-third of the micelles in the milk end up participating in this new membrane structure. The casein weighs down the globules and interferes with the clustering that accelerated separation. The exposed fat globules are vulnerable to certain enzymes present in milk, which could break down the fats and produce rancid flavors. To prevent this, the enzymes are inactivated by pasteurizing the milk immediately before or during homogenization.

Homogenized milk tastes blander, but feels creamier in the mouth than unhomogenized; it is whiter and more resistant to developing off flavors. Creamline (or cream-top) milk is unhomogenized; it may or may not have been pasteurized. Milk which has undergone high-pressure homogenization, sometimes labeled as "ultra-homogenized," has a longer shelf life than milk which has undergone ordinary homogenization at lower pressures. Homogenized milk may be more digestible than unhomogenized milk.

Kurt A. Oster, M.D., who worked during the 1960s through the 1980s, suggested a link between homogenized milk and arterosclerosis, due to damage to plasmalogen resulting from the release of bovine xanthine oxidase (BXO) from the milk fat globular membrane (MFGM) during homogenization. Oster's hypothesis has been widely criticized, however, and has not been generally accepted by the scientific community. No link has been found between arterosclerosis and milk consumption.

The composition of milk differs widely among species. Factors such as the type of protein; the proportion of protein, fat, and sugar; the levels of various vitamins and minerals; and the size of the butterfat globule s, and the strength of the curd are among those than may vary. For example:

  • Human milk contains, on average, 1.1% protein, 4.2% fat, 7.0% lactose (a sugar), and supplies 72 kcal of energy per 100 grams.

  • Cow milk contains, on average, 3.4% protein, 3.6% fat, and 4.6% lactose, 0.7% minerals and supplies 66 kcal of energy per 100 grams. See also Nutritional value further on.

Donkey and horse milk have the lowest fat content, while the milk of seal s and whales may contain more than 50% fat. High fat content is not unique to aquatic mammals. Guinea pig milk has an average fat content of 46%.
Milk composition analysis, per 100 grams
Constituents unit Cow Goat Sheep Water Buffalo|Water
Sugars (lactose)g4.
Saturated fatty acidsg2.
Monounsaturated fatty acidsg1.
Polyunsaturated fatty acidsg0.

Cow's milk

These compositions vary by breed, animal, and point in the lactation period.
Milk fat percentages
Cow breedApproximate percentage
Jersey cattle|Jersey5.2
Brown Swiss4.0
Holstein cattle|Holstein-Friesian3.6

The protein range for these four breeds is 3.3% to 3.9%, while the lactose range is 4.7% to 4.9%.

Milk fat percentages may be manipulated by dairy farmers' stock diet formulation strategies. Mastitis infection can cause fat levels to decline.

Nutritional value


Processed cow's milk was formulated to contain differing amounts of fat during the 1950s. One cup (250 ml) of 2%-fat cow's milk contains 285 mg of calcium, which represents 22% to 29% of the daily recommended intake (DRI) of calcium for an adult. Depending on the age, milk contains 8  grams of protein, and a number of other nutrients (either naturally or through fortification ) including:

  • Biotin

  • Pantothenic acid

  • Iodine

  • Potassium

  • Magnesium

  • Selenium

  • Thiamine

  • Vitamin A

  • Vitamin B12

  • Riboflavin

  • Vitamins D

  • Vitamin K

The amount of calcium from milk that is absorbed by the human body is disputed. Calcium from dairy products has a greater bioavailability than calcium from certain vegetables, such as spinach, that contain high levels of calcium- chelating agents, but a similar or lesser bioavailability than calcium from low-oxalate vegetables such as kale, broccoli, or other vegetables in the Brassica genus.

Medical research

Studies show possible links between low-fat milk consumption and reduced risk of arterial hypertension, coronary heart disease, colorectal cancer, and obesity. Overweight individuals who drink milk may benefit from decreased risk of insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes . One study has shown that for women desiring to have a child, those who consume full fat dairy products may slightly increase their fertility, while those consuming low fat dairy products may slightly reduce their fertility. Milk is a source of conjugated linoleic acid.

Milk appears to be effective at promoting muscle growth.

Lactose intolerance

Lactose, the disaccharide sugar component of all milk must be cleaved in the small intestine by the enzyme lactase in order for its constituents, galactose and glucose, to be absorbed. The production of this enzyme declines significantly after weaning in all mammals. Consequently, many humans become unable to digest lactose properly as they mature. There is a great deal of variance, with some individuals reacting badly to even small amounts of lactose, some able to consume moderate quantities, and some able to consume large quantities of milk and other dairy products without problems. When an individual consumes milk without producing sufficient lactase, they may suffer diarrhea, intestinal gas , cramps and bloating, as the undigested lactose travels through the gastrointestinal tract and serves as nourishment for intestinal microflora who excrete gas, a process known as anaerobic respiration.

It is estimated that 30 to 50 million Americans are lactose intolerant, including 75 percent of Native Americans and African Americans, and 90 percent of Asian Americans. Lactose intolerance is less common among those descended from northern Europeans.

Lactose intolerance is a natural process and there is no reliable way to prevent or reverse it.

Other studies suggest that milk consumption may increase the risk of suffering from certain health problems. Cow milk allergy (CMA) is as an immunologically mediated adverse reaction to one or more cow's milk proteins. Rarely is it severe enough to cause death.

Milk contains casein, a substance that breaks down in the human stomach to produce casomorphin, an opioid peptide. In the early 1990s it was hypothesized that casomorphin can cause or aggravate autism, and casein-free diets are widely promoted. Studies supporting these claims have had significant flaws, and the data are inadequate to guide autism treatment recommendations.

A study demonstrated that men who drink a large amount of milk and consume dairy products were at a slightly increased risk of developing Parkinson's disease; the effect for women was smaller. The reason behind this is not fully understood, and it also remains unclear why there is less of a risk for women. Several sources suggest a correlation between high calcium intake (2000 mg per day, or twice the U.S. recommended daily allowance, equivalent to six or more glasses of milk per day) and prostate cancer. A large study specifically implicates dairy, i.e., low-fat milk and other dairy to which vitamin A palmitate has been added.

A review published by the World Cancer Research Fund and the American Institute for Cancer Research states that at least eleven human population studies have linked excessive dairy product consumption and prostate cancer. T. Colin Campbell claims in his book The China Study that he observed a correlation between powdered, isolated casein administered to rats and the promotion of cancer cell growth when they were exposed to carcinogens, however, other studies have shown whey protein offers a protective effect against colon cancer.

Medical studies also have shown a possible link between milk consumption and the exacerbation of diseases such as Crohn's disease, Hirschsprung's disease???mimicking symptoms in babies with existing cow's milk allergies, and the aggravation of Beh??et's disease.

Bovine growth hormone supplementation

Since November 1993, with FDA approval, Monsanto has been selling recombinant bovine somatotropin (rbST) , also called rBGH, to dairy farmers. Cows produce bovine growth hormone naturally, but some producers administer an additional recombinant version of BGH which is produced through a genetically engineered E. coli because it increases milk production. Bovine growth horome also stimulates liver production of insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF1) . If rbST-treated cows produced milk with higher levels of IGF1 this would be of medical concern, because IGF1 stimulates cancer growth in humans. Elevated levels of IGF1 in human blood has been linked to increased rates of breast, colon, and prostate cancer. Monsanto has stated that both of these compounds are harmless given the levels found in milk and the effects of pasteurization,

however, Monsanto's own tests, conducted in 1987, demonstrated that statistically significant growth stimulating effects were induced in organs of adult rats by feeding IGF-1 at low dose levels for only two weeks. "Drinking rBGH milk would thus be expected to significantly increase IGF-1 blood levels and consequently to increase risks of developing breast cancer and promoting its invasiveness."

On June 9, 2006, the largest milk processor in the world and the two largest supermarkets in the United States-- Dean Foods, Wal-Mart, and Kroger--announced that they are "on a nationwide search for rBGH-free milk." Milk from cows given rBST may be sold in the United States, and the FDA stated that no significant difference has been shown between milk derived from rBST-treated and that from non-rBST-treated cows. Milk that advertises that it comes from cows not treated with rBST, is required to state this finding on its label.

Cows receiving rBGH supplements may more frequently contract an udder infection known as mastitis. Problems with mastitis have led to Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and Japan banning milk from rBST treated cows. Mastitis, among other diseases, may be responsible for the fact that levels of white blood cells in milk vary naturally.

In the European Union rBGH is banned.

Ethical concerns

Vegans and some other vegetarians do not consume milk for a variety of reasons. They may object to features of dairy farming including the necessity of killing almost all the male offspring of dairy cows (either by disposal soon after birth, for veal production, or for beef), the routine separation of mother and calf soon after birth, other perceived inhumane treatment of dairy cattle, and culling of cows after their productive lives.

US School Milk Bans

According to an article in the New York Times, milk must be offered at every meal if a school district wishes to get reimbursement from the federal government. A quarter of the nation's largest school districts offer rice or soy milk and almost 17 percent of all school districts offer lactose-free milk. Seventy-one percent of the milk served nationwide is flavored, causing some school districts to propose a ban because flavored milk has added sugars. A school in Boulder banned flavored milk last year and instead installed a dispenser that keeps the milk colder.


Milk products are sold in a number of varieties based on types/degrees of

  • age (e.g., cheddar),

  • additives (e.g., vitamins),

  • coagulation (e.g., cottage cheese),

  • farming method (e.g., organic, grass-fed).

  • fat content (e.g., half and half),

  • fermentation (e.g., buttermilk),

  • flavoring (e.g., chocolate),

  • pasteurization (e.g., raw milk),

  • homogenization (e.g., cream top),

  • mammal (e.g., cow, goat, sheep),

  • packaging (e.g., bottle),

  • water content (e.g., dry milk),

Milk preserved by the UHT process does not need to be refrigerated before opening and has a longer shelf life than milk in ordinary packaging. It is typically sold unrefrigerated in Europe, Latin America, and Australia.

Additives and flavoring

In areas where the cattle (and often the people) live indoors, commercially sold milk commonly has vitamin D added to it to make up for lack of exposure to UVB radiation.

Reduced fat milks often have added vitamin A palmitate to compensate for the loss of the vitamin during fat removal; in the United States this results in reduced fat milks having a higher vitamin A content than whole milk.

To aid digestion in those with lactose intolerance, milk with added bacterial cultures such as Lactobacillus acidophilus ("acidophilus milk") and bifidobacteria (" a/B milk") is available in some areas. Another milk with Lactococcus lactis bacteria cultures (" cultured buttermilk ") often is used in cooking to replace the traditional use of naturally soured milk, which has become rare due to the ubiquity of pasteurization, which also kills the naturally occurring lactococcus bacteria.

Milk often has flavoring added to it for better taste or as a means of improving sales. Chocolate milk has been sold for many years and has been followed more recently by strawberry milk and others. Some nutritionists have criticized flavored milk for adding sugar, usually in the form of high fructose corn syrup, to the diets of children who are already commonly obese in the US.


Due to the short shelf-life of normal milk, it used to be delivered to households daily in many countries. However, improved refrigeration at home, changing food shopping patterns because of supermarkets, and the higher cost of home delivery, means that daily deliveries by a milkman is no longer available in most countries.

United Kingdom

Since the late 1990s, milk buying patterns have changed drastically in the UK . The classic milkman, who travels his local milk round (route) using a milk float (often battery powered) during the early hours and delivers milk in 1 pint glass bottles with aluminium foil tops directly to households, has almost disappeared.

The main reasons for the decline of UK home deliveries by milkmen are household refrigerators (which lessen the need for daily milk deliveries) and private car usage (which has increased supermarket shopping). In 1996, more than 2.5 billion liters of milk were still being delivered by milkmen, but by 2006 only 637 million liters (13% of milk consumed) was delivered by some 9,500 milkmen. By 2010, the estimated number of milkmen had dropped to 6,000. Assuming that delivery per milkman is the same as it was in 2006, this means milkmen deliveries now only account for 6-7% of all milk consumed by UK households (6.7 billion liters in 2008/2009).

Almost 95% of all milk in the UK is thus sold in shops today, most of it in plastic bottles of various sizes, but some also in milk cartons. Milk is hardly ever sold in glass bottles in UK shops.

Australia and New Zealand

In Australia and New Zealand, prior to "metrification", milk was generally distributed in 1 pint (568ml) glass bottles. In Australia and in Ireland there was a government funded "free milk for school children" program, and milk was distributed at morning recess in 1/3 pint bottles. With the conversion to metric measures, the milk industry were concerned that the replacement of the pint bottles with 500ml bottles would result in a 13.6% drop in milk consumption. Hence, all pint bottles were recalled and replaced by 600ml bottles. With time, due to the steadily increasing cost of collecting, transporting, storing and cleaning glass bottles, they were replaced by cardboard cartons. A number of designs were used, including a tetrahedron which could be close-packed without waste space, and could not be knocked over accidentally. (slogan: No more crying over spilt milk.) However, the industry eventually settled on a design similar to that used in the United States. Milk is now available in a variety of sizes in cardboard cartons (250 mL, 375 mL, 600 mL, 1 liter and 1.5 liters) and plastic bottles (1, 2 and 3 liters). A significant addition to the marketplace has been "long life" milk ( UHT), generally available in 1 and 2 liter rectangular cardboard cartons. In urban and suburban areas where there is sufficient demand, home delivery is still available, though in suburban areas this is often 3 times per week rather than daily. Another significant and popular addition to the marketplace has been flavoured milks - for example, as mentioned above, Farmers Union Iced Coffee outsells Coca-Cola in South Australia.


In rural India milk is delivered daily by a local milkman carrying bulk quantities in a metal container, usually on a bicycle; and in other parts of metropolitan India, milk is usually bought or delivered in a plastic bags or cartons via shops or supermarkets.

United States

In the United States, glass milk bottles have been replaced mostly with milk cartons and plastic jugs. Gallons of milk are almost always sold in jugs, while half-gallons and quarts may be found in both paper cartons and plastic jugs, and smaller sizes are almost always in cartons. Recently, milk has been sold in smaller resealable bottles made to fit in automobile cup holders.

The milk carton is the traditional unit as a component of school lunches, though some companies have replaced that unit size with a plastic bottle, which is also available at retail in 6 and 12-pack size. Ultrapasturized milk which doesn't need refrigeration or in containers which can hold the cold for as long as eight hours at room temperature are available.


In Pakistan, milk is supplied in jugs. Milk has been a staple food, especially among the pastoral tribes in this country.


Glass milk bottles are now rare. Most people purchase milk in bags, plastic bottles, or plastic-coated paper cartons. Ultraviolet (UV) light from fluorescent lighting can alter the flavor of milk, so many companies that once distributed milk in transparent or highly translucent containers are now using thicker materials that block the UV light.

Milk comes in a variety of containers with local variants:

  • Australia and New Zealand

Distributed in a variety of sizes, most commonly in aseptic cartons for up to 1.5 liters, and plastic screw-top bottles beyond that with the following volumes; 1.1 L, 2 L, and 3 L. 1 liter milk bags are starting to appear in supermarkets, but have not yet proved popular. Most UHT-milk is packed in 1 or 2 liter paper containers with a sealed plastic spout.

  • Brazil

Used to be sold in cooled 1 liter bags, just like in South Africa. Today the most common form is 1 liter aseptic cartons containing UHT skimmed, semi-skimmed or whole milk, although the plastic bags are still in use for pasteurized milk. Higher grades of pasteurized milk can be found in cartons or plastic bottles. Sizes other than 1 liter are rare.

  • Canada

1.33 liter plastic bags (sold as 4 liters in 3 bags) are widely available in some areas (especially the Maritimes, Ontario and Quebec), although the 4 liter plastic jug has supplanted them in western Canada. Other common packaging sizes are 2 liter, 1 liter, 500 mL, and 250 mL cartons, as well as 4 liter, 1 liter, 250 mL aseptic cartons and 500 mL plastic jugs.

  • China

Sweetened milk is a drink popular with students of all ages and is often sold in small plastic bags complete with straw. Adults not wishing to drink at a banquet often drink milk served from cartons or milk tea .

  • Chile

Distributed most commonly in aseptic cartons for up to 1 liter, but smaller, snack-sized cartons are also popular. The most common flavors, besides the natural presentation, are chocolate, strawberry and vanilla.

UHT milk ( trajno mlijeko/trajno mleko/ ???????????? ??????????) is sold in 500 mL and 1 L (sometimes also 200 ml) aseptic cartons. Non-UHT pasteurized milk ( svje??e mlijeko/sve??e mleko/ ?????????? ??????????) is most commonly sold in 1 L and 1.5 L PET bottles, though in Serbia one can still find milk in plastic bags.

  • Parts of Europe

Sizes of 500 mL, 1 liter (the most common), 1.5 liters, 2 liters and 3 liters are commonplace.

  • Finland

Commonly sold in 1 L or 1.5 L cartons, in some places also in 2 dl and 5 dl cartons.

  • Hong Kong

Milk is sold in glass bottles (220 mL), cartons (236 mL and 1 L), plastic jugs (2 liters) and aseptic cartons (250 mL).

  • India

Commonly sold in 500 mL plastic bags and in bottles in some parts like in west. It is still customary to serve the milk boiled, despite pasteurization. Milk is often buffalo milk. Flavored milk is sold in most convenience stores in waxed cardboard containers. Convenience stores also sell many varieties of milk (such as flavored and ultra-pasteurized) in different sizes, usually in aseptic cartons.

  • Indonesia

Usually sold in 1 liter cartons, but smaller, snack-sized cartons are available.

  • Israel

Non-UHT milk is most commonly sold in 1 liter waxed cardboard boxes and 1 liter plastic bags. It may also be found in 0.5 L and 2 L waxed cardboard boxes, 2 L plastic jugs and 1 L plastic bottles. UHT milk is available in 1 liter (and less commonly also in 0.25 L) carton "bricks".

  • Japan

Commonly sold in 1 liter waxed paperboard cartons. In most city centers there is also home delivery of milk in glass jugs. As seen in China, sweetened and flavored milk drinks are commonly seen in vending machines.

  • South Africa

Commonly sold in 1 liter bags. The bag is then placed in a plastic jug and the corner cut off before the milk is poured.

  • South Korea

Sold in cartons (180 mL, 200 mL, 500 mL 900 mL, 1 L, 1.8 L, 2.3 L), plastic jugs (1 L and 1.8 L), aseptic cartons (180 mL and 200 mL) and plastic bags (1 L).

  • Sweden

Commonly sold in 0.3 L, 1 L or 1.5 L cartons and sometimes as plastic or glass milk bottles..

  • Poland

UHT milk is mostly sold in aseptic cartons (500 mL, 1 L, 2 L), and non-UHT in 1 L plastic bags or plastic bottles. Milk, UHT is commonly boiled, despite being pasteurized.

  • Pakistan

Milk is supplied in 500 mL Plastic bags and carried in Jugs from rural to cities and sell

  • Turkey

Commonly sold in 500 mL or 1L cartons or special plastic bottles. UHT milk is more popular. Milkmen also serve in smaller towns and villages.

  • United Kingdom

Most stores stock imperial sizes: 1 pint (568 mL, 2 pints (1.136 L), 4 pints (2.273 L), 6 pints (3.408 L) or a combination including both metric and imperial sizes. Glass milk bottles delivered to the doorstep by the milkman are typically pint-sized and are returned empty by the householder for repeated reuse. Milk is sold at supermarkets in either aseptic cartons or HDPE bottles. Milk can still be legally sold by the imperial pint in the UK under EU regulations (a distinction only shared with beer and cider). Supermarkets have also now begun to introduce milk in bags, to be poured from a proprietary jug and nozzle.

  • United States

Commonly sold in gallon (3.78 L), half-gallon (1.89 L) and quart (0.94 L) containers of natural-colored HDPE resin, or, for sizes less than one gallon, cartons of waxed paperboard. Bottles made of opaque PET are also becoming commonplace for smaller, particularly metric, sizes such as one liter. The U.S. single-serving size is usually the half-pint (about 240 mL). Less frequently, dairies deliver milk directly to consumers, from coolers filled with glass bottles which are typically half-gallon sized and returned for reuse. Some convenience store chains in the United States (such as Kwik Trip in the Midwest) sell milk in half-gallon bags, while another rectangular cube gallon container design used for easy stacking in shipping and displaying is used by warehouse clubs such as Costco Wholesale and Sam's Club, along with some Wal Mart stores.

  • Uruguay

Commonly sold in 1 liter bags. The bag is then placed in a plastic jug and the corner cut off before the milk is poured.

Practically everywhere, condensed milk and evaporated milk is distributed in metal cans, 250 and 125 mL paper containers and 100 and 200 mL squeeze tubes, and powdered milk (skim and whole) is distributed in boxes or bags.

Spoilage and fermented milk products

When raw milk is left standing for a while, it turns " sour". This is the result of fermentation , where lactic acid bacteria ferment the lactose inside the milk into lactic acid. Prolonged fermentation may render the milk unpleasant to consume. This fermentation process is exploited by the introduction of bacterial cultures (e.g. Lactobacilli sp., Streptococcus sp., Leuconostoc sp. , etc) to produce a variety of fermented milk products. The reduced pH from lactic acid accumulation denatures proteins and causes the milk to undergo a variety of different transformations in appearance and texture, ranging from an aggregate to smooth consistency. Some of these products include sour cream, yoghurt, cheese, buttermilk, viili, kefir, and kumis. See Dairy product for more information.

Pasteurization of cow's milk initially destroys any potential pathogens and increases the shelf-life, but eventually results in spoilage that makes it unsuitable for consumption. This causes it to assume an unpleasant odor, and the milk is deemed non-consumable due to unpleasant taste and an increased risk of food poisoning. In raw milk, the presence of lactic acid-producing bacteria, under suitable conditions, ferments the lactose present to lactic acid. The increasing acidity in turn prevents the growth of other organisms, or slows their growth significantly. During pasteurization however, these lactic acid bacteria are mostly destroyed.

In order to prevent spoilage, milk can be kept refrigerated and stored between 1 and 4 degrees Celsius in bulk tanks. Most milk is pasteurized by heating briefly and then refrigerated to allow transport from factory farms to local markets. The spoilage of milk can be forestalled by using ultra-high temperature ( UHT) treatment; milk so treated can be stored unrefrigerated for several months until opened but has an unpleasant "cooked" taste. Condensed milk, made by removing most of the water, can be stored in cans for many years, unrefrigerated, as can evaporated milk. The most durable form of milk is powdered milk, which is produced from milk by removing almost all water. The moisture content is usually less than five percent in both drum- and spray-dried powdered milk.

The importance of milk in human culture is attested to by the numerous expressions embedded in our languages, for example "the milk of human kindness". In ancient Greek mythology, the goddess Hera spilled her breast milk after refusing to feed Heracles, resulting in the Milky Way.

In African and Asian developing nations , butter is traditionally made from fermented milk rather than cream. It can take several hours of churning to produce workable butter grains from fermented milk.

Holy books have also mentioned milk; the Bible contains references to the 'Land of Milk and Honey'. In the Quran, there is a request to wonder on milk as follows: 'And surely in the livestock there is a lesson for you, We give you to drink of that which is in their bellies from the midst of digested food and blood, pure milk palatable for the drinkers.'(16-The Honeybee, 66). The Ramadhan fast is traditionally broken with a glass of milk and dates.

The verb, "to milk" something is often used in the vernacular of many English-speaking countries as a synonym for extortion or, in less loaded terms, taking advantage of a situation where one has another person at a disadvantage, as in 'milking the situation'.

The word milk has had many slang meanings over time. In the early 17th century the word was used to mean semen, or vaginal secretions, or to masturbate oneself or someone else. In the 19th century, milk was used to describe a cheap alcoholic drink made from methylated spirits mixed with water. The word was also used to mean defraud, to be idle, to intercept telegrams addressed to someone else, and a weakling or 'milksop'. In the mid 1930s, the word was used in Australia meaning to siphon gas from a car.

Milk is sometimes referred to as moo juice in American English, while Cockney rhyming slang calls it Acker Bilk, Tom Silk, Lady in silk and Kilroy Silk .

The name of the Russian Molokan (Russian: "??????????????????") religion in Russian is derived from Russian "?????????????? " meaning "Milk" as they would drink milk on the Russian Orthodox days of fast.

Besides serving as a beverage or source of food, milk has been described as used by farmers and gardeners as an organic fungicide and foliage fertilizer. Diluted milk solutions have been demonstrated to provide an effective method of preventing powdery mildew on grape vines, while showing it is unlikely to harm the plant.

  • Babcock test (determines the butterfat content of milk)

  • Bovine somatotropin

  • Breast

  • Breastfeeding

  • Breast milk (human milk)

  • Casein

  • Casein paint

  • Casomorphin

  • Cheese

  • Cream separator

  • Crop milk (cheese-like substance produced in the crops of pigeons and certain other birds)

  • Dairy cattle

  • Dairy farming

  • Fat content of milk

  • Square milk jug

  • Got Milk? (US milk lobby ad campaign encouraging the consumption of milk)

  • Grain milk

  • Health mark

  • Lactation

  • Male lactation

  • Mammary gland

  • Milk bottle

  • Milk line

  • Milk paint

  • Nipple

  • Operation Flood

  • Powdered milk

  • Raw milk

  • Information on milk by Parmalat

  • Introduction to Dairy Science and Technology: Milk History, Consumption, Production, and Composition

  • Milk

  • Milk Notes

  • Harvard School of Public Health: Calcium and Milk : describes claims of milk supporters and critics

This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "milk".

Last Modified:   2010-11-25

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