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Go[a]t Milk?
July 25, 2012 6:58 AM   Subscribe

Why don’t we consume dairy products from mammals that aren’t cows?
posted by Gyan (116 comments total) 18 users marked this as a favorite

 
Anyone who farms pigs would say that pigs' milk would make an incredible cheese,” he says. “The problem is that it's nearly impossible to milk pigs. When sows are lactating, they get very aggressive. They're not docile like cows. They're smart, skittish, suspicious, and paranoid. They do not like you to get up in their business.”

Heh.
posted by maudlin at 7:02 AM on July 25, 2012 [10 favorites]


Some people do.
posted by MartinWisse at 7:02 AM on July 25, 2012


(Yes, read the final paragraphs following my quote. I won't spoil them here.)
posted by maudlin at 7:03 AM on July 25, 2012 [7 favorites]


Ease of grip.
posted by gomichild at 7:09 AM on July 25, 2012 [2 favorites]


What? There's certainly plenty of goat and sheep based dairy in my diet.
posted by 256 at 7:11 AM on July 25, 2012 [4 favorites]


My first response was "What about goat cheese?", but then I saw it in the post title. Short, interesting article, written in a fun but not too cutesy way. I enjoyed it, thanks.
posted by KGMoney at 7:11 AM on July 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


What's this "we," kemosabe?

Now I just want a gyro with lots of feta. Damnit.
posted by Kadin2048 at 7:12 AM on July 25, 2012


Don't look at me. I love cheese from goats, sheep and buffalo.

(You promised me dog or higher!)
posted by Faint of Butt at 7:13 AM on July 25, 2012 [2 favorites]


Read the article, 256. The title is only slightly misleading. The author says that ~97% of dairy in US stores is cow-based. Which, if you take milk and butter into account, is probably correct, even if you shop at boutique grocery stores.
posted by KGMoney at 7:13 AM on July 25, 2012 [8 favorites]


He says camel's milk contains insulin and can improve quality of life for diabetics (seems legit)

More on camel's milk as an alternative medicine. Lots of weird claims have been made about camel's milk, but it does appear that camel milk has been successfully used to manage blood sugar levels.

Interestingly enough, a recent study on camel pancreases retrieved from slaughterhouses in Sudan showed that when their insulin was extracted and purified, it could be used efficaciously in humans, and was reportedly just as effective as that manufactured by pharmaceutical companies.
posted by zarq at 7:16 AM on July 25, 2012 [6 favorites]


Sod the pigs. I want to know who made the little milking machine needed to make my almond milk...
posted by sodium lights the horizon at 7:16 AM on July 25, 2012 [36 favorites]


I love Goat Milk and goat and sheep cheeses. I've never had the chance to try sheep milk but it seems like you could use it for deserts and stuff where you don't care about the fat content.
posted by vuron at 7:18 AM on July 25, 2012


Why? Because no one has invested as much money as the cow people to get their products on the shelves and into people's hands. Goat's milk, goat cheese, camel milk chocolate... they exist but they are not the well-funded marketers at the table.
posted by parmanparman at 7:18 AM on July 25, 2012 [4 favorites]


(Lisa) “I’m going to become a vegetarian”
(Homer) “Does that mean you’re not going to eat any pork?”
(L) “Yes”
(H) “Bacon?”
(L) “Yes Dad”
(H) "Ham?”
(L) “Dad all those meats come from the same animal”
(H) “Right Lisa, some wonderful, magical animal!”


I once read that the prohibition against eating pork in many middle eastern countries was partially derived from the fact that pigs don't herd. (Also they carry trichinosis.)

In other words, they were considered dangerous to own for the individual and community because you could not bug out of town with your wealth when the invaders started looting and pillaging. Cows, sheep and goats will herd and are therefore portable when the pillaging begins.
posted by otto42 at 7:18 AM on July 25, 2012 [7 favorites]


Here are the first three paragraphs of the article, which is not about the lack of use of goat, sheep and buffalo milk:
Walk down a dairy aisle and you may start to notice how little we've done with the whole concept. Worldwide, there are about 6,000 mammal species, each with its own unique milk, but Americans get at least 97 percent of all our dairy products from one animal. (That would be the cow.) Even at my local Whole Foods, purveyors of exotica like shad roe and that kombucha stuff, there was only a single brand of goat’s milk. “EASY TO DIGEST!” reads the desperate carton.

Over at the cheese counter, the situation was a little better. Sheep’s milk made a decent showing. But was that it?

“There's a buffalo-milk mozzarella over in the refrigerator section, but yeah,” the cheesemonger told me. “I know a chef who's trying to make a pig's-milk cheese. I'm not sure how that's going.”
posted by griphus at 7:19 AM on July 25, 2012 [2 favorites]


Mommy Mozzarella?
posted by Thorzdad at 7:19 AM on July 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


Here in London, there is an amazing goat milk ice cream stall at the Borough and South Bank food markets. Those guys are geniuses with flavour. I like the lemon-lime-basil.
posted by Pallas Athena at 7:20 AM on July 25, 2012 [2 favorites]


Until she was about 14 months my daughter drank milk from my wife.
posted by jimmythefish at 7:22 AM on July 25, 2012 [23 favorites]


I'll spare anyone having to read the article:

"Other animals don't produce as much, most are harder to keep and harder to milk, and often the milk isn't attractive for human consumption."

There's no conspiracy, cows are simply the best fit for how Westerners use milk.
posted by Mayor Curley at 7:23 AM on July 25, 2012 [11 favorites]


In seriousness, the prevalence of cow's milk makes sense when you think about the amount of milk produced by a cow versus most other smaller mammals. I've read that goats and sheep are more efficient producers of milk, in terms of input to output, but they're less efficient when feed is cheap and the time / labor / equipment to milk them is expensive. And at least in the US and other developed countries, labor is terribly expensive relative to feed.

It's not surprising that other animals have been popular historically, and are popular in other areas, where labor is less expensive and feed is more scarce. Cows are pretty rough on the ground, and a flock of sheep or herd of goats would allow you to produce milk (and meat) from marginal land. But that's not a concern in the US, where dairy cows typically eat feed brought in from somewhere else.
posted by Kadin2048 at 7:23 AM on July 25, 2012


Apparently cats don't herd easily.
posted by Segundus at 7:23 AM on July 25, 2012 [10 favorites]


I had relatives with a goat dairy for a while, and goat's milk is DELICIOUS. But, yeah, not so practical for large-scale production as cows are. But goats are much more entertaining. But they escape more. So, you know, some positives, some negatives.

"Interestingly enough, a recent study on camel pancreases retrieved from slaughterhouses in Sudan showed that when their insulin was extracted and purified, it could be used efficaciously in humans, and was reportedly just as effective as that manufactured by pharmaceutical companies."

Didn't pharmaceutical companies "manufacture" insulin from the pancreases of pigs, horses, and cows for a long, long time, before synthetic forms became available pretty recently? (It was kind-of a thing because my cat needed pig insulin, and it's hard to get animal insulins anymore because the synthetic insulin is so universal.) But I don't see any reason other pancreases shouldn't be equally suitable for creation of human insulin therapies; the synthetic insulin's primary advantages are purity, ability to synthesize in very large quantities, and lack of allergic reactions or religious objections. But the animal-derived insulins worked great; it just took a little more work to find the right one and was harder to maintain adequate supplies.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 7:23 AM on July 25, 2012 [4 favorites]


There is a memorable scene in Terry Pratchett's novel Nation where the main character Mau milks a pig, because the pig has the only milk possibly available to save a dying baby. As described in this commentary, the act symbolizes the humanity of the character--that he is willing/able to do such a non-human thing to save a baby. (And assuming the novel's description of what's involved is relatively accurate, I would say that pig-milking sounds far from simple or pleasant.)
posted by gubenuj at 7:23 AM on July 25, 2012 [3 favorites]


Interestingly enough, a recent study on camel pancreases retrieved from slaughterhouses in Sudan showed that when their insulin was extracted and purified, it could be used efficaciously in humans, and was reportedly just as effective as that manufactured by pharmaceutical companies.

That's not too incredible. Insulin is very similar between species, and insulin from many mammals is effective in humans. Pigs (whose version is extremely close to human insulin) were the primary source of insulin for decades. Now it's primarily made using recombinant DNA in bacteria, which yields the human version and doesn't require slaughtering animals.
posted by jedicus at 7:24 AM on July 25, 2012 [4 favorites]


My sister prefers using canned evaporated (cow's) milk in her tea instead of fresh (cow's) milk. She soon got into the habit of calling this milk "kitty cat milk" because of a friend who gave evaporated milk to her cats as a treat.

So when people visit and get offered tea, they are asked if want regular milk or [tiny, precise gestures evoking the milking of a confused but cooperative cat].

Also.
posted by maudlin at 7:25 AM on July 25, 2012 [19 favorites]


I'm fascinated that you can't easily make butter out of goat's milk. That would pretty much disadvantage it as a milk animal in most of Northern Europe, where butter could be as important as cheese - or possibly more so - as a preservation method for milk, as well as the primary non-meat source of fat.

as for this bit, "With the exception of the horse..., all dairy animals of any importance are ruminants, a class of mammal whose four-chambered stomachs allow the production of terrific amounts of milk from high-fiber, low-nutrient pasturage." - that was a bit of a "duh" moment. Livestock farming in the pre-modern era was all about "what do we do with this really bad land - either too dry, too high or too wet - that won't grow crops?" Contemporary meat production does use lots of edible crops that could go to feeding humans, but historically animals have always been a way of turning stuff we can't eat (grass, reeds) or really don't want to (slops, potato peelings) into dense food.
posted by jb at 7:25 AM on July 25, 2012 [6 favorites]


Yep, read the article after posting. I do usually try to do it the other way.
posted by 256 at 7:26 AM on July 25, 2012


Apparently cats don't herd easily.

It's easier when they're young.
posted by Kadin2048 at 7:26 AM on July 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


Aw, beaten to the punch by maudlin.
posted by Kadin2048 at 7:27 AM on July 25, 2012


I wish cats had graspable teats. Think of all the youtube videos. :(
posted by mullacc at 7:29 AM on July 25, 2012


I'd want to see someone milking a cat, while offering the occasional stream to a hopeful calf.
posted by maudlin at 7:30 AM on July 25, 2012 [9 favorites]


Apparently cats don't herd easily

I am sure I will regret saying this on the internet, but one time when I was five my cat had kittens, and I decided to give cat milk a taste. Luckily no one saw me; I don't remember the taste precisely, but it definitely wasn't good.

So even if you could herd them into little kitty milking stalls, I'd guess the milk would be a hard sell.
posted by Forktine at 7:31 AM on July 25, 2012 [21 favorites]


I like that the article mentioned aurochs. Ever since that post about them last week, I've been mildly obsessed with them.
posted by kendrak at 7:32 AM on July 25, 2012 [2 favorites]


"I once read that the prohibition against eating pork in many middle eastern countries was partially derived from the fact that pigs don't herd. (Also they carry trichinosis.) In other words, they were considered dangerous to own for the individual and community because you could not bug out of town with your wealth when the invaders started looting and pillaging. Cows, sheep and goats will herd and are therefore portable when the pillaging begins."


Many scholars today suggest it has a lot to do with the fact that cows, sheep, and goats eat grass, which humans can't, and turn it to human-edible calories (as milk or meat). But pigs, being omnivorous, want to eat what humans eat. (Especially grain.) In desert environments, there isn't a lot for pigs to forage for, and anything you're feeding the pigs, you're not feeding the humans. In communities just this side of subsistence agriculture, pigs were flashpoints of anger, because people wealthy enough to keep pigs were watching humans starve while feeding human food to their pigs. Whereas ruminants are converting plants of no human food value into human food value, and not competing with humans for food.

Anyway, a lot of scholars place it in the set of rules in middle eastern religions that revolve around "If you're mean to the poor, God will smite the fuck out of you." That's why pigs in ancient near eastern stories are often symbols for greed, excess, profligacy, heathens (who don't obey God), being sub-human (because you're not human enough to care for other humans), etc.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 7:34 AM on July 25, 2012 [114 favorites]


Why? Because no one has invested as much money as the cow people to get their products on the shelves and into people's hands. Goat's milk, goat cheese, camel milk chocolate... they exist but they are not the well-funded marketers at the table.
posted by parmanparman at 10:18 AM on July 25 [+] [!]


The article explains all the reasons why contemporary marketing is not the main answer.

Actually, one of the major reasons that cow's milk dominates North America may simply be our British heritage. Even though sheep (as wool producers) were commercially probably the most important animal in Britain from the middle ages through the Industrial Revolution, cattle were the most important dairy animal by far -- and I don't know what beef consumption versus mutton was like, but poorer English people consumed more beef c1800 than the French did. In Scotland, Wales, the highlands - and lowland marshes and fens - of England were all filled with cows for dairy and beef in the pre-modern period, and essential to small-scale food production. I've never heard of the same scale of sheep or goat herding in Britain for food, and within what I know of pre-modern British cuisine, I don't recall seeing much sheep or goat dairy consumption - just some mutton (from the wool sheep, presumably).
posted by jb at 7:35 AM on July 25, 2012 [4 favorites]


I just want to say that Chef Ed Lee is awesome with a side order of win. Haven't yet eaten at 610 Magnolia yet myself, but people who have gone simply rave about it. I've made his Pig's Feet Wasabi Griddle Cakes recipe (video) and it's amazing.

The man clearly loves him some pig, so I'm not surprised to hear about him sneaking up on a lactating sow. I am surprised to hear that he lived to tell about it. Sows be craaaaazy when pigs be sucklin', y'all.
posted by magstheaxe at 7:39 AM on July 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


Milking the goats was part of the daily ritual for a large portion of my childhood, my mother used it to make wonderful cheese. We were pretty poor but we ate well.
posted by the_artificer at 7:39 AM on July 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


Human milk is very sweet compared to cows' milk, which is probably why people love ice cream so much.

Lee crept up on the sows while they were sleeping, frantically pinched at their tiny nipples, then ran away when they woke up and started to freak out.

I love this article so much.
posted by the young rope-rider at 7:40 AM on July 25, 2012 [6 favorites]


I like the way Lewis Black says "soy tit."
posted by Eideteker at 7:40 AM on July 25, 2012


I have nipples, Greg. Could you milk me?
posted by Myca at 7:40 AM on July 25, 2012 [6 favorites]


Eyebrows McGee: there could just be a simpler answer of trying to differentiate oneself - a lot of taboos really are just "We don't do X thing, because those other people do".

Pigs don't require human food, or medieval peasants and poor farmers in Britain wouldn't have kept them (as they did right through the 1950s). But it may be that middle eastern arid herders simply didn't have the environment to support them. In pre-modern Europe, pigs were fed by sending them off into forests and woodlots to forage for nuts, etc, as well as on slops and other garbage. I know that pigs were also let roam freely in wetland areas, though the local drainage boards in Cambridgeshire hated them (because they like to dig and the flood protection banks were poorly made out of loose peaty soils).

But pork has been the "poor person's" meat in Britain from the earliest times to today and were most likely to be the animal raised by poorer farmers for their own consumption (even farm labourers might have a pig out in the back) -- and they definitely would not have been allowed to eat food that a human could eat.
posted by jb at 7:43 AM on July 25, 2012 [4 favorites]


Lee crept up on the sows while they were sleeping, frantically pinched at their tiny nipples, then ran away when they woke up and started to freak out.

This sounds like one of those ideas that happens at 2 AM when a group of guys is totally drunk.
posted by wolfdreams01 at 7:43 AM on July 25, 2012 [5 favorites]


So how one does measure the milk production of a sow?
It's difficult. The most obvious method is to weigh the young before and after suckling and then calculate the weight difference. However sows can nurse 30 times per day so it's a lot of work and stressful for everyone involved. Other methods include using heavy water as a marker, or more or less precise correlations between piglet growth and milk production. Same for mice, rabbits and other hard-to-milk lactating mammals. Miniature milking machines have been designed though.
posted by elgilito at 7:44 AM on July 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


Because cows are bigger. Hence more meat per animal. The milk is secondary and controlled by the meat availability.

Think of it this way, where do you see goat cheese originating from? The mountains where you can't have cows--see Greece--and also areas where less fodder is available.
posted by Ironmouth at 7:44 AM on July 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


Goat butter may be difficult, but it's certainly not impossible. My grocery store sells it. The brand is Meyenberg.
posted by Slinga at 7:54 AM on July 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


There's nothing wrong with dog's milk. Full of goodness, full of vitamins, full of marrowbone jelly. Lasts longer than any other type of milk, dog's milk -- cuz no bugger'll drink it.

Plus, of course, the advantage of dog's milk is that when it goes off, it tastes exactly the same as when it's fresh.
posted by Herodios at 7:58 AM on July 25, 2012 [5 favorites]


Interestingly enough, a recent study on camel pancreases retrieved from slaughterhouses in Sudan showed that when their insulin was extracted and purified, it could be used efficaciously in humans, and was reportedly just as effective as that manufactured by pharmaceutical companies.

"Camel Pancreas: It's The New Chinese Hamster Ovary!
posted by The Bellman at 7:58 AM on July 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


Think of it this way, where do you see goat cheese originating from? The mountains where you can't have cows--see Greece--and also areas where less fodder is available.

Leaving both the goats and the cows muttering about fodder.
 
posted by Herodios at 8:01 AM on July 25, 2012 [2 favorites]


Does anybody still make kumiss? Calls for mare's milk.
posted by jfuller at 8:01 AM on July 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


"there could just be a simpler answer of trying to differentiate oneself - a lot of taboos really are just "We don't do X thing, because those other people do". Pigs don't require human food, or medieval peasants and poor farmers in Britain wouldn't have kept them (as they did right through the 1950s). But it may be that middle eastern arid herders simply didn't have the environment to support them. "

Right, in medieval Europe there's plenty of forage for them in woods and bogs and other not-agriculturally-productive land. (And in fact, your woods can keep growing lovely wood for fuel and building material while the pigs root around getting fat, and now you've got two non-competing uses of that land, neither of which requires a lot of attention or effort.) But in the ancient near east, that wasn't available; pigs were in direct competition with humans for resources.

And there wasn't a real "us and them" on pigs -- NOBODY in the ancient near east ate pigs. It's basically a universal taboo among all of those cultures. There was nobody to differentiate yourself from; the "danger" was people in your own culture, the 1%, who were wealthy enough to keep pigs and cruel enough to do so, totally ignoring the social contract and the good of the community. Keeping pigs was a sign someone was dangerously hostile to the community.

Here's an older Marvin Harris text on pigs in the ancient near east.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 8:05 AM on July 25, 2012 [11 favorites]


Goat butter may be difficult, but it's certainly not impossible.

But given that it's difficult, you can understand why cow-butter is so much more common in regions where - unlike mountainous areas - the land allows for cows as much as it does goat or sheep.

Actually, I study a wetland region similar to that of the great marshes of the pre-modern Netherlands (drained in the medieval period) where sheep were difficult to keep at all - they got footrot in freshwater wetlands and cattle aren't as susceptible. So cattle were the most common livestock, though sheep were kept on the upland field areas (great manure).

And there wasn't a real "us and them" on pigs -- NOBODY in the ancient near east ate pigs. It's basically a universal taboo among all of those cultures.

I always wondered: where did that herd of pigs in the New Testament (the one Jesus sent the demons into) come from? And was/is pork-eating taboo in non-Abrahamic religions/cultures? And how did it happen that near-eastern Christians dropped the taboo?

(I love livestock history - it's so fascinating).
posted by jb at 8:09 AM on July 25, 2012 [2 favorites]


Oxen were also the main draft animals for many many years. So you're keeping cows anyway to make sure you've got a plowteam (most often bullocks and not cows, but you still need cows to make them). But the hide's also good for various uses, in addition to the already mentioned meat and milk.

Further to what jb has said, think of the medieval economy of England as having three big important animals: pigs for cheap-ish meat (they even had a thing for bacon back then), sheep for wool (and thus all-important export cash), and cows for everything else. Goats were uncommon, and horses mostly too expensive and useless for the average peasant to care about.
posted by Jehan at 8:10 AM on July 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


Does anybody still make kumiss? Calls for mare's milk.

I know of a sleeping potion that calls for mare's sweat.
 
posted by Herodios at 8:11 AM on July 25, 2012


Actually, I study a wetland region similar to that of the great marshes of the pre-modern Netherlands (drained in the medieval period) where sheep were difficult to keep at all - they got footrot in freshwater wetlands and cattle aren't as susceptible. So cattle were the most common livestock, though sheep were kept on the upland field areas (great manure).
Not the fens or the Lincolnshire marsh?

posted by Jehan at 8:15 AM on July 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


I wish cats had graspable teats. Think of all the youtube videos.


Well great. Now I can't stop thinking of them.




Although it seems to have curbed my insatiable craving for goat cheese, so...thanks..?
posted by louche mustachio at 8:19 AM on July 25, 2012


(Inspect the belly of your cat or dog and you'll get an idea why we don't milk our pets: lots of itty-bitty nipples.)

Now I've seen everything.

Lee crept up on the sows while they were sleeping, frantically pinched at their tiny nipples, then ran away when they woke up and started to freak out.


Actually, I'd really like to see that.


Cats and goats are glad they're not the primary source of milk for humans. They have better things to do, you know.
posted by peagood at 8:20 AM on July 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


Speaking of the ox-like wild aurochs....
posted by BWA at 8:20 AM on July 25, 2012


"where did that herd of pigs in the New Testament (the one Jesus sent the demons into) come from? And was/is pork-eating taboo in non-Abrahamic religions/cultures? And how did it happen that near-eastern Christians dropped the taboo?"

I totally almost mentioned that in my post! The story appears to be set in a Gentile settlement, and Mark and Luke give it its Greek name. Most commentators identify the site as a location with a large harbor, a great deal of trade, and a heavily Hellenistic city (possibly the largest Hellenistic settlement on the Sea of Galilee). In other words, Those are the Greco-Roman pigs of the foreign oppressors. Those are not Jewish pigs, nor even Samaritan pigs, but OPPRESSOR PIGS. And knowing what we know about pigs -- how they're a dire breach in the social contract, that privileges livestock over humans and are the grossest symbol of how the rich oppress the poor and feed their own disgusting lifestyles at the expense of letting the poor starve -- they're a fantastic symbol for foreign oppression. And they're a fantastic repository for demons.

I think if I'm an ancient near easterner, what I'm supposed to read in this story is the oppression of the native peoples by the Roman Empire, who KEEP PIGS in delicate desert ecosystems so they can have their pork, even though that means native peoples are going to starve, because it's apparently not bad enough to take over someone's kingdom, you also have to keep pigs there (it's like the English shipping tons of beef off the wharves at Cork while the Irish starved from the potato blight); that Jesus saves two Gentiles from demons even though they're consorting with pigs, because he saves everybody, even if they're Gentiles, even if they're pig-keeping Gentiles; that when he saves them, he also relieves them of their pigs, allowing them to come into harmony with the community around them instead of remaining part of the oppressive, murderous regime they're a part of; and that in destroying the pigs, he is helping the poor by making food available. And OF COURSE demons want to go hang out in pigs, because there is NOTHING WORSE than pigs.

It's not actually clear to me if -- because the Gospels are frequently funny and have little jokes in them if you know enough of the cultural context to get it -- we might also be getting a bit of dark humor, in that the demons ASK to go into the pigs, and as soon as they get into the pigs, they make the pigs go drown themselves. Like, it's possible that pigs are SO BAD (and Roman oppressors are SO BAD) that even the demons are helping get rid of them.

Early Gentile Christians were allowed to eat pork because most of them were Greeks and Romans, where pigs weren't the same economic flashpoint, but they're enjoined in the Letters of Paul (possibly also in Acts, I can't recall) NOT to eat pork when they're with Jewish Christians. I think the taboo really falls because the Gentile Christians, who quickly come to dominate the early church, just don't live in areas where pork taboos are important. Because Jewish Christians absolutely don't eat pork in the early days of the Church.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 8:30 AM on July 25, 2012 [65 favorites]


Why not whale milk? They're mammals, they're huge, and they herd!
posted by tommasz at 8:30 AM on July 25, 2012 [3 favorites]


I have had yak butter tea. It was, um. Interesting.
posted by elizardbits at 8:33 AM on July 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


"With the exception of the horse, whose milk is fermented and drunk in central Asia as the lightly alcoholic kumis..."

WOW! When reading Game of Thrones I thought the Dothraki fermented milk was just an invention by George R.R. Martin, but I guess if it has sugar in it there's no reason why you couldn't....
posted by Brodiggitty at 8:33 AM on July 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


I knew this was a Slate article just from reading the linked text.
posted by the jam at 8:39 AM on July 25, 2012


jimmythefish: "Until she was about 14 months my daughter drank milk from my wife."

May I gently suggest to you, sir, that this model, while admirable in its efforts for locally sourcing food stuffs, is perhaps -- perhaps -- not sustainable on a global scale.
posted by boo_radley at 8:46 AM on July 25, 2012 [10 favorites]


Err, we do. This is a false premise.
posted by Decani at 8:48 AM on July 25, 2012


You KNOW that guy in Utah is getting some sweet goat milk.
posted by orme at 8:56 AM on July 25, 2012 [5 favorites]


the prevalence of cow's milk makes sense when you think about the amount of milk produced by a cow versus most other smaller mammals

Milking cows have been bred that way. If humans didn't milk them every day they would die from burst udders. Farmers don't get a break, up every morning to milk the damn cows.
posted by stbalbach at 9:08 AM on July 25, 2012 [3 favorites]


In communities just this side of subsistence agriculture, pigs were flashpoints of anger, because people wealthy enough to keep pigs were watching humans starve while feeding human food to their pigs.

Note also the parable Jesus tells about the Prodigal Son. When he runs out of his dad's money, the son is reduced to the shameful job of feeding pigs and "He would gladly have filled himself with the pods that the pigs were eating; but no one gave him anything."
posted by straight at 9:10 AM on July 25, 2012 [5 favorites]


You think it's hard to milk a pig?
posted by mr vino at 9:12 AM on July 25, 2012


Does anybody still make kumiss? Calls for mare's milk.

Why, yes, the FPP does mention kumis.
posted by asnider at 9:27 AM on July 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


Kadin2048: Cows are pretty rough on the ground, and a flock of sheep or herd of goats would allow you to produce milk (and meat) from marginal land.

My father told me that cow farmers hated, hated sheep and goat farmers for one very simple reason: sheep and goats kill the grass they graze on, because they eat it right down to the root. Cows didn't kill their food source, so you could turn a herd loose in a pasture, and still have a pasture when you were done. I remember him mentioning wars between cow and sheep farmers based on this, but I never pressed him for details.

I have no personal knowledge of this, but he was certainly convinced. A quick search seems to reveal that this is a real thing. The first hit on the subject blames farmers for 'leaving the sheep in the pasture too long', which would seem to indicate that it's more or less true.
posted by Malor at 9:33 AM on July 25, 2012 [4 favorites]


Years ago I was at a Mexican restaurant with a bunch of co-workers. We were all a little brain-fried from a high pressure project. One person ordered some dish that was covered in some kind of unidentifiable melted cheese. She asked the server, "What kind of cheese is this?" The server answered, "Chihuahua cheese."

A moment passed, and someone piped up, "How do you milk one of those?"
posted by workerant at 9:39 AM on July 25, 2012 [10 favorites]


An interesting if slightly old World Health Organisation PDF on non-cow milks.
posted by cromagnon at 9:54 AM on July 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


Frazer weighs in:
The Greeks could not decide whether the Jews worshipped swine or abominated them. On the one hand they might not eat swine; but on the other hand they might not kill them. And if the former rule speaks for the uncleanness, the latter speaks still more strongly for the sanctity of the animal. For whereas both rules may, and one rule must, be explained on the supposition that the pig was sacred; neither rule must, and one rule cannot, be explained on the supposition that the pig was unclean. If, therefore, we prefer the former supposition, we must conclude that, originally at least, the pig was revered rather than abhorred by the Israelites. We are confirmed in this opinion by observing that down to the time of Isaiah some of the Jews used to meet secretly in gardens to eat the flesh of swine and mice as a religious rite. Doubtless this was a very ancient ceremony, dating from a time when both the pig and the mouse were venerated as divine, and when their flesh was partaken of sacramentally on rare and solemn occasions as the body and blood of gods. And in general it may perhaps be said that all so-called unclean animals were originally sacred; the reason for not eating them was that they were divine.
posted by Knappster at 10:00 AM on July 25, 2012 [5 favorites]


And I'm gonna get me some bear cheese:

A comparative analysis of non-human milks [Google Books]
posted by cromagnon at 10:01 AM on July 25, 2012 [3 favorites]


Yes, sheep and goats will compact soil much more thoroughly and effectively than cattle. In fact, soil compaction devices are called "sheepsfoot" rollers. Sheep and goats are good in rough terrain with poor forage . If you have nice green rolling grassy pastures, cattle are better.
posted by Xoebe at 10:02 AM on July 25, 2012 [2 favorites]


OPPRESSOR PIGS (please note the all caps) is totally the name of my new metal band.
posted by Rangeboy at 10:04 AM on July 25, 2012 [3 favorites]


Sod the pigs. I want to know who made the little milking machine needed to make my almond milk...

I had a housemate for a while who was really into making his own nut milk.

I highly recommend this sort of living situation, because (1) free delicious nut milk and (2) free daily setups for dirty jokes about your buddy's "nut milk." It's win/win.

Seriously though try it with cashews OMG.
posted by nebulawindphone at 10:12 AM on July 25, 2012 [3 favorites]


The Minor Mystery of "Dolphin Cheese" is sadly not what I hoped it would be. Dolphin milk would make for an interesting cheese though, seeing as how it's apparently all fat and protein with little lactose.
posted by Panjandrum at 10:15 AM on July 25, 2012 [2 favorites]


PATHETIC.

we only drink goat milk and eat goat/sheep dairy products. i dont know where the hell they came up with this stupid idea nobody does in the US.
posted by liza at 10:21 AM on July 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


Don't look at me. I love cheese from goats, sheep and buffalo.

...

Err, we do. This is a false premise.

...

we only drink goat milk and eat goat/sheep dairy products. i dont know where the hell they came up with this stupid idea nobody does in the US.


ITT: people who think generic sentences express universal quantification.

posted by nebulawindphone at 10:38 AM on July 25, 2012 [4 favorites]


Because milking a lion is likely to be fatal.
posted by doctor_negative at 10:39 AM on July 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


The link to the water buffalo farmer was really interesting. I'd love to do that.
posted by Listener at 10:49 AM on July 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


Welcome to the fascinating world of rat cheese.

And do try Squeaky Farms Brand Genuine Animal Milk...
posted by Iris Gambol at 10:49 AM on July 25, 2012


Other sources of milk available at any supermarket include the docile and easily farmed soybeast, the almondpossum, and the ricecat.

Also, what about whales?
posted by -harlequin- at 10:51 AM on July 25, 2012 [2 favorites]


I would think (pace The Simpsons) that marketing rat milk would produce a lot of vegans in short order.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 10:52 AM on July 25, 2012


Great. Now I am craving mozzarella di bufala. That's one sublime cheese.
posted by Splunge at 10:54 AM on July 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


On the one hand they might not eat swine; but on the other hand they might not kill them. And if the former rule speaks for the uncleanness, the latter speaks still more strongly for the sanctity of the animal.

Huh? That's not how clean/unclean works. Touching or killing an unclean animal might make a person unclean just the same as eating it. (And it's just a binary state, you're either allowed into the temple (clean) or you're not (unclean), although some unclean things might require more time or ritual than others to become clean again.)
posted by straight at 11:08 AM on July 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


Well, Frazer was this weird sort of universalist. Like there's only one kind of magical thinking, and everyone does it the same way.

Seems just as reasonable to me to be like "No, the Greeks put taboos on stuff they revered, and the Hebrews put taboos on stuff they found disgusting, and those are two different approaches." (I mean, in Leviticus you find out that mold and fungus are also unclean, and I don't think that means the ancient Semites practiced some kind of fungolatry, right? (Though dude, what an awesome premise for a Lovecraft novel....)) But Frazer didn't swing that way.
posted by nebulawindphone at 11:17 AM on July 25, 2012 [2 favorites]


I did once make lasagna using real mozzarella, flown in that day from Italy. Easily over half the expense of the meal was the cheese and it was TOTALLY worth it. It doesn't melt into a puddle like cow mozzarella, it gets crispy and brown and is freakin' awesome.

But if you want to get adventurous in your quest for exotic milks, I here present a science article detailing an experimental automated rat milker. You're welcome.
posted by caution live frogs at 11:41 AM on July 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


Unless I missed it somewhere, I just can't believe that nobody even mentioned ass's milk! Hippocrates prescribed it, Cleopatra bathed in it, Pauline Bonaparte used it in her makeup, the USDA even allows it as a substitute for mother's milk.
And asses - jennies - or hinnies, if you prefer - are a hell of a lot more cooperative than sows are when it comes milking time. Ignoring the donkey is completely asinine!
He-haw!
posted by biboch at 11:45 AM on July 25, 2012 [4 favorites]


I grew up eating sheep cheese in the former Czechoslovakia. It is so good; a little bit more...gamey than cow, but not much. The whole traditional cuisine revolves around sheep cheese. Now that socialism ended and the various Western corporations moved in, it's nearly impossible to find sheep's cheese, but you can sure find five thousand flavors of Danon yogurt on the shelf. Don't get me started.

Also, last year had some fresh yak milk yogurt in Western China from nomadic Tibetan herders living in tents. OMG so good. Am seriously contemplating a return trip just to eat more of it. And the yaks are really cute, too.
posted by Atrahasis at 11:45 AM on July 25, 2012 [3 favorites]


I had camel milk ice cream while in the Middle East. It was delish.
posted by Fister Roboto at 12:10 PM on July 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


The low availability of water-buffalo milk in the United States limits how authentic an Indian meal you can hope to have, and a few dairies are trying to fill the niche, but water buffalo are difficult animals for noobs to deal with.

The author can now collect on the dare that he would include the word noob in a journalistic article
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 12:22 PM on July 25, 2012 [7 favorites]


why not whales? becuase I suspect their milk would be very fishy tasting! Also, requires the dairyman to get SCUBA certified.
posted by vespabelle at 12:33 PM on July 25, 2012


"...MALK?"
posted by Eideteker at 12:58 PM on July 25, 2012 [2 favorites]


while admirable in its efforts for locally sourcing food stuffs, is perhaps -- perhaps -- not sustainable on a global scale

Sure it is - just in a "distributed", "peer-to-peer" fashion...
posted by jkaczor at 1:05 PM on July 25, 2012


One Wisconsin dairyman (a former lieutenant colonel in the Israeli military) who had acquired a herd of dairy buffalo told a newspaper that milking them was more difficult than leading troops into war.

Hoo Ah!
posted by Mojojojo at 1:13 PM on July 25, 2012


It's even worse when you mistake the males for females.
posted by Splunge at 1:29 PM on July 25, 2012


I send away to Oasis Camel Dairy for spray dried camel milk. I cannot consume cow's milk at all. Even most non-dairy coffee creamer has casein. Apparently besides being lactose intolerant, I am sensitive to casein. Camel milk has no casein.

Camel milk has a very mild taste.

My IBS was so bad that I had gut-wrenching flare-ups regularly. I now am just about normal.
Camel milk was illegal in the US for ages. Had it been legal and available, my working life might have been extended another few years.
At least I have my dignity back.
The Rieglers are awesome people as well.
Properly cared for Dromadary camels are less hard on delicate ecosystems than cattle, sheep, goats or horses, all of which have hard hooves. They survive under conditions which kill sheep, goats and cattle.
Not only does their milk help with digestive problems, the insulin in their milk is bio-available to humans.
I can tell you camel milk tastes way better than goat milk.
The fact you can't make cheese or butter with it wasn't of much concern to the nomadic peoples who owned camels as you milk them daily. They were and are the best possible place to keep the milk until you want some.
Because they browse randomly they don't destroy habitat. Because they have softer feet they don't cut up the ground.
posted by Katjusa Roquette at 1:31 PM on July 25, 2012 [4 favorites]


I like goat milk in shakes or cereal, but I don't like the flavor of it straight. It's thick and creamy but best used in something. Well, that's my opinion anyway, lots of people drink it straight. I do feel a lot better when drinking goat milk than I do drinking cow's milk, but cow milk tastes better to me. Although not actually milk, I found soy milk is easy to get used to, almond milk not so much. Very Vanilla is REALLY good, but in the same way that vanilla cow's milk is good.
posted by Malice at 1:45 PM on July 25, 2012


They were and are the best possible place to keep the milk until you want some.

Well put.
posted by nebulawindphone at 1:49 PM on July 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


This guy at Fias Co Farm makes his own goat butter. Now I want a goat.
posted by Joe in Australia at 2:08 PM on July 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


I was so disappointed when I figured out that people were milking some sort of buffalo cheese didn't mean bison. I figured buffalo (bison) milkers had to be some bad ass dairy hands.
posted by small_ruminant at 3:06 PM on July 25, 2012


I've got loads of feta and halloumi in my fridge right now. Are these not popular in the US? You can buy both very easily from even small supermarkets here. The soft, crumbly goat's cheese is frequently made in Wales.

Goat's milk is very goaty-tasting. I can eat halloumi like an apple but I find the taste a bit unnerving. Buffalo milk is nice, though - lovely fresh clean taste - but very expensive here.
posted by mippy at 3:47 PM on July 25, 2012


I watched a clip on youtube about milking cows (produced, apparently, by a child genius?). Looks like conditions for dairy workers aren't the greatest. I'm not sure how factual the film is, though, as I haven't seen anything like the pictured demand for milk in our local market.
posted by maxwelton at 4:58 PM on July 25, 2012


When reading Game of Thrones I thought the Dothraki fermented milk was just an invention by George R.R. Martin, but I guess if it has sugar in it there's no reason why you couldn't....
Does he mention that it tastes like Satan's armpit?
posted by the duck by the oboe at 5:08 PM on July 25, 2012


Came here for a mention of the Simpsons rat milk episode, was not disappointed.

WAS disappointed that it took y'all nearly 4 hours to mention it.
posted by hippybear at 6:38 PM on July 25, 2012


I love that article for the impression it gives that chefs have this unsuspected kooky other life.
“I know a chef who's trying to make a pig's-milk cheese. I'm not sure how that's going.”
Like, his postcards marked "Brazil" stopped coming six weeks ago.
And this:
“The sheep people are a weird bunch,” says one chef, who wanted to remain anonymous so as not to offend his favorite cheesemaker. “Sheep are difficult to raise, and fickle. You don't get much yield, and the cheese isn't that popular, so you're talking about an eccentric person. It's very difficult.”
The cheesemaker is coming today! Is everyone wearing their lederhosen? Get those shiny pans down! You know what happened last time! *Sigh*
posted by Catch at 9:00 PM on July 25, 2012


Looks like that thing about cow farmers hating sheep farmers was very real:
To cattle ranchers, sheepherders were even less welcome than homesteaders. Sheep grazed the grass to the roots and contributed to overgrazed, depleted ranges. Ethnic and religious prejudice added to tension with sheepherders. In the southwest, shepherds were usually Mexican or Indian, while in Nevada and the northwest they were often Mormons or Basque immigrants from the region along the French-Spanish border. With these new elements on the plains, violent range wars sometimes broke out as cattle drovers, homesteaders, and sheepherders found themselves at odds. Eventually land and water use was worked out between ranchers and farmers through laws and agreements, and sheepherders took their flocks to marginal and high altitude ranges that were unsuitable for cattle but where sheep did well. Land use was everywhere restricted, and the great sweep of open country that had once characterized the West became only a memory."
posted by Malor at 9:25 PM on July 25, 2012


So, I was going to mention yaks, but was beaten to it.

Does anyone else remember a segment in a Dave Barry book, banging on and on about unlikely dairy? (Dogs? Rats?) 12 year old me seems to think so.

I found this, which led me to this, but I seem to recall a reference in one the (many) paperbacks I read (often out loud, to my captive audience) in the backseat.
posted by snuffleupagus at 7:28 AM on July 26, 2012


Eyebrows McGee, the economic/ecological explanation for the pork taboo is absolutely fascinating. I have read another explanation that I think also comes into play (and has the benefit of also speaking to the shellfish taboo).

The idea is that food taboos are tools in the arsenal of exclusion, inclusion, and separation. They are used to keep potential defectors (the disenfranchised, the poor, the young are always tempted to defect) of a group or tribe in. Think of how powerful breaking bread is in forming alliances or friendships. And think of how many food taboos prohibit foods that neighboring tribes favor (shellfish).

Meat taboos are especially powerful because they leverage the psychology of disgust. Apparently meats are unique in terms of how people grow to find them disgusting (disgust, the emotion, kicks in developmentally around three or four years old -- up until then children will basically put anything into their mouths). Meat is different. Children apparently monitor the sorts of flesh people around them eat, and anything that they don't children grow to be disgusted at. Disgust towards certain kinds of meat is notoriously persistant. Soliders (pilots in particular) have in the past undergone extensive training just to get them to eat disgusting (but perfectly safe) meat (you can't get them to enjoy it though).

Anyway this powerful emotion is used to deter breaking bread with the enemy. And the tactic is self-perpetuating, reinforced each generation by what parents do and do not feed their children. The fact that, with pork, the out-group is not only an enemy but an oppressor makes deterring defection even more important! And tying food taboos to moral imperatives (if you are mean to the poor God will smite you) and vice-versa is just such a great tactic, anticipating thousands of years in advance recent findings that moral disgust is very similar in terms of what happens in the brain to disgust caused by food.
posted by AceRock at 7:44 AM on July 26, 2012 [2 favorites]


Listener: "The link to the water buffalo farmer was really interesting. I'd love to do that."

"Everybody's got a water buffalo, yours is fast but mine is slow oh where'd we get them I don't know but everybody's got a water buffaloooooooooooooooo..."

I never thought about pigs being omnivores and how I don't really like pork. I like ham (most of the time, in small quantities) and I like bacon, but just pork? Pork chops? Pork roast? No thank you. Although I do like BBQ pulled pork but I suspect that has more to do with the fact that it's so drowned in BBQ sauce you can't really taste the meat...
posted by IndigoRain at 7:46 AM on July 26, 2012


Mary Douglas!
Marshall Sahlins!
Pigs are Gross,
but Cows are Awesome!
posted by snuffleupagus at 7:49 AM on July 26, 2012


Airag anyone?
posted by Kabanos at 9:44 AM on July 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


AceRock, I think what you're saying answers "Why do any food taboos exist?" while Eyebrows McGee is offering a plausible explanation for "Why forbid pigs instead of chickens or cows?" (Fascinating point about how people learn which meats are edible.)
posted by straight at 11:34 PM on July 26, 2012


I am pleased to see we have not all forgotten the yaks. Yak yoghurt is indeed amazing and the milk was fine too. Cheese? Delicious. ...although the butter can be uh an acquired taste.

Go to the Gezmo restaurant in Leh, India. Talk to Santa or get in contact with Dorje. They will find you anything.


never forget the yaks
posted by six-or-six-thirty at 1:34 AM on July 27, 2012


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