The Myth of Milk as Superfood
by Anne Mendelson
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Pub Date 25 Apr 2023 | Archive Date 02 Aug 2023
Why is cows’ milk, which few nonwhite people can digest, promoted as a science-backed dietary necessity in countries where the majority of the population is lactose-intolerant? Why are gigantic new dairy farms permitted to deplete the sparse water resources of desert ecosystems? Why do thousands of U.S. dairy farmers every year give up after struggling to recoup production costs against plummeting wholesale prices?
Exploring these questions and many more, Spoiled is an unflinching and meticulous critique of the glorification of fluid milk and its alleged universal benefits. Anne Mendelson’s groundbreaking book chronicles the story of milk from the Stone Age peoples who first domesticated cows, goats, and sheep to today’s troubled dairy industry. Spoiled shows that drinking fresh milk was rare until Western scientific experts who were unaware of genetic differences in the ability to digest lactose deemed it superior to traditional fermented dairy products. Their flawed beliefs fueled the growth of a massive and environmentally devastating industry that turned milk into a cheap, ubiquitous commodity.
Mendelson’s wide-ranging account also examines the consequences of homogenization and refrigeration technologies, the toll that modern farming takes on dairy cows, and changing perceptions of raw milk since the advent of pasteurization. Unraveling the myths and misconceptions that prop up the dairy industry, Spoiled calls for more sustainable, healthful futures in our relationship with milk and the animals that give it.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Anne Mendelson is a culinary historian and freelance writer specializing in food-related subjects. Her most recent book is Chow Chop Suey: Food and the Chinese American Journey (Columbia, 2016).
"Anne Mendelson does more than take on the many myths surrounding milk. She provides a history of milk in Britain and America, as dense and rich as a good cheese, and details the many controversies swirling in the glass, especially those concerning sanitation: clean dairies, pasteurization, refrigeration, and others. Scientifically detailed and rigorous without being difficult or inaccessible, Spoiled is a major contribution to food history and to the history of industrializing agriculture."
--E.N. Anderson, author, Everyone Eats: Understanding Food and Culture