Don't Got Milk

By
Cows: rulers of the American food world. Americans depend on cows for some of the most frequently consumed foods in the United States, especially in the form of dairy. Americans are very attached to dairy for social, emotional, and physical reasons. Yet the assumption that milk is nutrient-rich and life-extending is not based on logic… milk is actually an illogical and unhealthy part of the American diet.
Milk (as cow’s milk will be referred to in this essay) has been around for centuries. Europeans kept cows for milk and to make from milk butter, cream, and cheese. Milk was a practical food source. Milk was readily available and also enduring, lasting the length of a cow’s life. Meat, on the other hand, could only be eaten once and then was finished, and vegetables were only available once fully grown. Milk and dairy foods were delicious as well. So when the Europeans moved to America, they brought along with them this tradition of making food from cow’s milk. This is the reason dairy has been a staple food choice for Americans since the country’s beginning.
In the 1993, long after Europeans first settled the United States, California dairy processors came together to create the Got Milk? campaign. With this campaign, the dairy industry suddenly turned milk into an American “icon.” Milk became cool and fun. The “Got milk?” slogans, to this day, appear everywhere from bulletin boards and magazines to TV and t-shirts. Usually the ads display celebrities, making the ads more appealing to young people. Americans should ask themselves: what was the dairy industry’s motivation behind hyping up and promoting their own product? Was it because they were highly concerned with Americans suffering from osteoporosis? Or was it because the dairy industry was failing, and needed to make some major money? The truth about the dairy industry’s motivation in creating the “Got milk?” campaign might reveal whether or not their claims of milk being healthy were ever based on honest findings or on fabricated, exaggerated, statements. The United States Department of Agriculture, as well, has taken many steps to help promote milk and dairy products. By giving dairy its own category in the food pyramid and by recommending people drink two to three cups of milk a day, the USDA has officially claimed dairy as the most reliable, if not only, source of calcium to get big, strong bones. Upon close, objective examination, though, milk seems not to be such a valuable source of nutrients for the human body or a logical food choice at all.
First of all, humans are the only animals that continue consuming milk after being weaned. In the wild, every young mammal is weaned from milk at a genetically appropriate age and never drinks milk again. Calves are no exception. The enzymes needed to digest milk, rennin and lactase, are gone after a certain period of time for all babies. For humans these enzymes are gone by the age of three. The purpose is so that animals can eventually rely on substantial food for their nutrients. For example, when a calf becomes fully grown, it discontinues getting nutrients from its mother milk but instead relies fully on simple, green grass. In fact, the strongest and largest animals in the world (except for whales) do not drink milk during adulthood, or even eat meat -- elephants, rhinoceroses, and gorillas are vegetarians, just like cows. Therefore, isn’t it possible that most, if not all, nutrients the human body requires to be healthy and strong can be obtained through the consumption of vegetables and fruits, rather than from milk and other food products? By nature, milk is designed for one purpose only: to feed the young of the species. Humans are currently the only animal in the world, other than tamed animals, who are never weaned.
Another illogical reason to drink milk is because the anatomy of cows differs greatly from the anatomy of humans. For one, cows have four stomachs. Calves need four stomachs to digest the strong milk of its mother. In cow’s milk, casein, the ingredient that helps develop big bones, is three hundred times more than in human milk. The simple reason for this because cows are much bigger than humans, especially in terms of bone mass, and need much more calcium.
Another interrelated and common American belief that has no scientific or logical support is the belief that having big bones and that being a “big” person is healthier than being a small or short person. “Drink milk to get big, strong bones!” encourages the USDA. It begs the question: why do people need big bones? Perhaps this type of encouragement stems from a desire to veer away from the opposite bone type: weak, skinny, and fragile. This bone type is often typified by anorexia and other sicknesses, as well as very old age.
However, the healthiest people in the world as measured by longevity are Asians. Japanese people are the longest-living people in the world, with 85.3 years being the average for women and 78.3 years for men. Not only are Japanese and most Asians generally long-living, they are also typically short. Perhaps it’s possible that being small is healthier than being big. The bigger the body, the harder the body has to work, which shortens its length of life. This is evidenced in the dog world. Though some might find the physiologies of humans and dogs unrelated, it in interesting to note that Great Danes have an average life span of seven to ten years, whereas the average life span for Chihuahuas is fifteen to eighteen years.
Yet even with logical, substantial examples of the abnormality of human milk consumption, many Americans still do not want to believe milk is unhealthy. After being presented with the idea that milk is unhealthy, many Americans become defensive and emotional. Their most common questions are, “If milk is unhealthy, why would the USDA, and many scientists, promote it? Why wouldn’t scientists know milk is unhealthy?” and “If people stop drinking milk, how will they get calcium?”
As far as why the USDA and milk industry promotes milk, there is a possibility is that they promote milk not because milk is healthy but because through promoting milk they receive large compensations from the milk industry. An article posted by U.S. News





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Bethani said...
Feb. 20, 2010 at 6:08 pm
Interesting point of vew. I've heard that milk is bad for you. I love milk however. I have dairy products daily.
 
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