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Milk fat is milk’s best feature

Stephen Weststeyn for Progressive Dairyman Published on 05 October 2016

Consumers today have been duped. Not by dairy farmers, but by the alternative, fake milk marketers. Alternative milks have been propped up as being healthy alternatives to milk, and they’re labeled with claims like “dairy-free,” “fat-free,” etc., as if these are healthy claims.

What is flattering is that the fake milks try to mimic the nutrition that milk naturally provides. But what these products fail to do is add the most important ingredient of all – fat.

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Milk fat was historically one of the most important ingredients in milk, but fallacious researchers here in America during the last century duped Americans into believing that milk fat is bad. One can hardly blame milk for being unhealthy when consumption is in sharp decline.

What we have forgotten is that one ingredient we’ve viewed negatively is actually our product’s best feature. Milk fat was always viewed as healthy throughout antiquity, and there is so much evidence proving this fact.

Perceptions of milk fat through history

Interestingly, some of the oldest references to dairy products was by the Sumerians, who literally documented their dairy culture on their temple walls around 3,000 B.C. They claimed that their kings were nourished by milk from the gods; it being the source of their great strength.

The ancient Vedics in India also had similar traditions. They elevated butter to the status of an immortality elixir much like the legendary fountain of youth. Butter was well respected and served as a symbol of fertility, regenerator of wealth and a purifier. Butter still carries these connotations in India today, where people throw butter balls at their idols. People also purify their food and make it more superior by adding butter.

This is the secret name of Butter:
“Tongue of the gods,” “navel of immortality.”

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—Excerpt of an Ancient Song of the RigVeda

The ancient Greeks follow these traditions and used butter cosmetically, medicinally, and even used it to heal battle wounds. Often in mythology, the Greeks recount the gods eating nectar and ambrosia to stay forever young. Ambrosia is said to have been milk or cream. The Greeks were actually speaking of milk and honey.

Remember, milk and honey was said to be flowing in the promised land in the Bible. Milk was obviously an important food during that time to be recounted in a promise and used as a signifier of abundance. In Genesis 18:8, Abraham offered milk and butter to visiting angels. He probably wasn’t giving them his worst food.

The ancient Egyptians also had dairy traditions and adorned their temples with graphics of men milking black and white cows and making dairy products. In Egypt, Thoth, the god of knowledge and wisdom, became immortal after drinking the “white drops” of an immortality potion. Milk was the preeminent food of the pharaohs and gods of Egypt. Further south in Africa, one can look at the Massai tribes near modern day Kenya, who have deep and ancient dairy traditions. They used butter as an ointment in major life-cycle rituals. Butter was viewed by them as being one of the best forms of sustenance, providing the best fertility and growth.

You can also find positive milk and butter references stretching all throughout Asia. The Chinese Buddhist teacher T’ien-t’ai noted that butter is a symbol of refinement, liberation and the transformation of the soul. The Tibetans in the Himalayan Mountains drank a tea with butter to stay healthy. They recounted numerous health benefits and even consumed as many as 40 cups per day. And we mustn’t forget that Gengis Khan fueled his Mongol warriors with kumis – fermented milk with butter clumps. He was able to forge a vast empire due to his butter use.

We all know the Europeans were talented in dairy production. The Vikings in northern Europe were often tending their cows when not at war. These fierce warriors were often buried with barrels of butter so they would have food in their afterlife. Most every other European culture speaks highly of milk and butter, including those ancient Celts whose mother goddess churned butter to feed the people.

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After the dark ages, would the Europeans have been able to sail around the world if it weren’t for butter? Butter was a perfect food for long voyages, being nutrient dense and not quick to spoil. Sir Francis Drake noted taking butter with him on his voyages around the world. The Pilgrims voyaged to the new world with butter. British warships in the 1700s to 1800s often listed butter as part of their rations. When you do the math on the length of the voyage, the amount of crew, etc., you find out that these crews were eating about 20 pounds of butter and 65 pounds of cheese per person per year. These men were not drinking skim milk. You can be sure that milk fat played a vital role in our world’s history.

Milk fat is the premier ingredient of milk

What’s interesting in all these facts is that all of the ancient cultures upheld milk as being one of the most perfect foods. None of these cultures promoted the fat-free lifestyle. And while those fake milks praise themselves for being fat-free, they are actually missing the best ingredient of all. Milk fat is the premier ingredient of milk. Consumers must only remember what we once knew.  end mark

Stephen Weststeyn is a California dairy farmer. Read his blog, Dairy Moos.

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