Nature's Perfect Food: How Milk Became America's Drink

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NYU Press, 2002 - Health & Fitness - 310 pages
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For over a century, America's nutrition authorities have heralded milk as "nature's perfect food," as "indispensable" and "the most complete food." These milk "boosters" have ranged from consumer activists, to government nutritionists, to the American Dairy Council and its ubiquitous milk moustache ads. The image of milk as wholesome and body-building has a long history, but is it accurate?

Recently, within the newest social movements around food, milk has lost favor. Vegan anti-milk rhetoric portrays the dairy industry as cruel to animals and milk as bad for humans. Recently, books with titles like, "Milk: The Deadly Poison," and "Don't Drink Your Milk" have portrayed milk as toxic and unhealthy. Controversies over genetically-engineered cows and questions about antibiotic residue have also prompted consumers to question whether the milk they drink each day is truly good for them.

In Nature's Perfect Food Melanie Dupuis illuminates these questions by telling the story of how Americans came to drink milk. We learn how cow's milk, which was associated with bacteria and disease became a staple of the American diet. Along the way we encounter 19th century evangelists who were convinced that cow's milk was the perfect food with divine properties, brewers whose tainted cow feed poisoned the milk supply, and informal wetnursing networks that were destroyed with the onset of urbanization and industrialization. Informative and entertaining, Nature's Perfect Food will be the standard work on the history of milk.

 

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Contents

Why Milk?
4
The Perfect Food Story
18
Why Not Mother? The Rise of Cows Milk as Infant Food in NineteenthCentury America
47
The Milk Question Perfecting Food as Urban Reform
68
Perfect Food Perfect Bodies
91
Perfect Farming The Industrial Vision of Dairying
126
The Less Perfect Story Diversity and Farming Strategies
145
Crisis The BorderLine Problem
166
Alternative Visions of Dairying Productivism and Producerism in New York Wisconsin and California
184
The End of Perfection
211
Afterword
242
Notes
246
Bibliography
272
Index
298
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About the author (2002)

E. Melanie DuPuis is Associate Professor of Sociology at the University of California, Santa Cruz and author of Nature's Perfect Food: How Milk Became America's Drink.

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