Pure and Modern Milk: An Environmental History Since 1900

Kendra Smith-Howard. Oxford Univ., $34.95 (368p) ISBN 978-0-19-989912-8
S.U.N.Y. Albany historian Smith-Howard’s interdisciplinary social history catalogues milk’s strange reputation as both a quintessentially natural food and a highly technological product. Milk has played a central role in the American cultural and industrial landscape over the last century, binding farms with urban consumers, placing regulators at odds with producers, requiring technical improvements in transportation and animal sanitation, and inspiring a constant dance between producers, consolidators, nutritionists, and end-users about how it is marketed and sold. Quality in milk has always been associated with purity, but the definition of what purity means has changed radically along with production methods and health and environmental concerns. By the 1950s, consumers, as Smith-Howard shows, demanded standards for convenience dairy products like ice cream, while also developing a growing concern about health issues caused by dairy fats. Coming into the 1960s, environmentalists and consumer advocates voiced fears about milk being contaminated by antibiotics, radioactive residues, pesticides, and, more recently, synthetic hormones. Smith-Howard succeeds as both historian and storyteller in developing an essential narrative about American industrialization and how both nature and technology have been romanticized. Her coherent and complex view of the 20th century is both informative and enjoyable. Illus. (Nov.)
Reviewed on: 09/23/2013
Release date: 11/01/2013
Open Ebook - 240 pages - 978-0-19-989913-5
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