Not to be confused with the movie named Milk! :)
From Wikipedia the free encyclopedia:
IntroductionEditMilk is a white liquid produced by the mammary glands of mammals. It is the primary source of nutrition for young mammals before they are able to digest other types of food. Early-lactation milk contains colostrum, which carries the mother's antibodies to its young and can reduce the risk of many diseases. Milk contains many other nutrients and the carbohydrate lactose.
As an agricultural product, milk is extracted from mammals during or soon after pregnancy and is used as food for humans. Worldwide, dairy farms produced about 730 million tonnes of milk in 2011, from 260 million dairy cows. India is the world's largest producer of milk, and is the leading exporter of skimmed milk powder, yet has little to no other milk product exports. The ever increasing rise in domestic demand for dairy products and a large demand-supply gap could lead to India being a net importer of dairy products in the future. New Zealand, the European Union's 28 member states, Australia, and the United States are the world's largest exporters of milk and milk products. China and Russia are the world's largest importers of milk and milk products.
Throughout the world, there are more than six billion consumers of milk and milk products. Over 750 million people live within dairy farming households.
Humans first learned to regularly consume the milk of other mammals following the domestication of animals during the Neolithic Revolution or the development of agriculture. This development occurred independently in several places around the world from as early as 9000–7000 BC in Southwest Asia to 3500–3000 BC in the Americas. The most important dairy animals—cattle, sheep and goats—were first domesticated in Southwest Asia, although domestic cattle had been independently derived from wild aurochs populations several times since. Initially animals were kept for meat, and archaeologist Andrew Sherratt has suggested that dairying, along with the exploitation of domestic animals for hair and labor, began much later in a separate secondary products revolution in the fourth millennium BC. Sherratt's model is not supported by recent findings, based on the analysis of lipid residue in prehistoric pottery, that shows that dairying was practiced in the early phases of agriculture in Southwest Asia, by at least the seventh millennium BC.
From Southwest Asia domestic dairy animals spread to Europe (beginning around 7000 BC but not reaching Britain and Scandinavia until after 4000 BC), and South Asia (7000–5500 BC). The first farmers in central Europe and Britain milked their animals. Pastoral and pastoral nomadic economies, which rely predominantly or exclusively on domestic animals and their products rather than crop farming, were developed as European farmers moved into the Pontic-Caspian steppe in the fourth millennium BC, and subsequently spread across much of the Eurasian steppe. Sheep and goats were introduced to Africa from Southwest Asia, but African cattle may have been independently domesticated around 7000–6000 BC. Camels, domesticated in central Arabia in the fourth millennium BC, have also been used as dairy animals in North Africa and the Arabian Peninsula. The earliest Egyptian records of burn treatments describe burn dressings using milk from mothers of male babies. In the rest of the world (i.e., East and Southeast Asia, the Americas and Australia) milk and dairy products were historically not a large part of the diet, either because they remained populated by hunter-gatherers who did not keep animals or the local agricultural economies did not include domesticated dairy species. Milk consumption became common in these regions comparatively recently, as a consequence of European colonialism and political domination over much of the world in the last 500 years.
In the Middle Ages, milk was called the "virtuous white liquor" because alcoholic beverages were more safe to consume than water.