Have you ever wondered why we drink cow’s milk? Surely cow’s milk is designed for cows and not humans, how did it come about that we as a species drink more cow’s milk than cows do?
Humans drink cow’s milk because it’s healthy, nutritious, and it’s easy for us to farm in large quantities, which makes it cheaper to produce than plant-based milks like almond milk or soy milk.
In this article, we’ll look at the reasons behind our large-scale consumption of cow’s milk, as well as the benefits of cow’s milk and some arguments against it.
Why Do Humans Drink Cows Milk?
Humans usually drink cow’s milk because it’s healthy and nutritious, and the manufacturing process is simple and cost-effective, meaning it’s cheap to produce in large volumes. (COw’s milk is usually cheaper than plant-based milk and other animal milk)
Cow’s milk is a good source of protein, calcium, vitamins E, A, D, B6, and B12, and cholesterol which your body needs to regulate metabolism and create new cells.
Unlike some plant-based milk which is difficult to grow and manufacture, cow’s milk is relatively simple and cost-effective to produce in high volumes.
Thanks to generations of artificial selection for highly productive dairy cows, the Friesian-Holstein breed can now produce up to 28 liters (over 6 gallons!) of milk every single day.
Health Benefits of Cows’ Milk
Milk is so crammed with nutrients that it’s impossible to list every health benefit, but here are a few benefits to drinking milk:
- Milk contains calcium and Vitamin D which help your bones, teeth, and nails grow strong.
- Milk is rich in protein and is great for helping your muscles to repair themselves after a workout.
- Drinking milk protects against tooth cavities by strengthening your enamel, which is the protective outer layer of your teeth.
- Research from 2013 in the Journal ‘Frontiers in Endocrinology’ found that daily consumption of milk or dairy helped prevent Type 2 diabetes.
Related Article: When To Start Milking A Cow After Calving?
Beneficial Nutrients in Cows’ Milk
Cow’s milk contains lots of nutrients, minerals, and vitamins that help keep us healthy. Here’s a brief list of the main nutrients found in milk, and a little explanation of how they improve our health.
|Calcium||Calcium is probably what milk is most known for. Calcium helps keep your teeth, bones, hair, nails, and skin healthy. (source)|
|Potassium||Potassium is used to build muscle cells (80% of the potassium in your body is in your muscles!) and as an electrolyte to help your nervous system function. (source)|
|Magnesium||Magnesium is used in lots of building processes in your body, as well as regulating blood pressure and blood sugar. (source)|
|Zinc||Your body uses zinc for cell division, which is critical to maintain a strong immune system and to help heal wounds. (source)|
|Protein||Milk is rich in protein, which is used to grow and repair muscles and cells. It’s a great post-workout protein source. (source)|
|Healthy Fats||Milk contains Omega-3 fatty acids which are vital to maintaining a healthy body. Omega-3 fats help prevent heart disease, arthritis, and some cancers. (source)|
|Vitamin A||Vitamin A is crucial for eyesight, and helps maintain your immune system. (source)|
|Vitamin B12||Vitamin B12 helps maintain the integrity of your DNA and creates red blood cells. Vegans often suffer from B12 deficiency because it’s only found in animal products like milk. (source)|
|Vitamin B2 (riboflavin)||Riboflavin (Vitamin B2) helps maintain your skin, eyes, and central nervous system. (source)|
|Vitamin D||Found in fortified milk. Vitamin D helps keep your bones and skin healthy. (source)|
Why Don’t We Drink Human Milk Instead?
We do! At least, we do when we’re babies. At one point, human milk was the lifeblood of humanity, providing nutrients to all human newborns.
The reason we don’t drink human milk on a large scale is that human breast milk is perfectly suited for human babies, so it gets used up for its intended purpose. In addition, there are moral implications since milk is only produced when a woman has a baby to feed.
What About Plant-Based Milk?
Cow milk is a good source of protein and calcium but it also contains cholesterol and lactose, which some people can’t have due to allergies or intolerances.
Plant-based milk is a good alternative for people who can’t digest cow’s milk and for people who don’t eat any animal products.
Plant-based milk comes in many different varieties including soy, rice, oat, almond, cashew, and hazelnut. It can be used on cereal as well as in coffee and tea just like dairy milk, but it has one major drawback…
In my opinion, the main reason plant-based milk isn’t more widely consumed is the price. According to a recent study by food commodities trader Mintec, plant-based milk can cost up to double the price of regular cow’s milk.
Arguments Against Humans Drinking Cows Milk
Although most science agrees that cow’s milk is healthy, there are some arguments against drinking it that aren’t necessarily about the milk itself, but about the industry surrounding it and the effect it has on our world.
1: Cruelty in Dairy Industry
There are many aspects of dairy farming that some people find unpalatable.
For cows to produce milk, they must remain pregnant all the time, but they can’t have a calf or they would drink the milk. To achieve this, farmers forcibly inseminate dairy cows soon after they give birth, and the calf is removed to be fed on synthetic milk instead.
Read More: Do Cows Drink Milk?
There have been lots of viral videos of cows wailing for days on end for their lost calves.
The dairy industry produces lots of male dairy calves, which are completely useless in most western countries and are sent to be slaughtered for veal. (The veal industry has its own set of questionable animal welfare practices)
Read More: What Is Veal?
2: Environmental Impact
The dairy industry is a major contributor to climate change. The industry accounts for 17% of the world’s total greenhouse gas emissions and is the third-highest emitting sector in the global food chain.
The 13 largest dairy farms in the world have the same carbon footprint as the entire carbon footprint of the United Kingdom, which has a population of 75 million people.
To sum up, we drink cow’s milk because it’s healthy for us and because we’ve improved the agricultural process to such a degree through technology and selective breeding that milk is now extremely cost-efficient to produce.
Dairy milk is usually cheaper and more practical to produce than plant-based milk like almond milk as well as other animal milk.
We don’t usually consume human milk because it’s specifically made for babies.
There are some arguments against cow milk, including that the dairy industry has some cruelty and animal welfare issues, and the entire agriculture industry including dairy is one of the worst polluting industries in the world.
Stuart is the editor of Fauna Facts. He edits our writers’ work as well as contributing his own content. Stuart is passionate about sustainable farming and animal welfare and has written extensively on cows and geese for the site.