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12082013-1There is always something for politicians to disagree about but it usually does not affect your morning bowl of cereal. If politicians cannot craft a new farm bill by January 1st, farm policy will revert to the 1949 farm bill. According to the 1949 bill, the government will have to pay higher prices for the cheese, butter, and other dairy products it purchases. Dairy farmers understandably might choose to sell to the government at these higher prices. This would create a shortage of milk in groceries across the country. And, this shortage would result in higher milk prices for consumers. Some experts predict milk prices might rise to $7 a gallon. It is a chain of events that is being called the ‘dairy cliff.’

It is safe to say politicians do not want their fingers in your milk. But, milk prices are only one small part of the farm bill. It also contains controversial and complicated pieces, such as the food stamp program (SNAP) and farm subsidies. While we wait to see how much milk will cost in January, let’s learn a little about the history, economics, nutrition, and advertising of milk.

From Udder to Glass—

12082013-2Amazingly, the history of milk begins thousands of years ago with the first domesticated cows. View ProCon’s Historical Timeline of Cow’s Milk from the Ancient World to the Present. Read the definition of milk, and discover what kind of milk people drink, and which cultures do not consume milk.

Milk is among the most highly regulated foods in the United States. Learn more about how cows are cared for and the steps farmers take to ensure the safety of the milk supply. Take a virtual tour of the milking process and the processing plant.

Milk: It does a Body Good—

12082013-3Milk is a staple of a healthy diet. Most parents encourage their young children to drink milk as their bones and muscles grow. But, many Americans would be surprised to learn the USDA recommends that tweens and adults consume more dairy each day than children. Discover why milk consumption is so important during the tween and teen years, and how it affects bone health and teeth. Review the health benefits of milk, and the differences between different types of milk.

12082013-5Skim, 1%, 2%, or whole—whatever you prefer, cereal with milk is how millions of people begin their day. What do people who are lactose intolerant do? And why is milk considered such a good choice for breakfast? Watch how milk stacks up to other common breakfast foods. Choose the stats tab at Protein Fight Club and then click on a breakfast food.

Milk is not without its controversies. Revisit ProCon.org and consider whether organic milk is healthier than conventional milkwhether raw milk is healthy, if milk is the best source of calcium, if milk helps grow strong bones, and if growth hormones effect the quality of milk. Despite disagreements about the types or amounts of milk you should consume, most people do agree that milk is healthy.

Milk-onomics—

Few would expect that milk—simple and old-fashioned—is worth billions to the American economy. In states with large dairy industries, milk is liquid gold. Examine how California’s dairy industry affects the state economy.

12082013-6Despite the irreplaceable deliciousness of a cold glass of milk, these are tough times for the dairy industry. While the dairy industry improved production rates, a host of new beverages emerged to entice consumers and to challenge milk’s share of the market. It is the classic economic problem: production versus consumption; supply versus demand. View the USDA chart for milk production over the past decade. Check out the Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board chart for state milk production and US milk consumption. Now view charts for milk and soda consumption.

Got Milk?—

Milk has not changed much over time. There are now chocolate and strawberry options but face it, when you are about to bite into a warm cookie, all you want is a glass of cold milk. There aren’t many bells and whistles that would improve it. How does an industry increase demand when its product has not changed? How might it market milk amid growing interest in health and wellness and with increased competition from sports drinks and bottled water? It is a challenge some believe the dairy industry has failed to meet.

12082013-7Still, one of the classic advertising campaigns is got milk? It has endured for twenty years. View some of the most recent celebrities and athletes to wear the got milk? mustache. The campaign has become such a staple of pop culture that dozens of products and causes have adopted it: got bike? got Jesus? got vote? and got cookies? to name only a few. Read more about the history of the got milk? campaign and watch the original commercial. View Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, in the first milk Superbowl commercial.

Who knew there was so much to milk? Grab a plate of cookies, a glass of milk, and test your milk no-how with a quiz