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Pure and Modern Milk: An Environmental History since 1900 Hardcover – November 8, 2013

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press (November 8, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0199899126
  • ISBN-13: 978-0199899128
  • Product Dimensions: 9.4 x 0.9 x 6.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,033,846 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


"STARRED REVIEW. 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." - Publishers Weekly

"From cream and cheese to milk bottled, dried and lurking in everything from cake to glue, 'dairy' is ubiquitous. Yet getting the highly perishable, machine-pumped product of lactating cows to consumers has been a hugely complex technological, cultural and political saga. Kendra Smith-Howard deftly traces that trajectory in the United States since 1900." - Nature

"As a former dairy technologist in three countries and after spending 30 years in university teaching and research in dairy science, this reviewer thought he had read all of the dozens of books that frame the edifice of dairy science. But in Pure and Modern Milk, historian Smith-Howard opens a wider window into the past... All segments of the food industry would benefit from a similar illumination by such a scholarly investigator... A fascinating, comprehensive look at the dairy industry. Highly recommended. All levels/libraries." --Choice

"Got milk? If so, then you've got a whole lot else in your fridge as well: a hope, a duty, a highly regulated product, a carton of controversy, and a hand in industrializing America's farms. And you've also got a paradox: a food that is so quintessentially natural that it's become artificial, as Kendra Smith-Howard reveals in this fascinating history of how we have transformed cows, landscapes and ideas of purity in order to make milk keep pace with us as we become ever more modern consumers. With Pure and Modern Milk, you get the whole, surprising story."--Douglas C. Sackman, author of Orange Empire: California and the Fruits of Eden

"Kendra Smith-Howard is one of the freshest and most intriguing new voices in rural and environmental history today. In Pure and Modern Milk, she demonstrates a keen command of mountains of previously untapped materials, showing the intimate but often invisible links among rural environments, urban supermarkets, and human health. In stories of milk 'byproducts; (think butter and ice cream, but also whey) and technologies (refrigerators and freezers), Smith-Howard lays out the surprising ways in which the changing formulas for good health and good farm incomes shaped and were shaped by industrialization and regulation of modern life in the late twentieth century. This is an astute and brilliant book, a must-read for anyone interested in food, rural industrialization, or the environment." --Deborah Fitzgerald, author of Every Farm a Factory: The Industrial Ideal in American Agriculture

"Milk has not always been the purest of foods, and it is certainly not a natural one. But in Kendra Smith-Howard's excellent book, it proves a rich medium for a uniquely American environmental history." --Susanne Freidberg, author of Fresh: A Perishable History

About the Author

Kendra Smith-Howard is Assistant Professor of History at the University at Albany, State University of New York.

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By I. Darren on January 14, 2014
Format: Hardcover
Milk is pure isn't it…? After all it comes straight from the cow. Well technically yes, but…

This book takes a deep look at a product that nearly everybody consumes, which is fairly uniform and yet it can vary tremendously. The product we get from the store - even allowing for small differences in packaging and the amount of fat present - has changed tremendously after being dispensed from the cow. There is a whole raft of regulations and requirements from different authorities and even suppliers to comply with, involving expensive and complex processes that make small but subtle changes to the "product". Milk is also delivered in many different forms other than just plain milk too and that spawns a whole host of different changes.

Certainly this is a book that gets you thinking and you get a barrage of information that perhaps you don't strictly need to know yet you will be a better informed consumer along the way. Yet the typical consumer doesn't care as long as they get the type of milk they desire. The consumer trusts that "the authorities" and "the suppliers" follow the rules and deliver a fresh product. Less care as to whether the milk is organic or not or whether the milk comes from one country or another. Milk is milk, they will say, but anyone who has tasted real "from the tap" cow milk will notice a difference. The further it gets along the production chain perhaps the harder it is to differentiate.

This is clearly an academically-focussed book with verbose chapter names such as "Reforming a Perilous Product: Milk in the Progressive Era" and "Reassessing the Risks of Nature: Milk after 1950" yet it need not be out of the reach of the average, interested reader.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Linda J. Goodwin on April 15, 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The book interested me because I spent the first 30 years of my life on a small NY dairy farm. I owned, milked, showed, judged, bought and sold Ayrshire cows. I was active in 4-H, FFA, and Dairylea Cooperative. I was surprised by the large amount of statistical information in the book, taken from issues of Hoard's Dairyman, and I don't think the author made any allowances for the "lag" of the adoption of technology. I remember taking milk cans to the creamery in Cherry Valley, and that was during the 1960's. It wasn't until about 1967, that my family built an addition on the barn and changed to a bulk-tank system because the local creamery closed. I was also surprised to read so much about Grade B dairies, those which were not considered "clean" enough to produce Grade A, fluid milk. In NY all dairy farms are considered Grade A.
Fresh out of college, I worked as a part-time milk tester for over 10 years. On that job I heard one farmer say, more than once, "The solution is dilution." At other farms I learned the heavy use of Chlorine was the best way to keep the bacteria count down. And I visited some farms that were so "filthy" that I didn't think I would ever drink milk again!
The book mentioned artificial insemination as being used to increase productivity. But there was no mention of embryo transfer which was practiced quite widely in the 1980's and beyond. There was also no mention of milk pricing, or the term "butter-powder plants" or the government's hand in determining milk price, but I was not surprised. Overall I think the book provided an acceptable review of how milk has been perceived from a consumer's point of view.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Gift for my husband and he says it is fascinating.
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