Earlier this week, America’s largest milk processor, Dean Foods, declared bankruptcy. It’s a new notch on the timeline of struggles for American dairy, which hasn’t yet figured out how to reverse decades of declines. Americans’ consumption of milk has tumbled 36% since 1970, and plant-based milk alternatives made from almonds and oats surely aren’t helping the cause. While I read this news with disappointment, though, the rest of the media is more than ready to dance on milk’s grave.
Grub Street’s headline? Milk is actually the worst. Jezebel’s? At long last, milk is canceled. I don’t chug cups of milk from the carton or anything, but I’m shocked that so many otherwise reasonable people seem to straight up hate milk. (If you’re lactose intolerant, that’s one thing.) My theory: Milk haters are drinking inferior milk.
A year or so ago, I began springing for the $4.50-a-gallon whole milk from a local dairy. It’s sold at my grocery store next to the other brands, but it’s not homogenized, leaving a thin layer of cream atop each jug. I haven’t looked back since. Full-fat dairy—whether yogurt or milk—is rich and satisfying, leagues apart from 100-calorie yogurt or skim milk. A glass of it with cookies or brownies tastes like drinking something near ice cream. It’s honestly a treat for me.
So I suspect milk haters are judging milk by its homogenized, skim versions. What other food would we categorically dismiss based on its poorest version? I can’t imagine a headline reading “Cheese is frankly disgusting,” based on the author’s experience with a can of Easy Cheese. In her Grub Street piece, Nikita Richardson writes: “If you are lucky enough to find milk that has not yet gone bad, it will still taste like it has gone bad, somehow flat, sour, and musty.” First, there is not-expired milk sold in nearly every grocery store in America; you can find it at 7-Eleven, Walmart, and your nearest corner store. Second, what kind of musty milk are you drinking?
I’m not suggesting everyone needs to enjoy milk as much as I do; I just find the outright disgust misplaced. Unless you’re unable to digest milk—in which case, maybe you’re not the person to write about whether or not milk tastes good?—it’s just another beverage in the pantheon, a beverage you can choose to drink, or not. But if you’re judging all milk based on skim or reduced-fat versions, the lowest rung on the ladder, I’m going to urge you to sidle up to a cold glass of the real thing.