When I was an Aitkin County Dairy Princess, back in the day, one of my duties was serving free milk to visitors at the Aitkin County Fair. I stood in the booth with two giant milk coolers and filled cups of milk while chatting with those who stopped for a drink. When I wasn't chatting, I'd smile at the people walking by and call out, "Would you like a free glass of milk?"
My memories of handing out free milk are mostly positive — children smiling at my crown, their parents asking questions about my family's dairy farm — except one.
That afternoon, a man and woman walked by together. I smiled and said, "Would you like a free glass of milk?"
Without stopping, the man growled back, "Milk is for babies." And they kept walking.
I shook off the comment. But it saddened me. Not just because milk and dairy cows were such a big part of my life. But also because milk and dairy products were (and still are) such important parts of my diet.
Since that afternoon, I've come to accept that everyone has a different relationship with milk and dairy products. Some, like me, can't live without them. Others make room for them in their diet because they value the nutrients dairy products provide. Some cannot tolerate consuming them. Whatever the relationship, it should be respected.
But what about that man's comment? Or the other statement commonly made by milk-haters: "Humans are the only animals that continue to drink milk after infancy."
Well, I just don't think those statements are true. But, then again, I'm biased.
But my animal friends aren't biased. I'm not an animal scientist, but I suspect that animals' food choices are influenced by nutrient density, taste, and little else.
Our dog, our cats, and our chickens are all provided with water and food (i.e. dog food, cat food, and chicken feed). And they all have access to whatever else they can find to eat. Our dog gets bones from the house and finds numerous other treats around the farm. The cats, at least the motivated ones, hunt for mice and birds. Our chickens free-range for spilled grain, insects and other small animals. In fact, our chickens eat more mice than our cats.
But every morning, when I bring milk to the shed to fill the cats' dish, they all come running.
I'm not the only one who loves milk.