Chapter 3: Bad Milk - Distillery Dairies

    This chapter spans roughly a century of time beginning with the war of 1812. The growth of America's largest cities was tremendous during this time. For example, New York City grew from a population of 33,000 in 1790 to 650,000 by 1850. In smaller towns of colonial times residents were able to supply their own fresh milk from pasture grazed cows within and around their towns. Cows were kept in common pastures in the heart of the community. Boston Commons had cows pastured as late as 1850.
    The war of 1812 halted the importing of whiskey from the British West Indies. This resulted in creation of a domestic liquor industry. Grain distilleries were needed and soon every major city had one or more distilleries. As cities expanded, pasture for cattle grew scarce. However, a waste product from the grain distilleries called "distillery slop" was readily available. It made economic sense for distillery owners to house milk cows next to their facilities to better convenience the feeding of this "slop" to the cattle. It had little value in fattening cattle, but worked well enough to produce an inferior type of milk so defective that butter and cheese could not be produced from it. It was, however, sold to immigrants within the cities who wanted fresh milk for their children. This type of milk was known as "Swill Milk."  Receipts published in Moore's Rural New York in 1852 showed 75 percent of milk sales were spent on this slop milk.      
    Chapter 3 goes on to quote from reformer Robert Heartley's book and articles published in 1842 describing his personal observations of the "present unnatural methods" of milk production "for the supply of large cities."  Milk cows were generally tied in the same location without being loosed for the duration of their shortened lifespan, generally found to be 9 months with a few living as long as 18 months. He describes their horrific treatment, disgusting living condition, and the abundant diseases which befell these cattle. Finally, in 1848, the New York Academy of medicine appointed a committee to investigate slop milk. A pronouncement was made by this and other committees on the conditions which they encountered, but to no affect.
    By 1842, traditional dairymen were able to ship their higher quality "country milk" to New York City, by rail on blocks of ice to keep it cool. This enterprise, compared to the production of distillery dairies still only represented a small minority of sales within New York city. The distillery dairies continued to operate into the 1900s with the last finally closing in Brooklyn, New York in 1930.
    Infant mortality death rates, over the first half of the 19th Century, climbed for children ages 5 and under towards the 50 percent range of all deaths for the year in the cities of Boston, Philadelphia, and New York. Many believed there was a connection between the tuberculosis encountered in both humans and cattle. Robert Koch, in 1882, discovered the tubercle bacillus organism involved with tuberculosis. Later, in 1901, he found that the human and bovine tubercle were not identical nor transmissible.  
This new information contradicted the argument for compulsory pasteurization as the only way to make milk safe from tuberculosis. Eventually it was recognized that only a small percentage of human tuberculosis originated from bovines. Other diseases passed through milk, either by diseased cows or sick workers, and from which young children and infants died, were scarlet fever and diphtheria.
    Three principles which are documented in the successive chapters are the foundation questions about the effect of milk on human health. Number 1: The cows diet largely determines the health of the cow. Number 2: The healthfulness of the cows milk is determined by the health of the cow. Number 3: A person's susceptibility to the microbes found in the milk of poorly fed cows increases when their immune system is compromised.
     The fight to obtain pure, raw milk continued on during the 19th Century. Other writers picked up where Heartley left off and the public health authorities and law makers began to increase their involvement. Chapter 4 covers the great debate about microbes versus milieu interieur, at center stage was Claude Bernard and Louis Pasteur.