"Pure And Modern Milk" By Kendra Smith-Howard

Mar 18, 2014

  In Kendra Smith-Howard’s new book, Pure and Modern Milk, she tells the history of a nearly universal consumer product, and sheds light on America's food industry. Today, she notes, milk reaches supermarkets in an entirely different state than it had at its creation.

She examines the cultural, political, and social context, discussing the attempts to reform the production and distribution of this once-perilous product in the Progressive Era, the history of butter between the world wars, dairy waste at mid-century, and the postwar landscape of mass production.

She asks how milk could be conceptualized as a "natural" product, even as it has been incorporated into Cheez Whiz and wood glue. And she shows how consumer's changing expectations have had repercussions back down the chain, affecting farmers, cows, and rural landscapes. Kendra Smith-Howard is Assistant Professor of History at the University at Albany, State University of New York