Dairy products are made up of milk from a domesticated animal like a cow, goat or reindeer (yes, reindeer!), or foods made primarily of, or from milk, like ice cream, cheese or yogurt. And since the majority of people in the world have some form of lactose intolerance (a whopping 68% according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine), there are new non-dairy alternatives to our favorite dairy products popping up every day. Let’s get this moo-ving with five interesting facts about dairy.
The cow’s milk we generally see in stores goes from the dairy farm to shelves in about 48 hours. Milk begins to spoil quickly, so it’s best to store your milk at 40 degrees, in the back of your fridge where it’s less likely to suffer from the temperature fluctuation that happens when you open and close your refrigerator door. You can even keep your milk fresh a few days longer by adding in a pinch of salt.
We all know cows, goats, sheep and, of course, humans, produce milk. But have you ever had yak butter, water buffalo gelato or a camel’s milk milkshake? All mammals that do not lay eggs (platypi have mammary glands, but do not have nipples), produce consumable milk. Certain mammals, like pigs, produce milk that is higher in fat and harder to collect making it unlikely that you’ll be enjoying a pig’s milk ice cream any time soon.
Even though they’re mostly found in the dairy section, eggs are not dairy products. Eggs are not made of or, from milk and do not come from most milk-producing animals (aside from the previously mentioned platypus). They are however considered an “animal by-product,” need refrigeration and are generally thought of as a commonly needed weekly or bi-weekly purchase, much like milk, for many households.
While butter is a dairy product, it is very low in lactose so it can be consumed by many people on non-dairy diets. People with lactose intolerance lack the enzymes that digest lactose. The amount of lactose in butter, even in a dish that contains a lot of butter, is rarely enough to cause discomfort. However, people with a milk allergy related to the proteins in milk, not the lactose, should steer clear of butter since even a small amount can cause a reaction.
There are a ton of different alternatives to traditional milk. One of the most popular milk substitutes is almond milk. Almond milk does not contain cholesterol, saturated fat or lactose, and can be flavored to taste very similar to dairy milk, or with vanilla and other sweeteners. To “milk” almond milk, almonds are ground in a blender with water and then the almond pulp is strained out with a strainer or cheesecloth.