Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Swill Milk

I'm reading a book by PT Barnum about humbuggery (is that a word?) and I've just gotten to the bit about adulteration of food and beverages. It's vile. He was talking about swill milk, a description I didn't think I'd heard before so I did a little research and discovered that there wasn't enough milk to go around New York City in the mid nineteenth century so cows were kept in filthy dairies and fed on mash leftover after whiskey production. The cows were ill and their udders were ulcerated but the owners kept on milking them and selling the milk. An estimated eight thousand children died each year from drinking milk that at best was not nutritious.

Here's an article about an exhibit at the Tenement Museum that recreates the living situation of an Irish American family that has just lost a baby to malnutrition, likely as a result of the swill milk.

It's infuriating to think of all the wasted life and the grief the families went through all for greed. It's bad enough when famine strikes but for children to starve when their families were paying for what they thought was good wholesome milk is a grievous crime.



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