World School Milk Day: 31 Facts about Milk That Will Blow Your Mind

boy drinking from milk carton

Once again, World School Milk Day has arrived and we’re ready to celebrate one of the most nutritious beverages on the planet.

Milk is incredibly diverse and a key ingredient in many sauces and dishes that are considered staples in the American diet. Think about it: ice cream (I’m looking at you, Little Larry!), mac and cheese, pancakes, soups, gravy, cheese dip, yogurt, pudding, and…now, I’m hungry.

Before we dive into some incredible and mind-blowing facts about milk, let’s take a look at the history of this annual holiday.

What is World School Milk Day?

World School Milk Day was launched by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) in 2000, and has been celebrated across the world on the last Wednesday every September since. In fact, the date was chosen because schools worldwide are in session by the end of September.

Date aside, the purpose of the holiday is to celebrate the health benefits of milk while creating a way for schools to promote their milk program to students.

Now that you better understand the history of World School Milk Day, let’s dive into the factoids about this tasty drink.

Mind-Blowing Facts About Milk

Milk is truly a powerhouse beverage. It’s loaded with vitamins and minerals, but its most important trait: it tastes delicious. The best way to spotlight such an impactful drink is to look at the (ice-cold and crisp) facts. Here are some of the most shocking and interesting facts about milk for you to share on World School Milk Day.

The Strange and Wonderful History of Milk

  • Evidence shows that Neolithic farmers in Britain and Northern Europe may have been among the first to begin milking cattle for human consumption around 4000 B.C. (Source: ProCon)
  • Before modern refrigeration, people in Russia and Finland placed Russian Brown Frogs in buckets of milk to keep them fresh. According to research, amphibian skin secretions are packed with peptides, antimicrobial compounds as potent against Salmonella and Staphylococcus bacteria as prescription antibiotics. (Source: Discover Magazine)
  • Because of Louis Pasteur, the 19th century French biologist, the milk we drink today contains little or no harmful bacteria. Pasteur initially applied his bacteria-killing technique, known as pasteurization, to beer. (Source: Illinois Farm Families)
  • In 18th century Europe, it was common folk knowledge that milk maids (women who milked cows) seemed to be immune from the smallpox plagues when they swept through Europe. In 1796, English physician Edward Jenner developed a vaccine for smallpox based upon this folk knowledge. (Source: ProCon)
  • In New York in 1883, a struggle known as the “Milk Wars” broke out between milk farmers and milk distributors when milk farmers demanded a higher prices and distribution companies refused to pay. The farmers organized “spilling committees” that blocked roads, seized shipments and dumped out their own milk instead of selling it to the distributors. (Source: ProCon)

Know Your Cow: The Numbers Behind the Gallon

The Drink: Milk is a Mega Nutrition Powerhouse

  • Despite its creamy texture, milk is actually 85-95% water. The rest of its volume comes from a vitamins, proteins, carbohydrates and fat. (Source: Illinois Farm Families)
  • To absorb the same amount of calcium as you get from one cup of milk, you would have to eat either 10 cups of raw spinach, six servings of pinto beans or three cups of cooked broccoli in one sitting. (Source: Illinois Farm Families)
  • Drinking milk can protect your smile since it reduces the level of acidity in the mouth, combats plaque formation and reduces the risk of cavities. (Source: Farm Flavor)
  • One 8-ounce glass of milk provides eight grams of protein. Milk is considered a “complete” protein, which provides the mix of amino acids. (Source: America’s Milk Companies)
  • In one cup of milk, you get the following recommended daily amounts of vital vitamins: Calcium: 28%; Vitamin D: 24%; Riboflavin (B2): 26%; Vitamin B12: 18%; Potassium: 10% Phosphorus: 22%; Selenium: 13%.
  • Organic and grass-fed cow’s milk contains higher amounts of beneficial antioxidants, such as vitamin E and beta-carotene, which help reduce inflammation and fight oxidative stress. (Source: PubMed Central)
  • A study including over 18,000 middle-aged and elderly women showed that eating more high-fat dairy products was associated with less weight gain and a lower risk of obesity (Source: PubMed Central)

A History of Milk in Schools

  • After the U.S. entered World War II, the Department of Agriculture released a pamphlet promoting the Milk Program in 1942. It referred to milk as a “Victory Food”, and stated that it hoped to reduce malnutrition and hidden hunger among American school children through the program. (Source: Wikipedia)
  • In 1954, Congress authorized the Special Milk Program, which contributed (along with the growth in school lunches) to a 10-fold increase in school milk consumption between 1946 and 1969. (Source: U.S. Dairy)
  • The Special Milk Program is now permanently authorized under the Child Nutrition Act of 1966. (Source: Wikipedia)
  • In 2011, over 66 million half pints of milk were served through the Special Milk Program. (Source: USDA)
  • The expansion of both the National School Lunch and School Breakfast Programs, which include milk, has led to a substantial reduction in the Special Milk Program since its peak in the late 1960’s. The program served nearly 3 billion half pints of milk in 1969; 1.8 billion in 1980; and 181 million in 1990. (Source: USDA)

Milk isn’t for Everyone

  • Lactose intolerance affects around 65% of the world’s population. (Source: Medline)
  • It’s thought that people with lactose intolerance can tolerate up to 18 grams of lactose, spread throughout the day. (Source: PubMed)
  • There are several milk alternatives on the market for those who dislike or cannot tolerate cow’s milk. These include the following: oat milk; almond milk; soy milk; cashew milk; coconut milk; rice milk; and hemp milk. (Source: Healthline).
  • When compared to one cup of whole-fat cow’s milk, most alternative milks have 25-63% of the fat of cow milk, with the exception of Hemp (8 g). (Source: American Society of Nutrition)
  • Almond, pea, and flaxseed milk have more calcium than cow milk (560, 560, 450 mg vs. 425 mg). (Source: American Society of Nutrition)

Celebrate World School Milk Day to Promote Your School Nutrition Program

A promotion like World School Milk Day is an excellent opportunity to educate students on the benefits of milk while promoting milk-based items you serve in the cafeteria.

Use your school nutrition management software to plan an entire day’s menu around the event. Consider doing blind taste tests of alternative milks or things like smoothies. You can even share the facts from this post!

However you choose to celebrate, remember to put nutritious and delicious milk center stage this September.