My impression was that before modern pasteurization and refrigeration, most cultures that drank milk considered it a good idea to heat milk before drinking it and so usually did heat milk before drinking it.

But the question Have Chinese (and surrounding) cultures traditionally heated their milk? suggests that my above impression is mistaken and that traditionally, Europeans drank milk without heating it.


1 Answer 1


Given the prevalence of bovine tuberculosis and the statistical link between bottle feeding and infant mortality in the 19th/early 20th century, I believe the answer is "not always".

Btw. non-pasteurized is common in supermarkets where I live (in Europe). Obviously it is only safe because of refrigeration and because hygiene is enforced all the way between the udder and the bottle.

But this implies that if the cow is healthy, fresh milk is also reasonably safe to drink. A 19th-century farmer would probably know to some degree of certainty whether his cows are healthy or not. But consumers, e.g. in cities and towns - not so much.

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    what European country do you live in? Oct 12, 2023 at 14:57
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    @Seekinganswers Germany, but according to en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Raw_milk there is at least one other European country where the situation is similar.
    – Jan
    Oct 12, 2023 at 21:29
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    @Jan I doubt if that's raw milk. Germany and The Netherlands process the milk the same way. Milk is collected, transported to a factory, processed, bottled, shipped to the customer. It's the processing part I don't know. :-) But rest assured, it isn't raw milk.
    – Jos
    Oct 13, 2023 at 7:03
  • @Jos: according to de.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vorzugsmilch the only "processing" is packaging and refrigeration: "Vorzugsmilch ist eine in Deutschland etablierte Verkehrsbezeichnung für unbehandelte Rohmilch. (...) Vorzugsmilch wird nicht homogenisiert, ultrahocherhitzt oder pasteurisiert und unterscheidet sich geschmacklich von behandelter Milch."
    – Jan
    Oct 13, 2023 at 8:02
  • I highly doubt that you get unprocessed milk in any German store as it is not allowed to sell it. According to my farmer friends they can only sell raw milk on their ground and they are required to set up signs that warn people not to drink the milk raw but to heat it before consumption.
    – jmk
    Oct 13, 2023 at 14:15

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