Milk is a white liquid produced by the mammary glands of mammals. It is the primary source of nutrition for young mammals before they are able to digest other types of food. Early-lactation milk contains colostrum, which carries the mother's antibodies to the baby and can reduce the risk of many diseases in the baby.
Throughout the world, there are more than 6 billion consumers of milk and milk products, the majority of them in developing countries. Over 750 million people live within dairy farming households. Milk is a key contributor to improving nutrition and food security particularly in developing countries. Improvements in livestock and dairy technology offer significant promise in reducing poverty and malnutrition in the world.
There are two distinct types of milk consumption: a natural source of nutrition for all infant mammals and a food product for humans of all ages that is derived from other animals.
Food product for humans
In many cultures of the world, especially the Western world, humans continue to consume milk beyond infancy, using the milk of other animals (especially cattle, goats and sheep) as a food product. For millennia, cow's milk has been processed into dairy products such as cream, butter, yogurt, kefir, ice cream, and especially the more durable and easily transportable product, cheese.
Humans are an exception in the natural world for consuming milk past infancy, despite the fact that most adult humans show some degree of lactose intolerance. The sugar lactose is found only in milk, forsythia flowers, and a few tropical shrubs. The enzyme needed to digest lactose, lactase, reaches its highest levels in the small intestines after birth and then begins a slow decline unless milk is consumed regularly. On the other hand, those groups who do continue to tolerate milk often have exercised great creativity in using the milk of domesticated ungulates, not only of cattle, but also sheep, goats, yaks, water buffalo, horses, reindeers and camels. The largest producer and consumer of cattle and buffalo milk in the world is India.
Sources of milk
All female mammal species can by definition produce milk, but cow milk dominates commercial production. In 2011, FAO estimates 85% of all milk worldwide was produced from cows.
In the Western world, cow's milk is produced on an industrial scale and is by far the most commonly consumed form of milk. Commercial dairy farming using automated milking equipment produces the vast majority of milk in developed countries. Dairy cattle such as the Holstein have been bred selectively for increased milk production. About 90% of the dairy cows in the United States and 85% in Great Britain are Holsteins. Other dairy cows in the United States include Ayrshire, Brown Swiss, Guernsey, Jersey, and Milking Shorthorn (Dairy Shorthorn).
Physical and chemical properties of milk
Milk is an emulsion or colloid of butterfat globules within a water-based fluid that contains dissolved carbohydrates and protein aggregates with minerals. Because it is produced as a food source for a neonate, all of its contents provide benefits to the growing young. The principle requirements of the neonate are energy (lipids, lactose, and protein), biosynthesis of non-essential amino acids supplied by proteins (essential amino acids and amino groups), essential fatty acids, vitamins and inorganic elements, and water
Unlike protein and carbohydrates, fat composition in milk varies widely in the composition due to genetic, lactational, and nutritional factor difference between different species.
The fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K along with essential fatty acids such as linoleic and linolenic acid are found within the milk fat portion of the milk.
Normal bovine milk contains 30–35 grams of protein per liter of which about 80% is arranged in casein micelles.
Salts, minerals, and vitamins
Minerals or milk salts, are traditional names for a variety of cations and anions within bovine milk. Calcium, phosphate, magnesium, sodium, potassium, citrate, and chlorine are all included as minerals and they typically occur at concentration of 5–40 mM. The milk salts strongly interact with casein, most notably calcium phosphate. It is present in excess and often, much greater excess of solubility of solid calcium phosphate. In addition to calcium, milk is a good source of many other vitamins. Vitamins A, B6, B12, C, D, K, E, thiamine, niacin, biotin, riboflavin, folates, and pantothenic acid are all present in milk.
Nutrition and health
The composition of milk differs widely among species. Factors such as the type of protein; the proportion of protein, fat, and sugar; the levels of various vitamins and minerals; and the size of the butterfat globules, and the strength of the curd are among those than may vary, for example:
Human milk contains, on average, 1.1% protein, 4.2% fat, 7.0% lactose (a sugar), and supplies 72 kcal of energy per 100 grams.
Cow milk contains, on average, 3.4% protein, 3.6% fat, and 4.6% lactose, 0.7% minerals and supplies 66 kcal of energy per 100 grams.