Review: Green Grass and White Milk - Aliki



Green Grass and White Milk
by Aliki
Ages 4-8
32 pages
Harper Collins, 1974
My school is planning to buy a cow to support Heifer International during this year's March is Reading Month (MIRM), so I checked out all the books on cows and milk we had in our public library. You'll see several of these reviews come up over the next few weeks.

Aliki is a classic favorite picture book writer. This easy reader style nonfiction offering is simple, but offers some fascinating tidbits of information:
"Good summer grass and good winter hay are healthful food for a cow. The better a cow eats, the better milk she will give."
At the time this book was written, it may be that many cows were still fed on grass and hay. Now it is almost impossible to find a dairy that feeds that way. Most cows are fed grain (bad) and soy (worse) and leftover bits of I-don't-want-to-talk-about-it.

Later readers will encounter a diagram of the cow's 4 stomachs and an explanation of why cows chew their cud -- this is how grass is broken down into nutritious food for the cow. There is also a detailed dairy diagram with pipes & tubes demonstrating the pasteurization process. I can imagine my students who are fond of machines and technology will be riveted to this page. This explanation is given for pasteurization:
"It is quickly heated to a temperature of 161 degrees F (71 degrees C) for 15 seconds. That is not boiling."
Um, no. Most kids now drink "ultra-pasteurized" milk, which is heated to 284 degrees F (140 degrees C). This has the advantage of making the milk last much longer before spoiling, but also turns it into something completely different than it was before it was cooked. Beneficial, even crucial, vitamins, enzymes and nutrients are lost. Many people who are allergic to milk products are not allergic to raw (non-pasteurized) milk.

Raw milk is scary to many people because we grew up in a "sterile is better" culture. Of course, the folks who get the Heifer International cow won't be sterilizing their milk, will they? They'll drink it raw -- just like the way babies get their milk from mamas all over the world. In the United States, raw milk is illegal in most states.

The book then explains how to make butter and yogurt, which of course is fascinating. Incidentally, don't try to make yogurt with ultra-pasteurized milk, because it won't work.

I was even more bemused when I found out that this book was revised, re-illustrated and even renamed by Aliki in 1992. I guess a book about milk that included the word "grass" in the title was just too confusing for kids now.  I will track down the other title and see what the revisions look like.

Excuse me while I pour my illegal raw milk on my cereal.

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