What is Milk?

Milk is defined as the lacteal secretion obtained by the complete milking of one or more mammalian animals.  Although in other parts of the world a variety of animals are used as sources for milk, in the United States almost all commercially available milk comes from cows.  Milk is valued because it is an important source of many of the nutrients essential for the proper development and maintenance of the human body. 

Today, milk appears in American grocery stores in a wide variety of forms designed to appeal to the tastes and needs of individual consumers.  The distinguishing characteristics of the most popular types of milk are described below.

Milk is one of the most carefully tested and heavily regulated foods available.  One of the most effective instruments for assuring the quality and purity of milk is the Pasteurized Milk Ordinance (PMO), a set of reccommendations from the U.S. Public Health Service/Food & Drug Administration (FDA) for voluntary adoption by state and local governments (which often enact even more stringent requirements for milk produced within their jurisdictions).  The descriptions below reflect the requirements of the PMO for various types of milk.

Milk Varieties - Definitions of many milk varieties

What Does That Mean?  - Definitions of milk related terms