Dairy, A Home Delivery Original, Is Still A Mainstay In 2023!

By Spencer Reynolds

Dairy is a staple food in many cultures, and especially in North America. Most Canadians likely have several dairy products in their fridge, ranging from basics like butter and yogurt to complex cheeses and ice cream. We love dairy, and it shows up in lots of our favorite dishes. Canadians of a certain age likely remember milk advertising and recommendations from the Canadian Food Guide to get our calcium from dairy. Who could forget the iconic “GOT MILK?” campaigns from the 90’s. This is because dairy has been an essential, reliable component in nutrition for thousands of years.

[Photo: courtesy of Goodby, Silverstein & Partners]

Cattle were domesticated more than 12,000 years ago, and humans have been farming dairy since the Neolithic era, starting in what is present day Turkey (Asia Minor). Of course, farming meant something completely different back then; milking was done completely by hand and on a daily basis, in small quantities for individual family groups. It was not until the 20th centuring that large-scale dairy farming really took off with modern agricultural innovations.

Not until refrigeration was commonplace could milk be transported long distances or even stored more than a day before spoiling. The evolution of dairy farming and refrigeration has led to a relatively recent explosion in dairy consumption, with almost a billion tonnes of milk produced each year. India is by far the largest producer of dairy, and is responsible for 21% of all milk produced globally. The USA is the next largest producer, at 12%. Canada produces only 1% of global dairy, but dairy farming is a very influential industry in this country. In fact, there are a million dairy cows in Canada; one for every 39 Canadians.

Dairy products have developed differently around the globe. Butter, one of the earliest dairy products, is common almost everywhere. In India, it is often clarified (by removing the milk solids through heat) to create ghee – which is shelf stable. Cheese was invented in warmer clients where butter spoils. There are now over 1000 kinds of cheese ranging in styles, textures, and flavors. Modern finger food and takeout classics, like mozzarella sticks and pizza, owe their creation to the proliferation of cheese thousands of years ago.

Making cheese is one way of extending the lifespan of dairy products. Another tactic was simply to deliver small quantities daily: enter the milkman. Before grocery stores became a one-stop shop, milk was often delivered daily by local producers in bottles or cartons. In this way, milk is one of the earliest widespread delivery food items! Even today, most milk makes it to the grocery store within 48 hours of production.

Milk and dairy are everywhere – much to the chagrin of the lactose intolerant. Ice cream trucks will still bring dairy right past your front door, and we see cheese and butter on most restaurant menus. Whole coffee empires have sprung up to serve lattes, cappuccinos, macchiatos and flat whites with perfectly frothed and foamed milk – dairy, oat, almond or otherwise. Frozen ice cream treats are a convenience store and bodega mainstay, with Klondike bars, Häagen-Dazs, and ice cream sandwiches filling out grab-and-go coolers in the back of the store.

Beyond convenience stores, takeout dairy products are on-the-go and drive-thru favorites. One of Canada’s most cherished takeout traditions, the double-double coffee, is a dairy mainstay. In fact, many of Tim Horton’s treats feature dairy, from bagels and cream cheese to Iced Cappuccinos. Dairy Queen has been serving soft-serve cones and other hand-held ice cream treats since the 1940s. They even have some take-home classics like the ice cream cake.

Dairy has a way of reinventing itself for the Instagram age, with many of the viral food trends of the last few years featuring milk and dairy products. Milky bubble tea has been trending, even in North America, for years. Self-serve froyo (or frozen yogurt) had a moment. And recently, cottage cheese, a dairy product long associated with grandmas and babies, has been trending on TikTok as a high-protein and equally delicious ice cream substitute – but don’t believe everything you see on the internet.Two other viral dairy moments from the past two years include the butter board and mixing milk into Pepsi (otherwise known as a “dirty soda”).

June is Dairy Month in Canada, and coincides with the arrival of summer, just in time to grab an ice cream cone, hot fudge sunday, or triple thick milkshake. Miraculously, delivery and takeout for ice cream is a reality in big cities across Canada, so go ahead and treat yourself. If ice cream isn’t your thing, consider some cheesy nachos, a paneer curry, or a yogurt parfait for your next breakfast takeout. Whatever your dairy delicacy of choice, join us in celebrating Dairy Month!