Wednesday, November 05, 2014

pig's milk

The Aruch haShulchan (Y.D. 115:6) writes that he heard that in America in particular many of the non-Jews are accustomed to drinking pig's milk (rather than milk from a kosher animal like a cow) because pigs are so commonly found.  I was just curious: is there any basis in fact for this being the case in 19th century America, or is this just a story that got passed around?  Anyone know?


  1. Anonymous10:51 AM

    I would also be curious - if it is just a story that got passed around - any theories on how/where/why it originated?

  2. There is nothing about adulteration of cow's milk with swine milk. In the nineteenth century, there were scandals about mixing in plaster, lead, and calve's brains, but nothing about pigs. From what I've seen at county fairs in Wisconsin and Illinois, the only way to profitably milk a sow is by being a suckling. They're not built like cows, which have udders like the Hindenburg. Margarine, on the other hand, was famously adulterated with all kinds of fat and diced meats from anything that didn't run fast enough. Chocolate also is an attractive opportunity for the unethical, as they found out in Malaysia this year- .

  3. Someone pointed me to this interesting post, and I thought I'd look into it a bit. I did do a bit of preliminary research, and it appears that this isn't the case.

    However, I learned a few interesting points.

    1. In England in the 19th century buttermilk was widely known as "pig's milk." From a cow.

    2. I don't know much about the semantic difference between "buttermilk" and "cream" (I could look it up, but that's not really the point) but it seems to me as the Aruch Hashulchan is talking about cream in this piece, which is close enough to make me take note of the first point.

    3. I saw on Google Books an exceprt from a book called The Day the Chicken Cackled: Reflections on a Life in Pakistan by Bettie Rose Addleton (Indiana, 2006), which says:

    "There were more than a few misconceptions about the West. Now, with a westerner living among them, there was an interest in verifying all they had been told about us. One common rumor was that the milk powder American foreign assistance programs were distributing across Pakistan came from pigs.

    "Do you drink pig's milk?" I was once asked.
    "No," I replied.
    "Then who drink's pig's milk?"
    "Baby pigs," I answered, without hesitation. "Baby pigs drink pig's milk."

    Addleton was talking about her time in Pakistan in 1956. Which isn't the 19th century, but you can see how such a rumor could spread among a population without much direct information about the United States, and which is concerned with pig's milk.

    I'm intrigued by it, and I plan to look a bit more, and perhaps I can find such an assertion in a sefer or other Hebrew source, get an idea of where the idea comes from. Or, of course, confirm the Aruch Hashulchan's information, but from what I could tell, pig's milk was absolutely rare, at best. (I did see that one or two nutritional journals in the 19th century laud it as a potential source of nutrients, but that's info which suggests that no one drank it, let alone that it was so widely drank because of an abundance of pigs; furthermore, then as now, it was cattle and cows which were in abundance in America.)

    1. Hi S, nice to see you are still out there in cyberspace. A lot of the long time bloggers have called it quits by now. Hope all is well.
      I'm amazed at the collection of sources you've pulled together!

  4. Interestingly two people came over to me tonight and told me that they believed this entirely possible and both told me that they know that ad hayom in certain regions farmers will not hesitate to drink pig's milk or whatever other milk comes to hand. Now, that doesn't necessarily mean that the practice would have been widespread outside rural areas, so I don't know.



  7. Replies
    1. yes. so what kind of tamei animal were chazal worried about people milking?