Humans first learned to regularly consume the milk of other mammals following the domestication of animals during the Neolithic Revolution or the invention of agriculture. This development occurred independently in several places around the world from as early as 9000–7000 BC in Southwest Asia to 3500–3000 BC in the Americas. The most important dairy animals—cattle, sheep and goats—were first domesticated in Southwest Asia, although domestic cattle has been independently derived from wild auroch populations several times since. Initially animals were kept for meat, and archaeologist Andrew Sherratt has suggested that dairying, along with the exploitation of domestic animals for hair and labor, began much later in a separate secondary products revolution in the 4th millennium BC. Sherratt's model is not supported by recent findings, based on the analysis of lipid residue in prehistoric pottery, that show that dairying was practiced in the early phases of agriculture in Southwest Asia, by at least the 7th millennium BC.
From Southwest Asia domestic dairy animals spread to Europe (beginning around 7000 BC but not reaching Britain and Scandinavia until after 4000 BC), and South Asia (7000–5500 BC). The first farmers in central Europe and Britain milked their animals. Pastoral and pastoral nomadic economies, which rely predominantly or exclusively on domestic animals and their products rather than crop farming, were developed as European farmers moved into the Pontic-Caspian steppe in the 4th millennium BC, and subsequently spread across much of the Eurasian steppe. Sheep and goats were introduced to Africa from Southwest Asia, but African cattle may have been independently domesticated around 7000–6000 BC. Camels, domesticated in central Arabia in the 4th millennium BC, have also been used as a dairy animal in North Africa and the Arabian peninsula. In the rest of the world (i.e., East and Southeast Asia, the Americas and Australia) milk and dairy products were historically not a large part of the diet, either because they remained populated by hunter-gatherers who did not keep animals or the local agricultural economies did not include domesticated dairy species. Milk consumption became common in these regions comparatively recently, as a consequence of European colonialism and political domination over much of the world in the last 500 years.
In 1863, French chemist and biologist Louis Pasteur invented pasteurization, a method of killing harmful bacteria in beverages and food products.
After the industrial revolution in Britain, the increase in population and introduction of railways meant that the greater demand for milk could be met by integrated and long-distance distribution from the rural producers to the growing towns via rail by the 1860s. The Great Western Railway was carrying 25 million gallons of milk a year by 1900 from the West Country to London.
In 1884, Doctor Hervey Thatcher, an American inventor from New York, invented the first glass milk bottle, called 'Thatcher's Common Sense Milk Jar', which was sealed with a waxed paper disk. Later, in 1932, plastic-coated paper milk cartons were introduced commercially as a consequence of their invention by Victor W. Farris.
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