Over the holidays I was warned of the sheer abundance and dire consequences of pus in mass-produced milk. I’ve been well aware of the crusade against milk for some years, but this was a new argument for me. The theory is that cows are given hormones to produce more milk and therefore require more milking. And this increased milking leads to udder injuries which produce pus. This pus finds its way into the milk and eventually down the eager gullets of our children. Thus, with every glass of milk you are undoubtedly consuming a large quantity of oozing, sickly pus.
As an unrepentant fan of milk, I could not allow these claims to go unchecked. It turns out that those advocating against milk are actually conflating pus and somatic cells in general. Somatic cells are simply cells that make up the body. Pus, according to the dictionary, is a liquid plasma in which white blood cells are suspended. So, yes, pus contains somatic cells, but it is dishonest to use statistics for somatic cells and apply them to pus.
Okay, so the oft-cited stastics don’t actually indicate anything about pus levels, but what about somatic cells? Those are actually monitored and regulated, so perhaps that’s of concern. The somatic cell count is primarily of interest to dairy producers because it affects yield. There are, however, implications that could affect the consumer: poor flavor and decreased shelf life. No health risks are noted. If you’d like to read all the gory details, check out the study on this topic from UC Davis (pdf).
The verdict: milk lives another day in my household.