Why don’t we drink pigs’ milk?

A Renaissance Writer
4 min readMar 20, 2020

Humans can eat or drink just about anything. If it’s not poisonous, we don’t have too much or too little, and we clean/cook it properly beforehand, the chances are we can eat it.

It’s interesting then, that for almost all of human history, we haven’t consumed pigs’ milk. It seems like such an obvious thing for us do, after all, we will happily drink cow’s milk and goat’s milk, with some regions of the world also consuming horse, donkey, and even camel milk. But pigs milk remains aloof, even in the historical records.

Let’s get the obvious out of the way first. Is it poisonous? It should go without saying, but no, pigs’ milk is not poisonous to humans. While it contains a higher fat content to cows’ milk (8.5% as opposed to 3.5%) in the grand scheme of things this wouldn’t stop us from consuming it.

As it turns out, the reason we don’t have pigs’ milk in our fridges now is surprisingly simple. Pigs don’t like to be milked. Now, I’m not saying that other animals enjoy being milked, but compared to pigs it might appear that way. Many people are surprised to learn that pigs, especially protective sows, can be very aggressive. Not surprising I suppose when we look at their uncastrated, undomesticated male counterparts, the wild boar.

Regardless, this aggression makes them extremely difficult to milk and their biology only adds to this. With fourteen teats that only produce milk for around fifteen seconds (for reference a cow has four teats and milk produce milk for more the ten minutes in most cases) and what you end up with is a difficult process for not much reward. Your average sow will only produce around 13lbs (5.8l) of milk, as opposed to 65lbs (29.5l) from a cow. What’s more, while lactating, sows cannot become pregnant again, thus the guarantee of a steady supply of milk isn’t possible. These discrepancies essentially make large scale sow milk farming unviable.

The Exceptions to the rule

But we wouldn’t be human if a few people in history had looked at the above list and chuckled before grabbing their buckets and heading out to the pig shed to milk some…

--

--

A Renaissance Writer

I love all things Italian Renaissance, cooking and writing. I can often be found reading, drinking espresso and working on too many things at once