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Why Is Milk White?

Vermont's dairy farms and co-ops are among the industries affected when Congress failed to reauthorize the federal Farm Bill in September. The programs and provisions in the bill could result in tens of thousands of dollars in income for dairy farmers.
Tom Remp
Billings Farm & Museum
Cows are milked twice per day at Billings Farm & Museum in Woodstock, Vt.

But Why heads to the farm to answer a whole herd of animal questions: How do cows make milk? Why do cows moo? Why do some animals eat grass? Why do pigs have curly tails? Why do pigs have more teats than cows? Why do eggs in the fridge not hatch? How do chicks grow in their eggs? Why do roosters crow? Why do horses have hooves? Why do horses stand up when they sleep? Why are some fences electric?
We get answers at Billings Farm and Museum in Woodstock, Vermont.


"Why is milk white?" - Vedant, 6, Santa Clara, Ca. and Violet, 5, Boston, Mass.

"Milk looks white to us because of the fat in the milk and also because of the protein called casein that's in the milk. It kind of reflects the wavelengths that make it look white to us," explains Christine Scales of Billings Farm. "If you've ever seen skim milk next to a whole fat milk, it might actually look a little bit more bluish because it doesn't have the fats in it to make it look white."

It takes a whole lot of eating and a whole lot of water to make that milk. Milk is 86% water and cows drink a bathtub full of water every day!

Why do cows make milk? Cows, like humans are mammals, and they make milk to feed their baby calves. Humans figured out that they could drink the milk as a source of nutrition and so they started raising and breeding cows for their milk and meat.

Read the full transcript.
This episode features a fun coloring page by Vermont artist Hilary Ann Love Glass. Download and print it here. You can color as you listen!

About the coloring page artist: Hilary Glass is an illustrator, printmaker and tattoo artist living in Vermont. Her content often explores flora and fauna from her local woodlands as well as imaginary creatures from other worlds entirely.  She uses pen and ink, colored pencils, watercolor and gauche as her primary illustration tools and loves to depict most things with great detail and attention to posture and body language.  You can find more info on instagram @hilaryannloveart and at the website

Melody is the Contributing Editor for But Why: A Podcast For Curious Kids and the co-author of two But Why books with Jane Lindholm.
Jane Lindholm is the host, executive producer and creator of But Why: A Podcast For Curious Kids. In addition to her work on our international kids show, she produces special projects for Vermont Public. Until March 2021, she was host and editor of the award-winning Vermont Public program Vermont Edition.
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