Moo Juice

30 May

From LIFE Magazine, May 4, 1942, page 63 via Google Books

When I was making the White Bread of my last post, I started wondering about milk and its availability in 1942.

In California where I live and where M.F.K. Fisher lived when How to Cook a Wolf came out, the Bureau of Milk Control (later the Bureau of Milk Stabilization) was established to fix retail prices of milk throughout the state on a marketing area basis. This was in response to the chaos that the Depression had caused in the dairy industry. In 1935, the Young Act (Ch. 241, Stats of 1935) had given the California Department of Agriculture the power to set minimum prices that would be paid by distributors to producers for milk. The Desmond Act of 1937 gave the Department the power to set minimum wholesale and retail prices.

Young Act Opener

Beginning of the 1935 Young Act. Image from http://clerk.assembly.ca.gov/clerkarchive/

On Feb. 13, 1942, the Feds also got involved by issuing OPA order MPR 329 which fixed the retail prices of fresh (fluid) milk and cream. As far as I can tell, California didn’t have to change procedures too much with the federal order–maybe a little rollback of prices but not much.

So, I found some 1942 numbers for Sacramento County (again, where I live). They come from the Milk Price Stabilization Files, 1938-1970. Dept. of Agriculture–Dairy Industry–Bureau of Milk Stabilization, 88-72, California State Archives, Office of the Secretary of State, Sacramento.  The 1942 minimum retail price of a quart of milk was set at $0.12 in the market and $0.13 for home delivery for a 4.5% milk fat product. And the 4% milk fat product was $0.11.5 at the store and $0.12 for delivery. I note a couple of things here: no nonfat/skim milk, no 2% milk. And milk fat percentages were higher then. Today’s whole milk contains, I believe, only 3.7% milk fat (use whole milk for the recipe if you try it–it’s closest to authentic). Milk was cheaper back in the day too. The magic calculator tells me that a 1942 quart of milk cost around $1.74 in today’s dollars. I paid a lot more than that though, I must admit, I went for the organic stuff in the fancy glass bottles.

Milk was never rationed in the US. Availability may have fluctuated due to labor shortages and the price of feed as well as the amount that was being shipped overseas in the form of cheese, dried milk, and evaporated milk.

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