This article explores the rhetoric of milk in Mexico considering medical discourses, publicity campaigns, state programs, and women's experiences. I look at the difference in milk consumption across class and the lack of regulation in milk production and sale in 1940s and 1950s Mexico. I analyze the discourse of doctors and policy makers who worked at the Institute of National Nutrition (INN) and the Secretaría de Salubridad y Asistencia (Ministry of Public Health and Assistance; SSA). I explore the main programs through which powdered milk was distributed among Mexico's working classes. Finally, I present women's perceptions regarding fresh and powdered milk. At home, women had a key role in introducing milk to their family diet, as they were in charge of buying groceries and cooking daily meals. In the public sphere, women working as teachers, nurses, and social workers implemented state food programs promoting milk drinking. In order to provide a clearer picture, this work draws from a variety of sources such as archives, cookbooks, women's magazines, censuses, and life history interviews.
This research reveals that there was little criticism of the spread of powdered milk, as the international consensus established that milk was essential for children's development and for the health and progress of a nation. Even if INN reports show that some doctors realized that traditional foodstuffs such as insects were rich in animal protein, the hegemonic discourse was moving in the opposite direction. Insects and other foodstuffs were identified with indigenous peoples and were seen as the source of their “backwardness.” Milk had not only a nutritional value but also a symbolic meaning that in the long run proved to be more appealing. If Mexico wanted to be modern, its citizens had to change their eating habits and follow European and U.S. standards.