Truck drivers who transport milk from a farm to a milk processing plant are also known as milkmen. Raw milk is picked up daily, or every other day, and farmers often develop close friendships with the milkman. Milk deliveries frequently occur in the morning and it is not uncommon for milkmen to deliver products other than milk such as eggs, cream, cheese, butter, yogurt or soft drinks. Originally, milk needed to be delivered to houses daily since the lack of good refrigeration meant it would quickly spoil. The near-ubiquity of refrigerators in homes in the developed world, as well as improved packaging, has decreased the need for frequent milk delivery over the past half-century and made the trade shrink in many localities sometimes to just 3 days a week and disappear totally in others. Additionally, milk delivery incurs a small cost on the price of dairy products that is increasingly difficult to justify and leaves delivered milk in a position where it is vulnerable to theft.
In different countries
In recent times, British, Irish, and other European milkmen have traveled in an electric vehicle called a milk float, except on rural rounds. Earlier milkmen used horse-drawn vehicles; in Britain these were still seen in the 1950s. In Australia the delivery vehicle was usually a small gas or diesel engined truck with a covered milk-tray. In hotter areas, this tray is usually insulated.
In India milkmen usually still use milk churns that are no longer used in western countries. On the road they are put on any kind of vehicle. In big cities like Mumbai those milk churns are often transported in luggage compartments in local trains.
In the United States and Canada, houses of that era often had a "milk chute" built into an outside wall, a small cabinet with a door on the outside for the milkman to place the milk bottles, and a door on the inside for a resident to retrieve the bottles. Thus the milkman could deliver the milk without entering the home, and the resident could retrieve the milk without going outside. While rare, milk delivery does still occur in the United States. In 2005 about 0.4% of consumers had their milk delivered, and a handful of newer companies have sprung up to offer the service.
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In America in the last several decades a popular resurgence has occurred in home milk delivery. Distribution of milk went from multiple farms to a processing plant then finally to a retailer. At the same time translucent blown plastic gallon bottles became the standard. With long hours, with the lights on milk is exposed to more light which promotes the growth of bacteria. As this occurs milk slowly spoils, making the shelf life of store bought milk shorter.
These issues and the general move to wholesome and local food has supported the renewed growth of the milkman. Many of these businesses were started by local dairies. Glass bottles have become popular because they don't leave a "taste" from the container in the milk.
In popular culture
The frequent deliveries by milkmen to homes during the day has led to a high level of familiarity with many homemakers — often female — which has made the occupation a central figure in numerous milkman jokes.
In the Uganda region an often used title for "king" is "Omukama", which means "superior milkman/milk bringer": a title that refers to a) the role of the leader as a feeder of the people and b) the historical tradition, that the ancient ruling class of some Ugandan kingdoms was of Hima-tribal stock (the Hima were cattle-holders).
A short story in the horror anthology Skeleton Crew by Stephen King, called "Morning Deliveries (Milkman No. 1)", concerns a milkman who kills people by leaving "surprises" (poison, toxic gas, venomous spiders, etc.) in their milk cans.
"Reid Fleming, World’s Toughest Milkman" is a comicbook character created by David Boswell which first appeared in 1980.
In Toni Morrison's Song of Solomon the main character's nickname is "Milkman."
- Tahmincioglu, Eve (December 16, 2007). "Remember the Milkman? In Some Places, He’s Back". Retrieved May 9, 2012.
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