What made us settle on cow’s milk and chicken eggs as our standard milk/egg?


I understand that people also eat quail eggs, goat milk or etc etc due to geography (?) – but at what point and why did many settle on chicken eggs and cow milk?

Thank you

ETA: WOOAAAAAAH a great deal of responses here. thank you!!!!

In: 16218

Availability for domesticating chickens. Cows are easily herded. Though in some countries, duck eggs are more preferred

We have lots of good land for cows, and cows produce a lot of milk. Go to someplace like Greece and you get mainly goat and sheep milk, animals that love the rocky, hilly terrain that cows don’t do well on.

Yield. Many other animals produce milk and eggs, but we have discovered cows that can produce more and are easy enough to rear. Same for eggs, egg hens may lay eggs daily while geese pretty much only lay a couple of eggs in spring.


I don’t know why cows, but I know why chicken eggs are standard. Chickens are descended from red junglefowl. In the forests where red junglefowl originated, occasionally all the bamboo would drop edible seeds at once. So red junglefowl evolved to run their reproductive systems really excessively fast when there’s a lot of food around, to take maximum advantage of the bamboo seed crops. If you have a chicken and you feed it a lot, it’ll lay a lot of eggs because its biology thinks the bamboo seed crop just came in, and that means a lot of eggs for your kitchen.

Goats can eat any kind of vegetation, but if you have access to quality pastureland with lots of grass, or artificial feed, cattle are much more productive. Cows are big. That makes them difficult to handle at times, but there are fewer animals to milk and provide vet care for. Beef and cow leather are much more highly valued than those products from goats.

Chickens are ridiculously productive and well adapted to confined spaces. Domestic ducks lay nearly as many eggs, it is possible that they could be bred to be as tolerant of confinement as chickens. But ducks need water to clean themselves, while chickens clean their feathers with dry soil. In modern times it is possible to keep ducks indoors and use pesticides to kill feather mites, but chickens have more improved breeding because that wasn’t possible in the past.

There have been a lot of good answers so far. But I have not seen it mentioned that sheep and goat milk is naturally homogenized. that is the butter fat does not separate from the milk. Whereas cow milk does separate. This allows for the production of butter. One of the more valuable commodities in the ancient world was fat for cooking.

It could also be noted that each of these animals fulfills a different need for the farm ecosystem of the past, where a farm needed to be almost self sufficient, and neither animal is depends solely on the food stuffs needed for the other. Both animals can forage. Cattle, especially bulls, can protect themselves and other animals nearby from most predators, but humans figured out ways to handle them pretty easily on our own. Chickens eat insects and pests around the house in addition to providing eggs and meat. Other farm animals can provide other services in addition to food supply as well, though most of that stuff isn’t needed in the modern world since it has been supplanted by something else, like pesticides.

First of all, there are only 14 large domesticated animals, so it’s not like we had a ton of choices. For more info on why there are only 14, check out this CGP grey video: [https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wOmjnioNulo](https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wOmjnioNulo)

Basically, we selected those animals because had the best GPA for the following curriculum

1. Not picky about food (will eat stuff we don’t want to)
2. Produces a lot of product on a regular basis (Daily, ideally)
3. Is safe to work with (given reasonable preparation)
4. Has bonuses (Cattle can work fields and provide leather and a TON of meat on harvest, chickens are a staple of permaculture and provide meat & feathers)
5. Was readily available when cultures first began to domesticate, giving those species an evolutionary head start on bein best designed for our needs

Reason 5 in particular is why you see different animals as a more popular food source in other countries. For those countries, chicken and cattle weren’t readily available when they first began to domesticate. 1000’s of years later and their culture is super tied into that animal, and change is slow

Nobody could get all the hair out of Yak milk and finish the whole omelette from an ostrich egg

There are a lot of reasons.

Cows are much larger than other livestock that produce milk, which means they yield lots of milk but they can also be harvested for their meat. Their size is superseded only by the bison (which is bred in some midwest states). But we don’t breed bison as much because bison are much more aggressive and difficult to herd. Cow milk is also not homogenous, which means that the cream and fatty components in the milk rise to the top which can be separated and churned into butter. You can start to see why cows are favorable to other animals, they pretty much have the best traits that suit our diet packed into one animal. This is not to say that only cows are bred though, in other parts of the world it is common to raise goats for their milk because they are better suited to the rocky terrain and because some just prefer goat meat and milk.

As for chickens, it’s a little more tricky to see why when you consider that there are other animals that also produce clutches of edible eggs (turtles, duck, quail). Essentially, it’s because they can be raised very quickly and they have a good size to egg produce ratio. Animals like ostriches produce larger eggs but it also means they make less because more energy has to go to making them, and they are also more difficult to control. Quails lay smaller eggs and the eggshells are brittle so they aren’t really great for consumption nutrient wise (they do taste good though). Geese tend to live close to water and so they are harder to raise in inland country farms. Chickens can readily be raised in warm coops no matter the temperature outside and they can be given common inexpensive feed as opposed to more expensive food for geese and ducks.

You have it backwards. We didn’t settle on Cow’s milk and Chicken eggs. Instead we bred these animals to give us these products in the first place.

You see, both the bovine (cow) and chicken as we know them do not – nor ever did – exist in the wild on their own. We humans created these animals ourselves by generations of domestication and breeding. Cows come from an ancient extinct animal called an Auroch, and chickens come from a bird called the red jungle foul.

Since we have put so much effort into domesticating these animals over thousands of years to give us the highest yield, highest quality product, it only makes sense that we use them for this purpose.

CGP Grey has an nice [youtube video](https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wOmjnioNulo) on why we domesticated some animals but not others and why more animals were domesticated in some places than others.

In India we drink mostly Buffalo milk some drink cow’s milk too but cow’s milk is mainly used for religious purposes and for making ghee a type of butter which is also used for religious purposes as far as I know.

I haven’t seen anyone say yet: chickens are flock animals with strict pecking orders. They self regulate their heirarchy, which allows them to be kept in large flocks without too much conflict.

Chickens evolved in China alongside bamboo. Well bamboo only blooms once every x years, depending on the type. They release seeds which cause the chickens to multiply like crazy. Eventually, chickens evolved so that getting overfed meant making more eggs, which was a good source of food. About 6000 years ago, chickens spread from China to the world, making them a great source of eggs. Most other animals only lay eggs to reproduce, and only every so often. Chickens just do it 24/7 given the right circumstances, which are easy to produce.

Other people have pointed out the facts on cows, but basically, the butter fat separates out easier than other milk sources, meaning butter is easier to make from it. Butter is important, great for cooking. The milk is just a plus from there.