Foodie Friday and Wonderful 100: Milk Pasteurization in North Carolina


Six children drinking milk, ca. 1920.Six children drinking milk, ca. 1920.

This year marks the 100th anniversary of milk pasteurization in North Carolina.  In their book Knowledge is Power: A History of the School of Agriculture and Life Sciences at North Carolina State University, William L. Carpenter and Dean W. Colvard stated that the NC Experiment Station operated a creamery in the basement of NC State's Patterson Hall, and in Oct. 1918 it installed equipment in order to supply pasteurized milk to Camp Polk across Hillsborough St.  This is the earliest known instance of a North Carolina creamery pasteurizing milk.

Before this, consumers that wanted sterilized milk had to pasteurize it themselves to eliminate disease-causing germs.  The extension publication A Study of Foods for Home Demonstration Clubs (1919) contained instructions on how to do this at home.  By 1923 most creameries in North Carolina had implemented pasteurization, according to the an annual extension report.  Many communities still lacked creameries, however, and many rural people still consumed milk from their own cows, so widespread pasteurization only happened later.

There are more historic materials on milk and pasteurization that you can explore on our Rare & Unique Digital Collections website. Or contact Special Collections if you are interested in researching this history in North Carolina.