Milk (In Bags!)

Milk Sold in Bags

O’Canada Food Month / Installment 2

Differences help define cultures.  While American and Canadian cultures share a great deal, one of the more peculiar differences when it comes to food products is the custom in parts of Canada of selling milk in bags.  Here, we’re used to substantial jugs and cartons, but in Canada, particularly the eastern provinces, grocery stores stock milk in loose plastic sacks containing three smaller plastic packages of milk totaling around 4 liters (about 1 gallon).

The milk bags are used with a medium plastic pitcher, which holds the bag and from which the milky goodness is then poured after snipping off a triangle on one of the top corners of the bag.  Apparently there’s a bit of art and science to this because stories of frustrating spills among the uninitiated are legion.  Among the virtues cited for the milk bag:  its recyclability; it uses less plastic than a milk jug; because they can be stacked they’re easier to store; and they can be frozen.

My sense is that many Canadians would concede that milk bags are genuinely — but endearingly — odd.  Perhaps because of this shared bemusement, there are numerous joking videos to be found on the Internet about this milk bag thing.  Among these, I especially like the one below by CBC’s Jian Ghomeshi in which he provides an eloquently spirited and amusing defense of the milk bag as a cultural icon to be proudly embraced.

(Image credits:  Alex Dawson, Pitcherman, and Jakemaheu, all via Wikimedia)

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