How Did Canadians Start Drinking Milk from Bags?

(Photo: Alan Levine)

Americans usually drink milk from cartons. Canadians usually drink milk from plastic bags. How did this difference develop? Modern Farmer explains.

Up until the 1960s, both Americans and Canadians commonly used glass bottles for transporting and distributing milk. But these were heavy, expensive, and tended to break. So Americans began using the newly-developed cardboard cartons.

Canadians faced an additional challenge. They were switching over to the metric system, so it was necessary to repackage milk to be metric compliant anyway. Bagging milk made this change easier:

Everything in Canada, including milk, had to be rejiggered to be sold in metric units. No more quarts and gallons of milk: liters were the way to go. And it turned out that the thin plastic bags used for DuPont’s milk were extremely amenable to size changes. It was no problem at all to seal the bags in a different spot to make them metric-compliant. Jugs and cartons, on the other hand, had to be redesigned and manufactured from scratch, a significant disadvantage. They never really succeeded in making up for lost time, and bagged milk now reigns in Canada.

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My sister in law up in SE Ontario still has milk in the bag. Yes, it is odd. Metric is really annoying when it comes to groceries, recipes, carpentry, etc. Works well in scientific endeavors where it belongs.
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