Posted by: christinelaennec | January 27, 2014

One milk, two milk, red milk, blue milk

For those who are wondering, the title of this post is a rephrasing of a famous Dr. Suess book – more on red and blue milk in a moment!  Here in Glasgow, we are enjoying having milk delivered to our front door:

Photo of milk bottles on the front step courtesy of Michael who gets up first!

Photo of milk bottles on the front step courtesy of Michael, who usually gets up first!

My Grampa used to be a Foremost milkman, and it seems almost as if being a milkman were a relic of the distant past – but not here.  It’s really nice to have milk from a local dairy, and from a glass bottle rather than a plastic one.  I only wish it were possible to get local organic milk delivered in glass bottles.  (You can have organic milk delivered, but it’s not from local dairies, and it comes in plastic.  Does anyone have any reliable information about the pros and cons?)  I’m slowly perfecting the technique of making the very first pour from the bottle without spilling.  My success rate is now about 50% I think!

Now, why was I talking about red milk, blue milk earlier?  I thought those of you who don’t live in Britain might be interested in the convention of the colour of the milk bottle-top.  There is a code that holds true across all kinds of packaging of milk:  a red bottle-top denotes skimmed milk, green is semi-skimmed (more or less 2% fat), and blue milk is whole milk (3.5% fat).  I know that we aren’t the only family to refer to “red milk,” “green milk” and “blue milk”.  When some Gaelic-speaking friends first became grandparents, they told us they had stocked up on “bainne gorm” (blue milk, i.e. whole milk) for their grandchild.  The other day in the supermarket I overheard someone calling to their shopping companion: “Do you want red milk or green milk?”  The answer came, “One red and two green.”  Just as in the photo above!

I have heard tell of GOLD milk – full-cream milk.  I do remember when I first visited Britain in the 1970s, there was a thick layer of cream on the top of the bottle of milk.  We used to argue about who got the first pour!




  1. It’s funny the things you take for granted – I’ve never thought anything of referring to it as ‘red milk’ or ‘green milk’ before now!
    I’ve never had the delight of it being delivered though, unfortunately.


  2. My grandparents always had ‘gold top’ milk. I worked as a milkman for a while during the 70s. The red top in those days, denoted homogenised milk. Today, we have semi-skimmed.

  3. How very interesting. Now in the US the full red caps are whole milk, but no cream in anything. Blue is 2% milk and pink is skim. I believer there is a green that is 1%, but you don’t see that so often. We just had an interesting story on local news about how a South Dakota dairy that sold raw (unpasteurized) milk straight off the farm has been shut down because of a listeria bacteria in their milk. The big companies are convincing the state legislatures to shut down little dairies with the bacteria excuse. I think it is political and about the money. Thanks for sharing your story. Cute picture.

  4. We used to have our milk delivered when I was a girl, and my school friend Susan lived at the dairy, run by her parents. I remember watching her mother washing out the bottles in a big sink with spinning bottle brushes! We used to have silver top which still had cream on the top. My parents used to like it on their cornflakes, but we kids didn’t. 🙂 Leading up to Christmas time, we all used to save the foil tops to make into bells to hang on our Christmas trees! Ah, such good memories! Lovely for you to have doorstep milk! xxx

    • Was that dairy in Maud by any chance?

  5. I would love to have my milk delivered in glass bottles. Such a lovely thought. I remember having milk bottles at school at break time. I believe they may have had silver tops and we used to poke a hole in the top with our straws.

  6. I remember gold milk. I was a skinny, prone-to-illness child, so the gold milk was for me, to feed me up. In the winter the milk froze on the doorstep and the cream rose up and pushed the foil tops up. Birds used to perch on the bottles and peck at the milk, so you could get milk carriers that had bottle tops that they couldn’t get through.
    Our milk in the village was delivered by pony and trap. The pony was called Peggy, and very shaggy. The milkman would let children ride in the trap on their way to school. Am I ancient???
    Our milk now is in plastic containers – I wouldn’t call them bottles! We get green and blue milk – I have never been able to face red milk and would rather have water! Our son is at home just now for a bit so the blue milk is for him, but daughter and I do have some occasionally with cereal.

  7. I remember milk being delivered in glass bottles when I was wee and we had to watch that blue tits didn’t get to it before we did as they had a tendency to peck the lid off to get at the cream on the top. It’s lovely that you have a milkman, I haven’t seen such a thing for ages. I’ve often thought that the very notion of ‘green milk’ (which is what we usually get) makes it sound very unappealing, but that’s what we call it all the same. I’ve tried gold milk, which comes from Jersey I believe, but I couldn’t honestly tell the difference between it and the blue milk. My mum is constantly bemoaning the fact that the cream is removed these days as she has happy memories of drowning her cereal in it.

  8. Gold milk from Jersey makes the most amazing rice pudding! 🙂

  9. I remember gold top milk! It was delicious and my brother and I had to take it in turns to get the cream on the top! We had to hurry to get the milk in off the doorstep in the mornings otherwise the blue tits would peck away at the foil caps and get the cream before us! Sadly I gave up my milk delivery when we moved up here. I still miss it!

  10. I used to love getting our milk delivered. It had a silver foil top and had cream at the top – my husband still comments when we see bottles about my love of having my Rice Krispies with the cream of the milk of the day before. This referred to the fact that I liked to keep a bottle in the fridge for the next days breakfast so that all the cream was sitting at the top and it was ice cold. I miss my cream of the milk from the day before 😦

  11. We get organic milk (in plastic bottles) not because we can detect any difference in the taste, but because we’ve been led to believe the cows in organic dairies have a better life. We’ve been influenced by our vegetarian children.
    I do like your doorstep photo, though.

  12. Oh, we used to get Foremost milk delivered when I was a little girl! I still remember our milkman. I wish those days would come back, but only with the good milk like you’re getting. It’s hard to find raw milk here. We got some from friends for a while long ago, and I used to make butter. I do remember gaining a lot of weight during those years…good stuff.

  13. This summer I visited my niece’s farm in Nebraska. They process milk for their family and keep the milk in glass jars. I think it is great that your milk is delivered fresh…and color coded 🙂

  14. I am a child of the 1970’s and can remember the blue tits taking the first peck of our gold top milk too. We had a wonderful milkman called Nigel who would let all the children help him deliver and have a ride on his float. Sadly I can’t imagine that happening now.

  15. I remember having milk delivered to my dorm room in York — glass bottle, cream on top. So neat.

    We don’t do red, blue, green here, but I have to be very specific with my teenage son who thinks whole milk is ambrosia. If I say, “Grab a jug of milk” and he hears, “whole milk and maybe a quart of egg nog while you’re at it.”

    If I had his metabolism, I’d probably drink whole milk as well.

  16. Thanks to everyone for these very interesting comments! Clearly gold top and silver top preceded red, green and blue tops. I remember hearing about the birds pecking through the metal tops to get at the cream.

  17. Over here it seems that every supermarket has their own color for milk — a little annoying….. one of the ladies in Airdrie (in her late 90’s) used to tell me that her mother would rub the paper cap of the bottle on her hands to keep them soft (from the cream). I can’t imagine how that would work except to make them greasy, but maybe that helped! How nice that you can get that delivered!!!

  18. I remember those days, Christine. My mom always got the cream (we girls didn’t like it – imagine that). There is still a local dairy in southern Louisiana that does not homogenize its milk, so the cream still floats to the top. Such a rare treat! Ah, the good old days. ❤

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