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Fri Feb 14, 2020, 05:09 AM

What Mongolia's Dairy Farmers Have to Teach Us About the Hidden History of Microbes

Dairying is one of the great puzzles of history. An archaeologist set out to unravel it and, in the process, discovered Mongolia's hidden wealth of endangered microbes.
By Virginia Gewin February 12, 2020 9:00 PM

In the remote northern steppes of Mongolia, in 2017, anthropologist Christina Warinner and her colleagues were interviewing local herders about dairying practices. One day, a yak and cattle herder, Dalaimyagmar, demonstrated how she makes traditional yogurt and cheeses.

In spring, as livestock calve and produce the most milk, Mongolians switch from a meat-centered diet to one based on dairy products. Each year, Dalaimyagmar thaws the saved sample of the previous season’s yogurt, which she calls khöröngo. She adds some of this yogurt to fresh milk, over several days, until it is revived. With this “starter culture,” she is then able to make dairy products all summer.

Afterward, as the anthropologists drove their struggling vehicle up steep hills back to their camp, graduate student and translator Björn Reichardt had a realization. Khöröngo is also the Mongolian word for wealth or inheritance.

In Mongolia, dairy products are vital dietary staples—more than 70 are made and consumed. From a certain perspective, then, the double meaning of khöröngo was unsurprising.

But there was some irony at work. In Mongolia, most herders have no idea that the khöröngo is, in fact, made up of a wealth of microbes. And that lack of knowledge could be a problem. Not only do these microbes bring benefits to the health, diet, and food practices of Mongolians—as well as a distinctive taste endemic to their cuisine—but they could be lost as Western industrial practices come to the country.


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Reply What Mongolia's Dairy Farmers Have to Teach Us About the Hidden History of Microbes (Original post)
Judi Lynn Friday OP
calimary 1 hr ago #1

Response to Judi Lynn (Original post)

Mon Feb 17, 2020, 12:28 PM

1. MOST interesting read!

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