Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Bags vs Gallon Jugs

In my eleventh year in Canada, I think I must finally take on directly the fundamental question of US-Canadian relations: bag of milk vs. gallon jug.  In my previous post, one of the commenter's raised the question: why wouldn't people use bags of milk?  Well, besides pointing to the vast majority of places that refrain from such ill-conceived milk-carrying technologies, one could simply point to the reality that bags in which milk may be delivered have no other purpose.  A gallon jug, on the other hand, has a vast array of re-purposes.  Indeed, a quick google reveals heaps of disagreement: are there five, forty, ten or thirty-five different uses for a milk jug?

In contrast, google a question about bags of milk and you get a heap of people trying to answer this conundrum--why use an inferior technology?  Here are some examples: here, "so we drink milk in bags, does that make us weird?" [yes, yes it does], wiki and here.

To give bags of milk a fair shake, here:

I do love how this video shows how complicated this milk delivery system is: need to cut the bag just right, need to keep the big bag's clip with expiration date (which is stamped on plastic jugs), and so on.

Of course, the real superiority is that one can simply open a gallon jug of milk and pour.  If you have bought bags of milk, you need to get a container, make sure it is clean, open the bag without spilling anything (no crying necessary with a gallon jug), pour it into the container and then pour some of the contents into one's bowl of cereal (like this bit of Hawaiian hotel holiday excessiveness):

The arguments about the milk bags are more efficient argument might be instructive, except that in Canada, the dairy industry is so highly protected that it can charge quite a lot and is relatively immune from the market--supply management or mismanagement as I like to call it.  So cry me a river of milk tears if you think that the market up here is efficient in any way, including in the use of bags.


Anonymous said...

Except that this is really a central Canadian thing--the west uses jugs.

Anonymous said...

BTW, now that you're in Ontario you can buy 2L and 4L jugs of milk at any Macs convenience store (known as "Couche-tarde" in Montreal, same owl logo and great slurpees too).

Mark Reynolds said...

" If you have bought bags of milk, you need to get a container, make sure it is clean, open the bag without spilling anything (no crying necessary with a gallon jug), pour it into the container... "

Ah, this might be the root of the difference of opinion. There are special containers that hold the bags (as in the video), so all you need to do is drop in the bag, clip the corner (growing up in Nova Scotia, you could get special clippers that you put on your fridge with a magnet - no need to root around for scissors), and you're set. Milk needn't come in contact with the container at all. There's less plastic waste overall (you're not going to reuse all your jugs) and the weight distribution relative to the handle makes it much easier to pour than jugs allow. Plus, since the bag contracts as the milk flows out, you don't get the "glug glug" sloppiness you can get from a full jug (which I miss greatly, as I try to pour milk into narrow-necked sippy cups here). It's slightly more complex, I'll grant you, but ergonomically and environmentally superior.

I feel like I've thought and written WAY too much about milk bags now.

Anonymous said...

As an American who prefers bags, I have two counterpoints:

1) There is an ease-of-use tradeoff. I find it extremely difficult to pour from a jug without spilling when it is full, because the milk runs down the side of the jug if it's not held at a steep enough angle. I've never had that problem with bags.

2) Milk goes bad more slowly because you only have 1/3 of the milk open at once.

PS I am American

Anonymous said...

While some think it's outdated technology, Some see it as the big sustainability story in packaging - or or

Anonymous said...

I think this has less to do with convenience and market demand and more to do with increasing profit margins. Now retailers will be able to sell 3 litres for the price of 4! This is exactly what is happening in the cheese market.