Last week I attended a, let’s see if I can get this right, “California Milk Advisory Board Mom to Mom Event” in Modesto. Ketchum PR partnered with the advisory board to send a group of mom bloggers to California to promote dairy through a couple of farm tours and other events. I said yes to the invite because 1) it sounded interesting, and 2) I heard there would be, like, a shitload of cheese.

(Just so you know, they paid for our travel and fed us, but there was no financial incentive or blogging requirements or anything like that.)

We arrived in SFO on Wednesday and drove a long long way through a lot of brownish scenery to Modesto, where we spent the night. Thursday we spent most of the day touring two different dairy farms and talking to various folks before heading back to San Francisco and flying back home Friday morning.

It was a fast trip, made possible on my part only by my in-laws being willing to stay with the kids while I was gone (something I’d forgotten about: no daycare means no traveling without a fairly complex series of arrangements), and I could tell you about the people I met or the 10 trillion calories of dairy products I ate, but I think I’d rather tell you some of the things I came home thinking about.

One issue I was interested in hearing about is the use of hormones in dairy cows. Recombinant bovine somatotropin, or rBST, is an artificial growth hormone that increases milk yield in lactating cows. The commercial name of rBST is Posilac, and is trademarked by Monsanto.

(Thing to make you go hmmmmmm: Monsanto Inc. is the only company approved by the FDA to manufacture and sell rbST within the United States.)

The first farm we visited used rBST, the second farm didn’t. They explained this simply as a farm management choice, and I imagine that there’s a considerable amount of financial planning that goes into the decision to use rBST or not. rBST costs probably include the treatment itself, increased labor costs, feed costs, etc, which all must be weighed against the potential gain of milk production.

There is information out there that will tell you rBST is bad for human health. There’s information that says otherwise. There’s neutral informationyou can read in order to understand what rBST is and how it works.

The use of rBST is a pretty complicated issue that’s all tangled up in profit, environmental impact, marketing ploys, and opinion. I’m not 100% sure how I feel about rBST, but I haven’t gone out of my way to purchase the more expensive “hormone free” milk in the past, and I doubt I will going forward. I do feel a lot more informed about it now, and plan to continue reading up on it.

On that note, we did talk a bit about the “antibiotic free” label you sometimes see on milk cartons. What we were told, and what I’ve read since, is that any antibiotics given to cows are intended to treat a specific disease, like mastitis. Sick cows are separated, but on the off chance milk from an antibiotic-dosed cow is collected, it’s caught at the processing facility where all milk is tested before they accept a farm’s tank. If any tainted milk is found, the entire truckload is rejected and the farmer with the offending milk has to pay for everyone’s loss.

Bottom line is: ALL milk is antibiotic free, not just the kind with the fancy label that costs $4 more per gallon.

I was also interested in how the cows are treated on a dairy farm. I think I had generally imagined there were two main types of farms: the small independent places with cows strolling around lush green pesticide-free fields, and the giant corporate hellholes with miserable cows kept immobilized in their own filth.

These farms we visited were quite large, at least 800 cows on the second one and I forget how many at the first. These are the farms that are putting milk on your table, if you’re buying from a large cooperative like Darigold in the Seattle area. They didn’t really look anything like I’d imagined, from the owners (young, with small children) to the facilities (modern and efficient, but not remotely creepy).

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A rotating carousel milking station.

Both farms had cows in various holding pens, they weren’t roaming around a pasture or anything. Cows were together in large groups, but with plenty of room and in clean facilities. (Well, relatively clean. Cows do poop a lot, after all.) I did feel uncomfortable when I saw the calf pens, where the very youngest cows are kept. These are small individual containers and it’s hard not to look at a baby cow in there and think cage.

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This isn’t done to be cruel, though. It’s about efficiency, like everything else on a modern dairy farm—disease prevention, improved nutrition and growth.

So, I don’t know. I prefer to think of baby cows hanging out with their mothers and wandering the fields, but the reality isn’t as awful as I’d imagined either. Cows are very . . . zenlike, somehow. You don’t get the feeling that they’re dying to get out of their holding pen and go for a hike, you know what I mean? All the cows we saw seemed quite content—mildly curious in the group of women frantically TwitPic’ing their every move, but generally just sort of there, doing their Cow Thing.

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Cows entering a milking station. I liked these Jersey cows best, with their giant Bambi eyes.

Our PR team arranged for us to meet a couple of the young veterinarians that work with the farmers, and man, I enjoyed that. These girls are really passionate about their line of work. Vet schools are super hard to get into—I think they said there were only 27 nationwide?—and I doubt anyone goes into it for any other reason than a deep love of animals and farming. One of the vets showed us a slideshow of her typical work day (starting at 4:30 AM, lord), including photos of the awesome freaky strap-on portable cow-ultrasound machines they wear that look like something out of Ghostbusters, and that was very cool.

(As a kid, I was obsessed with those James Herriot books. I wanted to ask these young vets if they’d ever read them but was afraid it would make me seem Ancient and Crusty.)

We also talked with a California dairy farm sustainability expert, and while I can’t begin to remember all the environmental initiatives they’ve got underway, it was impressive. One interesting fact: since 1944, U.S. dairy farms have reduced the carbon footprint of milk by 63%. This is essentially thanks to all the efficiency improvements farms have made over the years, which results in more milk from fewer cows. Total dairy herds U.S.-wide used to be 25.6 million, down now to 9.3 million cows.

Overall, there were a lot of really fun things about the trip. There was the spectacular cheese-tasting dinner they treated us to on Wednesday night, hosted by a woman who was an absolute joy to listen to. There was the chance to get to know a group of bloggers I’d never have met otherwise, and of course the luxurious business of waking up in a hotel room with no diapers in sight.

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The thing I appreciated the most, though, was the chance to feel a bit more connected to one of the foods I buy nearly every day. It was such a treat to meet the farm families and have the opportunity to experience a tiny bit of that lifestyle. It seems like a fair number of commercial dairy farms are open to tours, and I can’t recommend it enough if you have one in your area. Go check it out for yourself, ask questions, see how it all works. It’s a pretty amazing process.

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Ellen Durrer of the Durrer family farm, showing how milk enters a rapid-cooling area before going into a storage tank.

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Chris Durrer talking about feed and housing.

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Bloggers: we will totally take pictures of ANYTHING.

Lastly, a tiny tidbit from the never-to-be-forgotten Wednesday night dinner: get yourself a gingersnap, crumble some Point Reyes blue cheese on top. Eat. DIE HAPPY.

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Danell
Danell
11 years ago

Great post! I love everything you write, but it’s extra exciting to read your take on something I am familiar with.
I really enjoyed working with the cows in school just for that reason (which, I LOVE this description)-they’re zen-like! (eh, the dairy cows, anyway…) And also possibly because I have the sense of humor of a ten year old boy…please show me one that would not snicker uncontrollably at a milking machine.

Brigid
11 years ago

In college, ther was a cow that had a window put into it’s side to observe and study the way cow’s digestion system worked. As a photographer, I was once assigned to photograph the dear cow. It was pretty mellow too, but boy was there ever a funky smell coming out of the edges of the window. I will never forget.

I knew about the antibiotics on the label deal, but I still buy organic. With a young daughter, I don’t want any extra hormones wreaking havoc. But I guess I fall into the cautious camp.

Brigid
11 years ago

Damn- I’d really like to edit that to say ” there was a cow that had a window put into its side…” groan.

jonniker
11 years ago

I grew up working on dairy farms, and not sound weird, but this was very peaceful for me to read. Dairy farms are my happy place, and I grew up with no fewer than three (3) cows named after me, one of whom is still a pretty solid milker. Heh.

Lesley
Lesley
11 years ago

Marketing Boards are clever. Appealing to mom bloggers is a great way to promote a product.

Re “This isn’t done to be cruel, though. It’s about efficiency…”

This is what Dairy Councils have been saying to counter negative publicity about factory farming.

I don’t think anybody goes into a business intending cruelty but efficiency in meat and dairy production does cause cruelty. Perhaps the farms you saw aren’t cruel or the cruelty is subtle (particularly if you want to believe cows are zen-like, i.e. don’t seem to mind or are able to rise above any discomfort they may experience in pen living), but factory farming is cruel.

Here’s an article on Monsanto.
http://www.vanityfair.com/politics/features/2008/05/monsanto200805

I hope you do keep researching.

Crystal
11 years ago

Having nursed 3 kids and having spent plenty of time hooked up to a milk machine, I feel for those cows. Not to mention seeing the word MASTITIS. I battled that twice, and it was AWFUL.
I’m from the camp of cows milk is meant for baby cows, not humans. I’ve always had an ick factor about cows milk.

I’m going to enjoy a glass of soy milk, which is probably filled with a bunch of crap I dont even want to know about.

Kris
Kris
11 years ago

I feel some weird kinship with cows, too. They’re so big and graceful and oblivious, somehow.

But still. Corporate farms make me sad; like they’ve bulldozed over the mom & pop farms of my Wisconsin childhood. And I won’t start rambling about my personal beliefs on the evils of artificial growth hormones; or hell, artificial additives of any kind in food products.

I think it’s cool that they’re open to tours, though; & would have been fascinated by those uber-futuristic milking parlors. Didja give the girls a scritch under their chin or behind their ears? I don’t think I could have resisted! =)

Brenda Withers
11 years ago

i had a great aunt that lived on a dairy farm. as neices and nephews we loved running around the hay stacks.and the field and I had an uncle who loved to squirt milk at us. and then there was the tea parties withraw milk.

Trish
Trish
11 years ago

Well holy cats! I shouldn’t be such a lurker – I live in Modesto! As in, I grew up on MY family’s dairy about 1/2 a mile from the Durrer dairy you toured. Glad you enjoyed your visit and the farm tours – to be honest, when I read that you were in Modesto I was bracing myself for some serious criticism of the city! :-) Thanks for being so kind!

beach
beach
11 years ago

Thoroughly enjoyed this post. very informative.

Sunny
11 years ago

Great post! Very interesting to read.
I’m wondering how many people are going to post and bombard you about the evils of farming and using animals for our consumption, etc.

Linda
Linda
11 years ago

Lesley: I don’t think anything I said here is promoting a product, and neither did I say that cows cannot feel discomfort. I also did my own independent research on why calves are kept in hutches/pens.

I have absolutely no agenda here, I’m just talking about what I found interesting during the trip.

Sunny: I suppose it’s inevitable, but I hope they understand I’m not here to advocate the opposite opinion.

Kristianna
11 years ago

No one has to spend extra money on hormone/antibiotic free milk as long as they have a Trader Joe’s near enough. Win, win!

JMH
JMH
11 years ago

As a person who currently lives in a small, rual farm area, I thought this was a great post. However, I will spend extra $$ on the hormone-free milk for my kids.
@Kristianna-The closest Trader Joes to me is about an hour drive for me :)

Danell
Danell
11 years ago

Not that I’ve read it, but I’m going to go out on a limb and say Vanity Fair Politics wouldn’t be the FIRST place I’d think to go for an in-depth, unbiased, informative read on DAIRY FARMING.

Kate
11 years ago

Not knocking the post, but I recently toured a decent-sized New England family owned dairy farm which sells it’s milk to Agri-mark, an enormous farmers cooperative (Cabot is, I believe, their largest consumer brand). I have to say, it wasn’t anything like the pictures in your post – the cows were roaming around on pastures, calves with their mothers. It was pretty compelling. Nothing resembling cages to be seen. My understanding from the people at the farm is that this is the case primarily because New England does not have the sheer acreage to support factory farms, but nonetheless, I want to drink milk that comes from those cows.

One of the things I learned, and found interesting, was that on a factory farm, because they cows essentially produce their replacements, the cows have a set life-span. So if the average cow can produce milk for eight years, production values dictate that the cows are slaughtered after eight years, because the production lines can’t support an “extra” cow. On the smaller farms, a cow can be kept around for as long as it’s producing milk and calves can be sold.

BKC
BKC
11 years ago

I’m glad you had a nice trip. I have reminded myself that this is your blog, with your chosen content. I’ll continue to follow you for the posts I enjoy immensely, but this wasn’t one of them.

kim
kim
11 years ago

I don’t have a dog in this hunt – but you don’t have to be close to a Trader Joe’s to find milk without rBGH – Wal-Mart’s store brand doesn’t contain it. (http://www.naturalnews.com/022913_rBGH_cows_cancer.html This article is biased against rBGH “tainted” – however, I’ve read the same about Wal-Mart milk in other places as well.)

Loved the pictures and the story. My daughters and I visited a dairy farm in Kentucky and the cows weren’t in pens either – guess it does depend on size of the farm. http://www.chaneysdairybarn.com/

Philos
11 years ago

Re: “Cows are very . . . zenlike, somehow. You don’t get the feeling that they’re dying to get out of their holding pen and go for a hike, you know what I mean? All the cows we saw seemed quite content—mildly curious in the group of women frantically TwitPic’ing their every move, but generally just sort of there, doing their Cow Thing.”

“The Kingdom of Heaven, however, is with the cows.”
Thus Spake Zarathustra, Friedrich Nietszche

(I wrote a whole paper in college based around the use of cow imagery in that book. I enjoyed writing that paper a lot.)

Heather
Heather
11 years ago

I have to chime in and say that there is a huge difference in the taste of regular old grocery store milk and milk from a grass-fed cow sold by a creamery. I do buy expensive milk for my kids, doesn’t have to be organic, but it does need to be from “grass-fed” cows which produce higher levels of omega 3’s naturally. I may reconsider once they are older but for now it’s important to us to feed our children the product with the highest quality to it (think Joe Joe’s instead of Oreos, meaning their diet is far from perfect). But the taste, I can’t tell you how much milkier and richer and creamier the grass fed, low temp pastuerized milk is. Just yum.

heather
heather
11 years ago

I, too, am glad that you enjoyed yourself, but I’m biting my tongue like crazy about this post. I’ve read you for ten years and will read you until you stop blogging, but yeah…there are so many things wrong with factory farming that I wouldn’t even know where to calmly start. So I won’t. :)

travelmonkey
travelmonkey
11 years ago

Where does chocolate milk come from? :)

Maria
11 years ago

I had no idea about the growth hormone issue. Diane was explaining to me the other day that everything is antibiotic free basically.

This was really interesting. I was just driving through Ohio last weekend staring at the farmlands and thinking how much I wanted to know what that lifestyle was like, day in and day out.

Brenna
11 years ago

Why is the topic of milk so polarizing?

Corina
Corina
11 years ago

Thoughtful post. You saw what you saw and I believe you reported that honestly and with appropriate caveats based on your research.

Cows (and even bulls most of the time) are kind of zen-like. I live on ten acres in ranching country and to keep the grass down, and therefore reduce the risk of fire, I let a local family that runs a cow/calf operation use my pasture every summer. I’m a vegetarian myself (though not vegan), and I hate thinking about where they end up in the fall, but at least the calves have a pleasant summer in some of the prettiest country around and I’m helping a fourth-generation farm family hold on to a way of life that I think adds real value to the land they manage. And, selfishly, I love to sit on the lawn and watch them graze.

jonniker
11 years ago

I can’t believe I’m about to say this, but there have been numerous taste tests done on free range/organic/local creamery milk and eggs, and the net/net is that while the color is different, the taste is … the same. Mostly, it’s all a mental thing, combined with the look (yellower, on both counts, ironically) and general feel-good about the whole thing.

GAH, I hate myself for getting into it, but there you go. I mean, buy it if you want to (I used to, when I could — the local creamery thing, that is), but sadly, the taste thing is kind of all mental.

Kate
Kate
11 years ago

As someone who pretty recently finished vet school, I can say with quite a bit of certainty that we all read the James Herriott books as well and loved them dearly. I still have all of them on my bookshelf at home!

Shawna
Shawna
11 years ago

If I was in the States, I’d pay the extra for the rBST-free milk. Since rBST cannot legally be used in Canada, I technically don’t have to… but I still pay more for organic milk. I know I probably sound like a chump, but my kids are little and I’ve often heard that if you can only afford to buy one organic type of product it should be dairy – something about pesticides being concentrated in the animal fat. I’m already grown so I don’t worry about it for me, but growing kids… well, I just don’t want to take the chance since we can afford the little extra it costs.

Oh and I too loved the Herriot books when I was a kid. And we had a couple of Jerseys at the time. Definitely the prettiest cow (though I’m surprised to see them at a large farm because they don’t give the most milk), and they give the most butterfat in their milk of any common breed. My mom used to make our own butter and ice cream. Good times.

Shawna
Shawna
11 years ago

Oh and jonniker – our milk tasted different. Much, much stronger and richer than store-bought. But then, ours wasn’t pasturized or homogenized and that makes a big difference. You can’t even buy raw milk now.

Tess
Tess
11 years ago

My husband suffered from hive/rash breakouts for the longest time. He was really itchy and would get large welts mostly on his arms, back and chest (sometimes legs). We could not figure it out for the longest time, even after three allergists. Finally, we were watching Red Eye and Dr. Baden mentioned that people who are allergic to penicillin (like my husband) sometimes breakout after consuming dairy products. This is due to the transfer of antibiotics through the milk. We switched to organic over a year and a half ago, and he has not had one episode since. I know farmers may think they are doing everything they can to prevent it, but some things obviously do get through. This was an interesting article though, I enjoyed it!

6512 and growing
11 years ago

I am a respectful reader and admirer of this blog, and I appreciate the way you thoughtfully recorded and shared the details of your trip.

Cows were bred to eat grasses and though they can handle some grain, the huge quantities of corn and soy fed to feedlot cows wreaks havoc with their digestion, and many suspect ours too as we eat their meat and drink their milk.

Grass-fed meat/dairy is higher in Omega 3’s which we are sorely lacking.

And *perhaps* non-organic milk doesn’t taste different than organic milk, but there are countless other reasons to choose organic milk like not supporting the corporations who contribute toxic chemicals to soils and waterways, as well as our bodies, and especially our children’s growing bodies.

We are lucky enough to buy raw, organic milk from a local farmer. An animal who is able to roam on a pasture will always be my choice over one confined to a feedlot.

Respectfully,
Rachel

VirtualSprite
11 years ago

I live in Wisconsin – America’s Dairyland. My mom grew up on a dairy farm and I’ve always loved going to the farms. We have only one big corporate farm in our area and I’ve been there. I’ve also been to small, family farms where the cows are kept in the same barns they’ve been kept in for a hundred years. If you get a chance to go to one of these small, family farms, take it. I’m not saying the corporate farms are bad – far from it. It’s just a fun experience to see the different types of farms. I’m so glad you enjoyed your trip. It’s so nice to reconnect with our food.

Heather
Heather
11 years ago

@Jonniker – I will respectfully disagree with you. The non-homogenized grass fed cow milk (again, not necessarily organic) tastes better to me, it’s thicker, creamier and richer. I am a milk lover and can absolutely tell the difference just as some people can with artisian butters, eh?

This is a great post, I’m sorry it upsets you that people may have different opinions than you, Linda. It seems no one has an issue with you, but rather with the dairy industry. If I can learn something from your post or from a comment then you’ve done your job as a writer. Who wants boring posts lacking passion (from the people commenting)?

Laurea
Laurea
11 years ago

Interesting observations, Linda – thanks for writing about your trip! And I loved that you mentioned the veterinarian gals. My 30-yr old sister is just about to graduate from vet school – large animal specialty, particularly dairy cows. We read ALL of the James Herriott books over and over as kids and I bought her a new set of them when she got into vet school. :)

Angella
11 years ago

Move to Canada, Linda. If you posted it here, people would say sorry for no reason other than it’s what we do.

(Ignore the negativity. I know you know this but, yeah. Brush it off. :) )

Linda
Linda
11 years ago

Heather: I don’t mind one bit that someone has opinions they want to share (which may or may not be different than mine, I tried to keep opinion out of this post but I think people read things into it). I do mind people saying I am shilling for the industry, or as one person on Twitter accused, somehow magically timing my trip with this article: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/11/07/us/07fat.html.

Really, I could care less what anyone other than my own family eats or buys. I only meant to talk about my experiences and observations during the trip, not promote anything other than the fact that it’s interesting and possibly even useful to see where your food actually comes from.

Anon
Anon
11 years ago

I’m not sure why anyone would buy milk with rBST in it. That shit is just straight up bad for you, and besides, Monsanto is the devil.

Heather
Heather
11 years ago

Oof. Basically your visit to a dairy farm is in essence responsible for the growing obesity epidemic? Bloggers meet at dairy farm summit to plan a push on hidden government “eat more cheese” secret agendas, they just don’t know it? Or do they? Great conspiracy theory, but *Highly unlikely*.

Blythe
11 years ago

Thanks for writing this, Linda. I believe that more information about where (and whom) our food comes from is better.

elembee123
elembee123
11 years ago

Another lurker chiming in to say hi, and wow…small world! I live just outside Modesto (hi Trish!) and have lived in this valley my whole life.

While I’ve never actually worked on a dairy, I was raised on raw milk from small dairies here and in Lodi. So yeah, I’m probably partial to organic; however, since I am not willing to own my own dairy cow due to their milking schedules (4 – 6 a.m.? WTF?!) I do buy my milk from a store.

My preference is Strauss milk (from a dairy near Santa Rosa, CA) because IMO, it is as close to the stuff “on tap” as anything I’ve ever tasted. It’s my understanding that the Trader Joes brand comes from this same dairy, though that has not been confirmed/denied by either Strauss or TJ’s.

ANYway…my point is that while everyone has a right to their own opinions as to what they eat…when it comes to commercial dairies, it is in their best interests to treat their animals right! While it may sound pithy, happy cows do indeed produce more milk. It would make no sense for the farms to mistreat their “cash cows” (*groan!*) and reduce milk output.

There is a dairy right down the road from my house and I swear, those cows have got it MADE! Every one of those cows is extremely well-treated. They have plenty of room so as not to be crowded, soft mats to lie on, misters to cool them down when it’s hot, and when it’s really hot (100+) they’re taken into an air conditioned barn!

Of course there will always be the few dairy operations that get the negative press. But for every one of the bad dairy farms…there are so many farmers that treat their animals with love and respect.

So glad you had a good experience here in our little corner of the world. Thanks for a very thoughtful (and impartial) article!

Eric's Mommy
11 years ago

Yeah cows! I love cows, and some day I will have a Hereford bull, not to eat though.

Looks like a cool experience.

wm
wm
11 years ago

We recently visited an (organic) farm and my son got to see the cows being milked. Since seeing Food Inc. I won’t buy products with growth hormone. At a minimum, I want to buy organic. Once my daughter arrives, I will only buy grass-fed organic. I do notice a significant difference in taste. More importantly, I can’t shake a sense that there is a linkage between the way the standard cows are cared for in America (and the dairy and beef products we consume) and the disturbingly early puberty seen in girls in the last decade or so. I will do my best to limit those hormones entering my daughter’s body. That said, I love all things dairy, so I’m thankful we have several local farms that provide quality products.

JennyM
JennyM
11 years ago

Oh, James Herriot(t?). I’m not a vet, but I’ve read his books until they’ve fallen apart. I think Dog Stories is my favorite.

MauraLessa
11 years ago

I don’t know what they put in SkimPlus milk, but it’s yummier than regular skim and it lasts twice as long. I’m sure I’ll die early. (Although reading this made me sorta want to check the label.)

I ate at Tom Colicchio’s restaurant CraftSteak a few years back and the waiter was really well versed (or *trained,* whatever) on the taste difference between grass fed and grain fed cows. We tried three rib eye steaks, one Wagyu, one grass fed and one grain fed. Wagyu was the best, but who can afford that on a regular basis? Next best was grass fed. But when it comes to buying meat (and dairy) myself, I go for what is cheapest. It’s 9:10 am and I want a steak. ha.

Donna
Donna
11 years ago

I don’t know about any of this, but I did see a link to your blog on msn where they were talking about dooce, and you not agreeing with her. I was like, hey! WTF?

April G.
11 years ago

Modesto! I grew up in Sacramento, and my grandmother grew up outside of Modesto. It is very flat and brown, isn’t it? I currently live in rural western Massachusetts, which is a world away from central California. I’m lucky enough to live near several small dairy farms, including one where I can walk into the barn and buy super fresh, raw, non-homogenized milk directly from their tank. It tastes fantastic, and it’s only $3 a gallon.

I’m a little leery of factory farmed food, but realize that not everyone has access to “boutique” milk and meat. That is really interesting that making milk production more efficient has also made it more green.

To Brigid above: Did you go to UC Davis?

Erin @ Mommy on the Spot

super interesting!

Laura
Laura
11 years ago

I grew up in Wisconsin and knew several dairy farm kids. Wow, is that some hard, hard, hard work. Those kids had chores before school and after school until bedtime. They were some of the best people around. No time or energy to get into (much) trouble. When I get cranky, I remind my kids they could be out in a dairy barn at 4 in the morning instead of tucked in their cozy beds. My suburban snowflakes have it so easy, blah, blah…

Great post.

jonniker
11 years ago

I think what bothers me about this is that while yes, Food Inc was transformative to many people (yep, I’ve seen it), there is a fundamental lack of understanding by many that it’s not necessarily the fault of the farmers that things are the way they are. Most dairy farms ARE family-owned, and they’re just doing the best they can. It is beyond challenging to make any money as a farmer, so the only hope many of them have is to join the Dairy Council to survive.

The small family farm/creamery is excellent, and those who have access to, and can afford to, should buy from it, because that supports your local community. However, our world is very big, and not everyone has access to such luxuries (and friends, it is a luxury, believe me), and in order for that model to work for EVERYONE, the world would have to be changed in such a profound way that is not even feasible. Factory farming is, for now, a necessity to sustain our way of life as a population. Period.

It’s a very confusing, multifaceted topic, and I get frustrated when it comes up, only because it is SO complex, and often the ones who fall under fire are the farmers, when believe you me, they are the last ones to profit from any of this. Milk prices, if you didn’t know, are heavily regulated, so their profits are inherently limited to an astonishing degree.

It’s a conversation only those in a position of privilege can have, really, but that’s an entirely different side to it. Because like I said, in our world, factory farming is a necessity right now, in order to be able to bring affordable milk to people who aren’t the audience for this (or any) blog.

D
D
11 years ago

Hmmm . . . this just reinforces my decision to buy milk only from Trader’s Point Creamery in Zionsville, IN. It’s local, the cows actually to graze in a pasture, the milk comes in glass bottles, and best of all, they let the cream rise to the top. I look forward to that cream every time I open a bottle. It’s like a taste of heaven.

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