By Abby Cropper, Dietetic Intern at Winners Drink Milk
Last month, I had the opportunity through the Indiana Dietetics Association Annual Meeting to visit and tour the Kelsay Dairy Farm in Whiteland, Indiana. I’m a complete rookie when it comes to dairy farming. So, I attended a presentation about dairy farms before we left for the tour. The presentation touched on milk transportation, milk processing/tasting, and milk labeling. I had no idea about the great lengths that are taken to keep our milk safe and get it to the stores in a timely manner. The whole process would not be able to happen without the hauler, the tanker, and the processing plant. I’m not quite sure why I never thought about it, but milk is the only food that is never touched by human hands! How cool is that?!
As I mentioned, these farmers and haulers put a lot of effort into keeping the milk safe. I could see that firsthand during the presentation and when I toured the farm. The milking equipment delivers milk directly from the cows to a refrigerated holding tank. When the milk comes out of the cow, it is 100 degrees Fahrenheit and the holding tank cools it down to 38 to 40 degrees Fahrenheit. Before this milk can leave the tank to go to the processing plant, a certified milk hauler tests the milk and the tanker truck is tested, as well.
On the other end of things is nutrition. We all have heard how nutritious milk is for the body. The calcium, the vitamin D, and the seven other essential nutrients that help nourish your body. But, how does the cow stay healthy to give us this milk? Cows eat nearly 100 pounds of food and drink 25-50 gallons of water each day – that’s a bathtub of water! Eating all of this food takes almost seven hours a day. There was a nutritionist who designs the cows’ diet and changes it as needed. As a future dietitian, I enjoyed learning this component of running a dairy farm. For a cow to be able to produce that much milk and have her body stay healthy, I knew their diet needed to be well-balanced at all times.
According to the USDA, 98% of U.S. dairy farms are family owned and operated, sometimes by multiple generations of the family. The families deeply care for the land and the cows. The farmers are working constantly to provide us with safe, healthy products by keeping their farm and cows safe and healthy. I have so much appreciation for the fresh milk that is put into our grocery store coolers each day. What more could we ask for? So, when you pour your milk (skim, 2%, chocolate, whatever!) be thankful for the hard working dairy farmers who got it to your table!