Monday, October 1, 2007

White Gold

2 questions for ya: What color cow makes chocolate milk? and.... Where does your food come from? If you ask these questions to a child, they will probably say BROWN! and PUBLIX! And maybe some adults would too.... Some families have such little association with agriculture that they literally have no idea where their food comes from, or what it took to get it onto the shelves at the store. This is a problem! And it has become such a problem, that it has fueled the organic food, hormone free milk, and free range meat debate to a degree that US farmers are now in danger of not farming... but that is a different topic for a different post... don't worry, it's coming. This was supposed to be about the $4.50 gallon of white gold in your fridge. Got milk? Let me start with some definitions:
  • cow- a female bovine who has birthed a calf
  • heifer- a female bovine who has not birthed a calf and who is of birthing age (+12 mo)
  • steer- a male bovine who has had his manhood taken (or twisted) from him; the majority of beef we eat
  • bull- a male bovine who is ready and waiting
  • Holstein- black and white cows used primarily for MILK that is used for milk products
  • Jersey- light brown cows used primarily for MILK that is used for cream products; Sweetums is a Jersey
  • Angus/Brahman/Limosine; - bovine used primarily for BEEF
  • homogenized: no cream
  • pasturized: to kill bacteria- taken up to 161 degrees
  • ultra-pasturized: taken up to 250 degrees - most creams, organic milk
I have toured a few dairy farms in north FL and we are friends with several dairymen throughout the state. This is a very labor intensive, time consuming, stressful occupation. Women, remember all the factors that go into successful nursing? Well, think about a 2000 pound animal with the same problems. Mastitis is frequent. "Bad nursers" are not uncommon. Slow let down. Low supply. Stress. Sickness. The same things happen as with humans. And it is not easy to make sure cows are happy! People talk about organic or free range animals being "happier." Trust me---unhappy animals are not a farmers friend. Regardless of being organic or free range, a farmer/rancher tries their hardest to keep their animals happy. Think about it! So generally speaking, after a calf is born on a dairy farm, they nurse for 24 hours-3 days. They are then seperated from their mother and given formula. The mothers are put back into production. For those of you who just thought, "how sad"-- remember a few things. 1-America needs milk. 2- animals are NOT humans. Depending on the size of the herd on the dairy, cows are milked 1-3 times a day; 24 hours a day; 7 days a week. They are put on pasture or on grain in between milkings. When it is time to be milked, they walk into the milk parlor, go to their stall, their hind end is washed off, their udder is sterilized with iodine, and the milker is attached (think breast pump). They are also checked for clogged ducts. They are milked for a few minutes, and then out they go and in comes the next group. The milk goes into a huge vat that is immediately cooled to 34-38 degrees F. The semi you see driving down the interstate that says MILK on it drives to dairies all day and all night. Also depending on the size of the herd, they go to the dairy 1-3 times a day. The driver tests the milk for hormone/antibiotic levels, temperature, and quality. For those of you shocked by this, yes, the US gov't has regulations that milk cannot have traces of antibiotics AT ALL in it. I'm not talking about organic dairies! (This is what irritates us the most about organic claims-I'm trying very hard to not go off on this right now). Sick cows who have been given antibiotics are simply taken out of production until they are off of them. What a concept! Then the driver hooks up a giant hose from the vat to the truck and then he is off on his way to the milk bottler in that area where it is pasteurized, bottled under several different labels usually and turned into milk products. Now here is my most favorite and fascinating fact on FL milk.... from the time the cow is milked, to the time you have thrown the empty milk jug away---- an average time of 7 days has passed! Now that is some fresh milk. (To contrast, non-local organic milk that is sold in stores has a very long shelf life due to ultra pasturization and has usually traveled a great distance to get there. )

Whoa. That was a lot of info. Any questions?


Jacqueline said...

Well, aren't you a wealth of information!?! Thanks for informing me. I want to hear more about the organic vs. "non"-organic. We made adjustments in our food budget so we could pay extra for the organic.

Also, I remember when the mom's group went to the dairy several years ago. Most of us were nursing at that time and had a hard time watching those cows being milked. We just had too much in common with them. It was about a month before I could drink milk again, but I did come back to it! After all, they aren't humans!

sweet mama said...

I'm loving the blog! This post makes me thankful for my Mr. Trantham all over again ( I was so happy to find so many sources for good, local food when we moved here. Cause, you know me, there aren't many things more important than good food! : )