Go ahead, ask your kids: “Where does milk come from?” Will they say the grocery store or will they say the cows on the farm? Recently, I was invited by Midwest Dairy to attend a Nutrition Communicator Symposium. Into the wild blue yonder of Missouri, I went, so excited to learn more about one of my favorite food groups – dairy – and share fun memories with other dietitian bloggers too.
As I looked out the window, the cows were in view. And to prepare to meet these beautiful creatures, we had to sport some booties for their safety, not ours.
We met up with Chris Heins, part of Heins Family Farms of Higginsville, Missouri, for the farm adventure. What a great family. They believe that farming is one of the best jobs on earth and they love working together as a family on the farm. Fun fact: 97% of dairy farms in the United States are family owned and operated. And the success of a dairy farm depends on taking good care of the cows, or as Chris calls them, the girls.
Growing up a farm girl myself (crops and hogs), I know that a farmer must be committed to sustainable and healthy land and animals, or there won’t be a business or farm to run. One of my favorite local Minnesota dairy farmer friends has this as a tagline “Live as if you will die tomorrow, farm as if you’ll live forever”. Pretty much sums it up.
Take a quick break and watch this fun-filled, full of dedication, video: Feeding a Nation:
Walking around the farm gives a grand view of how that milk gets to your table. It all starts with healthy cows.
How do those cows get to be so healthy? From eating the right mix of healthy foods and being well taken care of. Sound familiar? Cows eat on average 100 pounds of food per day including corn (a grass), rye and few other grains. They also drink up to 60 gallons of water each day PER COW! Holy cow! What a cow eats is based on science and farmers work with professional nutritionists to devise a healthy diet for the cows so they remain healthy and comfortable. Not only does this family feed the cows the right mix of grains for optimal nutrition, they also grow those grains in the fields surrounding their farm. Just like we grow gardens outside of our houses to feed ourselves the right mix of nutrients.
Each cow has their own personality. This one was a little shy.
Safety and high quality are of the utmost concern during the milking process. The cows are milked 2-3 times per day. The udders are sanitized before the milking machine is placed on the udders to gently milk the cow. Computers keep track of the amount of milk a cow gives, because that can also give clues to their health. It only takes approximately 5 to 7 minutes to milk a cow and each cow gives about 8-9 gallons of milk per day! The milking machine releases from the udders on its own when it realizes the flow of milk has stopped. Human hands never touch the milk as it goes from cow to you. And everything is washed and sanitized after milking.
From that point, milk is quickly cooled from 101 degrees to under 40 degrees in a matter of two hours. Before the milk leaves the farm, every load undergoes a series of checks to make sure that it is safe and without antibiotics.
Your milk is local to where you live in the United States, coming to you on average no more than 100 miles away. And, in only two days!
I am so proud of our nation’s dairy farmers. They really are feeding a nation real, fresh and nutritious foods that our families need. You can support dairy farmers by putting milk on your table and nine essential nutrients your body needs.
Connect your family to food!
- Look for a dairy farm tour near you. Attend breakfast on the farm!
- Go on a virtual tour with this 12-year-old blogger. She’s awesome!
- Check out my new friend, Amber at Healthy Under Pressure for a fun video log of the dairy farm tour (I make a few appearances)!
- Or my new friend, Anne, who also has a great recap with a recipe for a pineapple mint smoothie!
- Follow my 30 Days of Dairy posts all through the month of June.
Got a question about dairy-farming or dairy foods? Let’s hear it!
Disclosure: My trip was paid in full by Midwest Dairy. I was not compensated to write this post. All opinions are my own. To read the full disclosure of this site, please go here.