Do you ever linger in the dairy aisle wondering about what’s best for you and your family? I have had many conversations with moms (and dads) about milk in the supermarket. Some examples: “What milk doesn’t contain antibiotics?”, “Can we still drink the milk after the date printed on the jug?” “What about hormones in milk?”
I had an amazing opportunity to go behind the dairy scenes with Hy-Vee, Midwest Dairy, Durst Brothers Dairy Farm and Kemps Milk Processors. As a licensed and registered dietitian, I wanted to share four things you need to know about milk to help you navigate the dairy aisle. Straight from the cow to you.
Your milk is fresh.
Your milk is local – coming from dairy farms 100-250 miles away from where you live to the grocery store in only TWO days.
And that date code? The date code on a milk jug is a “sell-by” date. That means the retailer has to sell the milk by that date, and it is still safe for your family to consume two to three days beyond that sell-by date.
Your milk is nutritious.
Milk provides nine essential nutrients. Milk is the number one source of calcium, potassium, vitamin D and phosphorus in our diet. Without milk, you are not likely to get adequate amounts of these nutrients that are so important for our health.
The only differences between fat-free, low-fat and whole milk are the amount of fat and saturated fat. The nine essential nutrients remain the same.
Your milk is safe.
Milk sold in supermarkets is pasteurized. It is not safe to drink raw milk as it is unpasteurized. Pasteurization is an essential tool to ensure milk and dairy products are safe. It kills bacteria without destroying any nutrients or affecting the taste.
There are no antibiotics in milk. All milk is tested for antibiotics prior to leaving the dairy farm and again at the milk processor. Any milk that doesn’t meet strict guidelines of no antibiotics is destroyed and the farmer is left to pay for the load of milk and any violation fines.
Bovine somatotropin (bST) is a naturally occurring protein hormone in cows. bST helps young cattle grow and adult cows produce milk. It is not a steroid, but rather a protein hormone. A small amount of this hormone is naturally present in all milk, including organic products. When you drink milk, bST is completely broken down by digestion like any other protein. Some dairy farmers choose to supplement r(recombinant)bST as a tool to help cows produce milk more efficiently. A published study in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association reveals that while all three types of milk (conventional milk, milk from cows not treated with rbST and USDA certified organic milk) were tested, it was concluded that all are virtually identical in terms of quality, safety and nutrition composition. None had antibiotics and the concentration of bST in milk was the same in all three types of milk regardless of the label.
Safety is of the utmost priority from the farm to the processing plant. Inside the milk processing plant, we were given a tour by Roger, the operations manager. We were able to see all aspects of milk processing and how milk is strictly controlled to remain safe, high-quality and wholesome for our families. In fact, human hands never touch the milk from the cow to the store.
Your milk is produced by caring dairy farmers.
Healthy cows are happy cows (and they are quiet!). Dairy farmers are dedicated to healthy cows, a healthy environment and providing the safest, most wholesome, high-quality dairy products for families across the country now and in the future. Here’s a video that captures how the cows are milked:
For tasty recipes using fresh, nutritious and safe dairy products, check out www.dairymakessense.com