COVID-19 & the Milk Cooler: How Local Milk Moves from Farm to Fridge
My family has raised dairy cattle and been part of our local community for more than 30 years, so we know a thing or two about the local milk business. These days, there are a lot of conversations about our food supply, and local farmers like me want to be a part of the conversation. The most common question lately has been about the food supply and how COVID-19 has affected us. To answer that question, let’s start with an overview of how milk moves from our farm to your fridge.
Our cows are milked three times a day, every day, regardless of anything else going on for our family or the world. Our milking parlor (where the cows are milked) is pretty impressive, too, if I say so myself. We use what’s called a rotary parlor. Here’s how it works:
- A cow enters the parlor when she’s ready to be milked. Cows intuitively know the timing for this and line up outside the door.
- Similar to other dairy farms, each cow wears an electronic tracker (kind of like a Fitbit) that is connected to a computer. As she walks onto the rotary, it records everything from how much milk she produced, how fast she was milked, how much she eats and drinks, and even her personal activity level.
- During milking, our cows relax in the quiet routine and chew their cud. The motion of the milker is actually pretty calming.
- The milk is pumped directly into a sanitized cooling tank where it is stored until a milk truck picks it up to bring it to a nearby bottling facility. This closed system helps ensure the milk remains pure and you get the safest, freshest product possible. An important note: before the milk is even pumped into the truck, a sample is taken, and each truckload of milk is tested to make sure that the milk is antibiotic-free before it’s bottled.
Since milk is a perishable product, it is always our goal to get it bottled and onto your store shelves as quickly as possible! That means fluid milk is almost always locally raised, because the added step of long distance transportation simply isn’t feasible. On average, milk from our farm hits store shelves in our community within 48 hours.
LIFE ON A DAIRY FARM DURING COVID-19
For us, COVID-19 has not changed the day-to-day activities because agriculture is an essential workforce. Ours cows need to be milked and taken care of, regardless of what is happening on or off of the farm. We had many procedures already in place to ensure a safe and hygienic workplace. However, we have recently added extra hand sanitizing stations around the farm and have given each of our employees a mask to wear while working because of COVID-19.
HOW CAN I TELL WHERE MY MILK IS FROM?
It may be easier than you think to find out exactly where your milk came from! There is a code on each bottle of milk that can help you track down the local dairy farm it came from. Use this website to find the code, and look up information about your local milk. Our milk is bottled at Dean Foods in Harvard, Illinois. That processing plant is located only 17 miles from our farm. The code for our milk is 1737 and can be found on the top of each gallon of milk that leaves the plant.
We’re proud to provide local milk for our community, and we’re here to answer your questions about it. If you want to learn more about our farm, check out this blog post and video from Chicagoan Kit Graham’s visit to our farm!