Thursday, July 30, 2009

Peek Inside A Modern Dairy Farm

Yesterday I went for a long walk down the road and happened upon one of the many dairy farms in this area. Many don't appear to really be organic, yet I learned some things that helped me understand the way we get our food (particularly our milk) that gave me an entirely new perspective (organic or not). The workers were really super nice and let me and Bort right on in to the milking house when he asked permission to watch. I first walked through a room with a giant silver holding tank where the milk ends up being stored, and that room smelled just like a sweet bakery (sugary and creamy)- there was a slight chemical odor too that I could not quite put my finger on. After stepping through that room, this is what I walked into...
Wildly noisy and like an alternate universe, cows were lined up on platforms and the worker was disinfecting the utters of each cow before milking. Absolutely fascinating, I never in my life thought about how they must use chems on the utters before milking to kill germs (this is cause the cows are very dirty, literally) - the room had a container of iodine, and smelled strongly of bleach (to clean up pee and poop I am sure). As someone with food allergies and chem sensitivities this greatly interested me, cause I began to wonder if some food allergies are more about the process in which we get our food, rather then the food source itself.
The cows were not being mistreated in any way, there wasn't anything terrible happening - but for me there was just something uneasy about mass scale farming in this way, because of the extra lengths a farmer must go to obey the laws, get germs off the turf, and get a huge amount of product out there. I don't think I expected to see the workers hand milking, but I never had taken the time to think about what the milking machines are like- they are loud, kinda like a strong as hell hoover vacuum that suctions onto each utter.
All the milk was being sucked out (surprisingly fast) going through all the crazy tubes and contraptions ya see here, and then eventually would end up in the sugary smelling room. Bort (who's brother used to milk cows at this farm) told me that once it's in the big holding tank the milk companies come to pick it up from there. These companies test a glass of the milk every time before selling the product to make sure no antibiotics are in it. If they find antibiotics in the milk on these farms (even though they are not organic) they will be penalized, the product not being bought and then companies won't buy from that farmer for a few months after (by regulation).
Did you ever think about your milk being here before it hits your lips? In a little tube right next to a muddy cow leg! Ha.

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