Milk, cheese and yogurt are some of the freshest and simplest foods we can include in our everyday eating habits. All three take just a few steps and a few hours to bring to life.
Fresh & Local
Some foods are only grown in certain areas of the country, but dairy is local and based in all 50 states. There are more than 50,000 dairy farms in the U.S, including more than 9,100 right here in the Midwest. In fact, milk’s journey from the farm to the grocery store takes just two days! Not only is this journey fast and efficient, it enhances milk safety and quality.
Real & Safe
Milk and dairy products are among the most stringently regulated foods in this country. The U.S. dairy industry conducts more than 3.3 million tests each year on all milk entering dairy plants to ensure antibiotics are kept out of the milk supply. Farmers, processors and governments perform these rigorous tests at each stop during milk’s journey from a Midwest farm to your local grocery store. These tests keep bacteria, antibiotics and other potential contaminants out of the milk supply.
All dairy farmers, regardless of their farms’ size or ownership, follow strict regulations and best management practices for the health of their families, their cows and their neighbors. Learn more about how they care for their animals and the land.
Safe & Simple
After the milk leaves the farm, it is delivered to one of the 200 dairy food processing plants in the Midwest. Once it arrives, the processor takes responsibility for the safety of the milk supply. First, if a processor finds antibiotic residue in any milk received, all milk delivered on the tanker is discarded and the identified farmer must pay for the entire tanker. From there, the processor takes three key steps to ensure the milk from the farm is safe for the grocery store.
- Standardization — uses heat or cooling process to detach fat from raw milk
- Pasteurization — uses rapid heating and rapid cooling to remove potential contaminants from milk
- Homogenization — keeps milk cream from clumping together
Standardization, homogenization and pasteurization — plus consistent testing according to rigorous state and federal standards — are the formula for a consistent, wholesome and safe U.S. milk supply.
For cheese, a “starter culture” (also known as “good bacteria”) and an enzyme called rennet are added to milk. These two ingredients help the milk form a more solid mass. The remaining liquid (whey protein) is then separated from the solids (curd) when a desired consistency is reached. The cheese is then cut, stirred, and molded. The final step is adding salt, which helps enhance flavor and keeps the cheese safe from “bad bacteria.” Like wine, cheese also can be aged so flavors can develop more fully.
Making yogurt also requires adding “good bacteria” to milk. The milk must stay warm for several hours while the bacteria go to work, converting the lactose sugar to lactic acid. This conversion causes the remaining liquid (whey protein) to separate, leaving a more solid substance. After only two ingredients and a few hours, you have yogurt!
While it takes significant knowledge, skill and craftsmanship to produce dairy products, the limited number of processing steps and ingredients tell us that dairy is a real, simple, and fresh food group that we should feel good about including in our daily eating habits.
Make Dairy Good Choices
There are countless choices in the dairy case, but with claims such as organic and antibiotic-free, how do you know what to choose? The good news is that all milk, as long as it is pasteurized, is wholesome, safe and nutritious.
Safety First: Say No to Raw Milk
Producing a safe product is the No. 1 priority for dairy farmers, and that’s why dairy farmers, like Susan Anglin, do not sell or drink raw milk. The word “raw milk” might sound natural and good, but raw milk is not safe. Why? Raw milk is milk that has not been pasteurized. Pasteurization is a process that kills harmful bacteria potentially found in raw milk by heating milk until it reaches 161 degrees Fahrenheit for more than 15 seconds and then rapidly cooled. This simple process is extremely effective at killing bacteria, while maintaining milk’s nutritional value. Pasteurization is just one step dairy farmers take to ensure the dairy foods you love are safe. The American Academy of Pediatrics, along with the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), recommend pasteurized milk and dairy products as the safe choice, especially for infants, children and pregnant women.