In an effort to get people to drink more milk, National Milk Month was introduced in the late 1930's. Since that time, it has grown to encompass more than just milk. Each June, National Dairy Month spotlights food made with dairy and the farmers who produce them.
However, there an the elephant in the room. And it's not just about dairy. It's about our disconnect to our food and where it comes from.
The Washington Post recently reported that 16.4 million Americans believed chocolate milk came from brown cows. The article goes on to say, "When one team of researchers interviewed fourth-, fifth- and sixth-graders at an urban California school, they found that more than half of them didn’t know pickles were cucumbers, or that onions and lettuce were plants. Four in 10 didn’t know that hamburgers came from cows. And 3 in 10 didn’t know that cheese is made from milk." 1
While this may appear surprising, less Americans farm than in previous generations, and many do not have contact with farms and gardens. We have moved away from making our own food, knowing where it comes from, and how food can positively or adversely affect our health. In honor of National Dairy Month, we are here to break down the basics on dairy products.
What is a dairy product?
Dairy products are foods made from milk which is produced by a variety of mammals- cows, goats, camels, sheep, and water buffaloes. The most commonly produced milk in the U.S. is from cows. Dairy cows are usually (in larger farms) artificially inseminated. Once a calf is born, the mother cow's mammary glands produce milk for almost a full year.
What products are considered dairy products?
Milk, cheese, yogurt, ghee, sour cream, butter, ice cream, whey, cream are some types of dairy products.
What benefits are there to eating dairy products?
According to the USDA, "Most Americans do not meet recommendations for the dairy food group, which includes milk and many of the foods made from milk, such as yogurt and cheese."2
Dairy products are known to be an important source of calcium.
"Calcium is needed to form bones and teeth and is also required for blood clotting, transmission of signals in nerve cells, and muscle contraction. The importance of calcium for preventing osteoporosis is probably its most well-known role."3
For those with a dairy allergy or vegan diet, there are other sources of calcium such as dark leafy greens (kale, collard greens, swiss chard, bok choy), soybeans, figs, plant-based milk, and more.
What should I look for when buying dairy products?
Many consumers look for dairy products that are organic, Antibiotic Free, and Growth Hormone Free. This means that the animal is fed organic feed, has not been given antibiotics, and has not been injected with growth hormones. Many also like to purchase products from local farms, not only to support their local economy, but to know more about the practices of their community farm.
Dutch Meadows Farms, located in Paradise, Pennsylvania is one of the local farms that The Healthy Grocer has developed a partnership with to sell dairy products, including raw milk. Dutch Meadows has been practicing organic farming for over 20 years, even before it was trendy!
Along with other farmers, they have "developed partnerships with a close knit group of small, sustainable, family farms, where we practice farming with nature without using harmful pesticides, chemicals and artificial growth hormones. Where our livestock is treated with respect and letting them live their lifestyle the way God created them. We try to keep them outdoors as much as possible and create a low stress, all natural and healthy environments for them to live in."
1. Dewey, Caitlin. "Analysis | The Surprising Number of American Adults Who Think Chocolate Milk Comes from Brown Cows." The Washington Post. WP Company, 15 June 2017. Web. 23 June 2017.
2. Herrup, RD, Mary. "Celebrate National Dairy Month with Yogurt 5 Ways." USDA. 19 June 2017. Web. 23 June 2017.
3. 2017 Healthnotes, Inc.