I am not a coupon-savvy shopper by any means, but I usually go for “store brand” items most of the time. Recently, I was able to take my time and double-check prices and brands on milk. I've always said that "milk is milk is milk", regardless of the label. It is all safe and nutritious, and you can take your pick in the dairy case of whatever suits you and your family.
So, this grocery store trip, I took the time to check, and found that the:
Dean's @ $4.39/gal
Jewel @ $3.59/gal
In the last month, I’ve bought milk from Illinois, Iowa & Kansas. Trust me, looking up the code is addictive!
When you go to the grocery store, you are offered lots of choices. I grew up on a dead end gravel road. It was 30 minutes one way to the grocery store, and we only went once a week (and that was usually after some other errand: church, school, or even delivering pigs to market). Now, I live just a stone’s throw (literally) from the city limits of Rockford, the 3rd largest city in Illinois. While I miss my dead end gravel road, I do enjoy being minutes from many conveniences – one of those being grocery stores with lots of variety.
I counted over 10 different versions of milk on my last grocery trip. Not only is there skim, 1%, 2% and whole milk, but there is chocolate, strawberry, and vanilla flavored, and other choices, including organic. All this means you have lots of choices when you go to the grocery store, but what does it all mean?
So, whatever your fancy, you will always get a nutritious, good-for-you glass no matter what jug it is out of. The pick at our house is “Mixed Milk”, a white skim and chocolate (1 or 2%) mix, served alongside pork tenderloin!
Visit Carrie's blog at http://www.mycowsandpigs.blogspot.com/
It was a chilly morning as I headed out to meet up with the other Field Moms for our road trip to visit two Illinois Farms. We met at a designated location and rode together to the farms. We were all a little unsure about what the day would bring. What would the farms look like? Would the farmers be welcoming? Would the farms be clean? Many things went thru our heads as we talked amongst ourselves on our early morning drive.
We arrived Larson farms and were greeted with open arms by the Martz family and grandma even had pot of coffee ready for us. Larson Farms was huge to say the least, 6,350 acres plus 3,500 head of cattle. This farm operates with 4 generations of family, even little Jaxson was present for our tour. We were given the opportunity to learn more about the farm, tour the farm and have all of our questions answered.
We walked thru the cattle and were surprised at how they (weighing on average 900-1,000 lbs) were afraid of us moms. We learned that those that come to the farm together, always stay together. The Martz family has spent a lot of time and money investing in the items to make their farm work efficiently while making sure that their cattle are well taken care of. They demonstrated an ultrasound machine which could show how much marbling a cow had and how much they needed to eat in the future to reach their potential weight. One of the most interesting things to me on this farm was the lack of flies, I saw maybe 2 flies the whole time we were there. Mrs. Martz told us that they have wasps delivered weekly which eat the fly larvae, thus controlling the flies without the use of pesticides. They had a lot of pride in their farm and assured us that they are eating what they produce and would not harm their family. We rode in the combine that was equipped with GPS, TV, WiFi and a multitude of gadgets that helped the plant and harvest the farm. I learned so much from this family and know that they are truly doing what they love.
After a quick lunch stop at a 100 year old restaurant we headed on to our 2nd farm for the day. We arrived at Lindale Holsteins just as it was time for the cows to be milked and boy were they ready. We made a quick stop to look at the calves. They were absolutely adorable and you could tell that these were Linda’s babies, she had little stories about each of them. They were quite curious and wanted constant contact with us, I think most of us kept getting licked by them as we walked by. We made our way to watch the cows be milked. (150 cows, milked twice a day). We asked tons of questions, about the quality of milk, where it goes once it leaves the farm and about hormones. Our questions were answered openly and honestly even their veterinarian stopped by to chime in on the concern with hormones. They went on to say that they drink their own milk and that we all have to make our own choice as to whether we feel we need to drink milk that was not treated with hormones.
I needed clarification from Linda Drendel on the hormones and below is a little more info she provided:
*1. Cows naturally produce BST, a growth hormone that stimulates milk production. Therefore, any glass of milk has BST. A scientist nor a consumer can tell the difference between a glass of milk with BST and one without rBST. There are NO definitive studies that show harmful effects from rBST milk.
*2. NOT every cow in our herd (or any herd) is given rBST. She must be in good physical condition and be in good health. She first receives rBST 90 -100 days into her lactation; the dose is mere mls compared to her weight of 1500 pounds plus it is given once every two weeks and it continues to the end of her lactation.
*3. About it being a choice to make: We agree; however, it is NOT a choice between a healthy, safe glass of milk without rBST and one with rBST incorrectly assuming it is not as safe, healthy. It is a choice between paying a higher price (usually if not always) for organic. Also it can be said that virtually all milk (organic or not) is labeled as rBST free.
The milk is picked by a truck which then goes on to pick up milk from a few more farms. This milk is then taken to the coop and sold. When we asked which milk is “better” from namebrand Vit D to store brand Vit D, we were told that the milk is probably exactly the same, just marketed differently. We ended our visit Lindale Farms with chocolate milk, cookies and ice cream, a delicious treat after a long day.
Visiting the farms was an amazing experience. I feel like I am armed with more knowledge about farming and the process from farm to table and can now answer questions for family and friends. The farmers are passionate about what they do and it shows in how they operate their farms.
Each day, I remember something that I learned on the farm and happily share it with my kids. They love the fact that farming doesn’t feel so foreign anymore.
The Martz family’s beef cattle, soybean, corn and wheat farm
My first impression of the Martz’s farm was that it was clean. Clean in the way that makes you think someone cares about it. As we were welcomed into their “business” office, I felt like things would feel official. It was anything but official. They were all very well-spoken, articulate, and passionate. We were able to ask questions and they gave answers that were honest and thought provoking.
Throughout the whole day we could ask anything about everything. I especially liked Mike's saying “we do 100 things 1% better not 1 thing 100% better.” I believe that was not only their mantra for the farm, but the way they lived their lives. I learned many new things that day at their farm; seed selection, ground prep, how the combine works (though not really!), how they ultrasound cows to gain more information, how much moisture is allowed in their corn, their use of Texas wasps to combat flies, and the list is endless!
Lynn and Mike both operate separate areas of the farm. Lynn works the grain side and Mike works the cattle side but they both have to work together. How cyclical the whole process of farming is was surprising to me. I like knowing that farmers use all of their resources to the best of their ability, nothing is wasted. I was impressed by their love of their farm and the people and animals that live there. I won't look at my food in the same way ever again!
The Drendel family’s dairy farm
Ahhh Milk! My family drinks about 6 gallons of milk a week, so seeing just where it comes from was insightful and interesting. Learning about cows and calves and their lot in life was a little unsettling for me. Being a Mom to six kids, I felt a certain affinity for the cows and the fact that they are never allowed to nurse their calves was somewhat sad. I am intelligent enough to know that the cows are there for a reason and it isn't to raise a “family.”
Once I got over that fact, I did manage to learn about milk production. I got to see the stages of a cow's life, the calves, the “teenagers” and the adult females. When it was time for milking, the cows knew where to go and were willing participants in the milking process. We were allowed into the parlor and got to watch the cows being hooked up to the machines for milking. We even got to stick our thumbs inside the milking machine to feel exactly what the cow feels. Once again, the technology used in farming is amazing. We learned what pasteurization means and homogenization is. When asked about skim milk, Dale chuckled and gave us the lowdown on 1%, 2%, and whole milk 3.5%! We were able to ask about anything we saw.
The Drendels had their veterinarian on hand to answer the question about hormones in the milk. I believe he answered the question intelligently and honestly. I know, for myself, I believe that milk is milk. Whether grain fed, grass fed, organic, or not, the dairy farmer cares about the welfare of their cows. They are their livelihood and they treat the cows like family. The Drendel’s farm was well run and Dale, Linda, and their daughter Julie were welcoming and open to answering all of our questions. My family will continue to do their part in consuming milk!
Hi! I’m Carrie Pollard, a self-described farm junkie from northern Illinois. I am known by friends and family for my passion for raising livestock, of all shapes and sizes. I grew up on a hog and beef cattle farm in western Illinois, and went to college at the University of Illinois, where I met my husband, Brent.
We now live on Brent’s family dairy farm outside Rockford, where Brent farms full-time with his parents, milking 70 Holstein cows, and farming 600 acres of corn, soybeans, and alfalfa. Beyond helping on the farm when I can, I also work full-time for Bethany Animal Hospital, where I get to use my passion for pigs by helping pork producers across northern Illinois improve their farms.
I am excited to share with you where your food comes from, and hope you’ll ask us (those of us who spend each and every day raising food for your tables) all of the questions you have about where food comes from, and how it is grown. On this blog, there is no such thing as a stupid question!
So, the other day, I called Brent while he was at the neighbor's to ask him to bring home a cup of milk for a recipe I was making for supper that night, as we were all out. He laughingly replied, "You know we do have cows on our farm." We do have a dairy farm, with our own milk, but I still buy milk at the grocery store just like all of you. Why, you may ask? We simply don’t like the taste of whole milk. Another reason is homogenization, the process of putting milk in solution, so that the cream does not rise to the top. This is simply a matter of preference, as Brent doesn't like the creamy stuff – and I have always had store-bought milk, so I don't know the difference!
I buy whatever milk happens to be on sale. I don't worry whether the milk comes from Holsteins or Jerseys, or whether it was produced on a farm with 16 cows or 16,000; I know that it is safe, full of essential vitamins and nutrients, and produced by farm families that care about their animals, just like the milk that is down the hill in our own bulk tank.
So, I will remember to go to the store tomorrow to buy my own gallon (or two) of milk, and Pour One More! Read more about the day to day happenings at the Pollard Farm.