I’d like to talk about milk choices. But not specifically about how good raw milk, or organic milk, or grass fed only milk is for you. Nor do I want to talk about how cool creme on top milk is versus homogenized milk. Nope…not any of that.
What I really want to address is local milk. Local milk in the same sense as buying locally produced fruits, veggies and meat. Milk right off the farm. Raw or pasteurized. Homogenized or not. Kind of “cow share” style but better and without all the paperwork and legal hassles.
Because, if I were legally allowed a choice, I would want my milk to be able to be bottled right there, on the farm, with minimum paperwork for the farmer. Fresh. Full of crème that rises to the top. With a kind of a byob situation. Bring Your Own Bottle. Glass preferably.
BYOB would eliminate the problem of the smaller farmer having to clean, store and supply milk jugs for every customer and every gallon of milk sold. The BYOB concept would also be easy for families (just bring a clean glass container) and healthy for us and the environment—saving and reducing plastics both in our trash and in our lives.
Milk, if you’ve never had it in glass, tastes best stored that way versus storage in plastic. You can get as simple as a canning jar to as expensive as one of those fancy smancy “juice jugs” that look kind of like their from grandma’s kitchen.
Glass jars/jugs/bottles are also easy for families to find, buy and correctly clean for their milk pickup. Plastic is difficult to re-clean and keep sanitary.
Of course the farm might keep a few gallons here or there in glass or plastic jugs just for those few drop in customers—but nothing huge or expensive would be needed.
Over site into this type of buying/selling would of course be each and every customer that steps onto the farm and buys the product, with a fair and impartial USDA over site if that is the way, we the voting public wanted it. But in the end who better to do the over site than the very people consuming the product? The very people that could get sick if standards fall.
If something like this were to come to pass someday then I would hope to see many small farms interspersed with all these super large dairies we now have. Many I would hope would have no more than 20 cows, possibly even just one, and would be dotted across communities. Maybe buying milk would eventually become something like getting a soda. Just run down to the corner gas station to get your soda with a stop at the farmer on the way for your milk. For those in the city obviously changes would have to be made…delivery, bottle exchanges or possibly throw away plastic. However…some of the things I envision could still work even for those in the city. I am not saying get rid of all large dairies…just allow choice.
And think how well the cows would be treated if every week people showed up to buy their weekly milk right there where the cows lived and breathed. No standing on concrete and manure all day being fed who knows what that they get in commercial places. The people who buy the milk would know (yes..KNOW) that the cows really are grass fed because they would be out there in the pasture when the milk was picked up. No stinking manure pits hanging around, just piles of composting manure or even deep bedding style composting going on—but no stinking manure pits filled with leaching nitrogen sitting around waiting to spill over or move into our water supplies and food sources.
The customer would be able to see for their self that yes…these animals are treated well, and the owners are responsibly handling the farm and its outputs. That yes, the milk they purchase is a special product design to help nourish them. Not just some commodity traded on the stock market (yes…prices are set that way to a certain extent if you didn’t know)
Another plus that I see with this more legal milk buying would be that people could buy from the type of farm that suited their ethics. Don’t believe calves should be “ripped” from their mothers? Why then don’t buy from a farm that does that. Many people do not take the calves away they are a few months old and some let them stay until momma cow says “ready to wean”. The calves get to play right along side their moms in pastures learning exactly what momma cows are suppose to teach them. Yes, this does reduce the amount of milk each cow gives but it also reduces the time and hassle of calf care, grows quality calves that go for a premium when sold, and still supplying a viable product for the farmer to sell. If of course he/she could sell it straight to the consumer. A novel idea I know…once quite common. And by no means is this to say that this type of calf raising is perfect….just that a situation like this, as I envision it, would give people choice. That magic word again: Choice.
Of course all these choices would make for a bit more time in choosing where our milk was purchased from. However once we found the right spot we could stick with it. We would also have a bit more influence on situations just like when their where many many mom and pop stores to choose from. We used to get great customer service—because they really did want us as a customer. Now? Most places are horrible because they know we, the consumers, do not have as many choices.
But isn’t anything worth purchasing worth taking time to choose? I mean we don’t just run out and buy the first car we see a for sale sign on do we? And when we purchase a house we consider the schools that go along with the area. So..why not invest a bit of time in our food too? Milk, being a large portion of many families diets, is to me more important of a choice than some of the others we make and angst over.(Ohh…do these red shoes go well with that or should I buy these other red shoes??!!)
And if we were allowed this style of purchasing, farmers of course would have to be ready to be interviewed, or to post exactly what type of milk they sell and how they go about getting it. However, Joel Salatin already does that on his farm with his meat/eggs/products that he sells. Why not with milk? There is no difference between well handled milk and well handled meat. Both need clean conditions, both need cold storage. This is not rocket science here.
Doesn’t really seem like it would be that much different does it?
Obviously we would need farmers that are open to this but there are tons of young farmers that are trying to get started right now. These young farmers realize that the marketing of food is different than it was 30 years ago and they are willing to put the time and effort into cultivating their clientèle.
In my minds eye I see something like these scenarios below for smaller farms to “audition” their milk to the buying public:
Sweet Meadow Farms.
Grass based dairy, small amounts of farm raised grain. Calves allowed to stay with mom until 4 months. Pasteurized or Raw. Non homogenized only. You supply clean bottles.Pickups on Tuesdays, Thursday and Saturdays.
Or maybe this:
Red Creek Dairy
Grass based only. Calves stay with dams until natural weaning. Pasteurized only, homogenized or non homogenized. We charge fee(s) for bottles but clean and re-sanitize your returns. Pickups daily except Mondays.
Or even this:
The Hill Dairy Farm
Certified organic grass, hay and grain. Calves kept with moms and we do take orders for our limited supply of milk fed beef. Raw milk only. Plastic bottles from our farm or special arrangements for you to supply your own glass containers can be arranged. Call before you come.
Of course this would require a bit of work on the part of the farm as I mentioned but it is not any different than anyone who supplies dried flowers in various forms (long stem, short stem, flower head only or petals only). Nor is it any different than a farmer that offers different meat cuts.
I saw a bumper sticker recently that said “Oh well, I wasn’t using my civil liberties anyway”. Hopefully, over the next decade, we can take ours back when it comes to the right to choose our food. Whether it’s milk, or meat, veggies or any other product we generally consume we have the right to purchase food that is nourishing and tasty. In the mean time we may just have to learn to grow as much of our own as possible. And of course fuss at the powers that be until they hear us and change ;-D
If you would like to try and buy your milk from dairies that utilize glass bottles here is one link for some U.S farms.