The average American drinks roughly 20 gallons of milk each year, according to a Huffington Post article published on June 27, 2011. What is it that causes people to hesitate before consuming this essential drink?
Many people worry about what goes into their milk, believing that antibiotics and hormones are given to cows prior to milking in order to prevent illness and boost milk production.
“We are over-cautious about it,” said Chastity Vermeer, local dairy farm owner. “And that’s the way most peo- ple are. If we have any animal that is sick at all, on any an- tibiotics, they go into special pin and they get milked last. After they are milked, every- thing gets washed and sani- tized before any other cows enter the barn again.”
In order to prevent the passage of disease-causing pathogens to consumers that often come from drinking raw milk, the Food and Drug Administration requires a process called pasteurization to be administered. This process eliminates the potential to contract disease-causing pathogens.
From the raising of cattle to the selling of milk on the shelves of grocery stores, the FDA has regulations every step of the way in order to ensure consumer safety. This ensures that the FDA and dairy farmers know what is going into each glass of milk, including antibiotics.
Some Americans believe that antibiotics can be found in most glasses of milk. This has been proven to be false, and the FDA is adamant on the elimination of antibiotics in milk.
“California is held to higher standards for their milk than any other state in the nation,” Vermeer said.
The FDA even regulates the temperature at which milk is processed and stored, as well as the fat content of milk that is collected.
“It’s crucial that the milk is chilled within minutes of it being milked,” Vermeer said. “The faster its chilled, the longer life it has. The temperature that it is chilled at is very regulated, too. If it exceeds 43 degrees, it gets poured down the drain; the plant won’t accept it. (At our dairy), we usually run around 38 or 39 degrees.”
Milk is collected from dairy farms every 24 or 48 hours. The tankers used to transport the milk have special stainless steel bodies that are heavily insulated to keep the milk cold during transportation to the processing factory.
Milk tanker drivers are accredited milk graders, qualified to evaluate the milk prior to collection. Tanker drivers grade, and if necessary, reject milk based on temperature, sight and smell.
At the milk processing plants, the milk is tested again, and once approved, it is pumped into storage containers where it undergoes pasteurization, homogenization, separation and further processing.
“Every single load of milk that leaves our farm gets tested multiple times,” Vermeer said. “At least twice, if not more. Each teat on each cow is checked every time they are milked to see what the milk looks like. Their milk will show a yellow color or a thickness if it is sick, and if that happens, they are taken out of the barn immediately and treated separately from the rest of the healthy cows.”
The FDA regulates the production of milk very strictly. “We also have someone who comes out monthly to test the quality of our milk to see how much butterfat, protein, and solids (are in it) because that all has to be balanced,” Vermeer said.
The next time you hesitate before drinking milk, remember that regulations prevent any unwanted chemicals in this beneficial drink.