By: Stephanie Masiello, Cornell University PhD Candidate & IFIC FDN Sylvia Rowe Intern Date: 6/14/13
Despite the humid air, frequent rain storms, and impending threat of cicadas here in D.C., this is my favorite time of year. Why, you may ask? Because June is National Dairy Month and dairy is of the upmost importance to me. In a literal sense this is true since the dairy products I’ve consumed over the years have been full of beneficial nutrients, such as calcium, vitamin D, potassium, and protein, which help fuel my body. In a figurative sense, dairy is responsible for where I am today.
Growing up in suburbia, I spent my summers like any good ‘city kid’ would. I spent them at farm camp. Yes, you read that correctly. Farm camp. I spent a whole week sleeping in a cabin with no electricity, crossing a field drenched in morning dew to go take a shower, making my own bread and cheese with fresh ingredients, and taking care of the farm animals. Out of all this, milking the two dairy cows on the farm was my favorite activity. From the age of 9, I’ve been in awe of these quietly complex animals upon who we rely so much. Aspirations of Vet School and being the next James Herriot eventually transitioned into graduate research degrees focusing on dairy cow health and milk product quality.
My journey from ‘flip-flops to barn boots’ allowed me to see many aspects of the dairy industry that I don’t think the average consumer ever gets to fully appreciate. Here are a few udderly (I know, cheesy right?) impressive facts about the US dairy industry:
- Dairy farmers work 365 days a year. Trust me, cows have no idea that it is 4th of July or Thanksgiving. They still need to be milked.
- Milk is one of the most regulated beverages in the US. It even has its own specific regulatory guidelines in the Pasteurized Milk Ordinance (http://www.fda.gov/Food/GuidanceRegulation/GuidanceDocumentsRegulatoryInformation/Milk/default.htm)
- Dairy is a global industry. According to the US Dairy Export Council, last year the US exported 13.2% of its dairy (specifically milk solids) to places all over the world, such as Southeast Asia, China, Canada, North Africa, Middle East, Japan, and South America.
- Thanks to advancements in dairy cow nutrition and genetics, one cow may typically produce 6.5 gallons of milk each day.
- In her lifetime, a dairy cow might produce around 350,000 glasses of milk.
Whether you are a milk drinker, yogurt eater, or cheese gourmand, I hope you take a moment this month to appreciate all that milk, cows, and farmers do for you each and every day. After a quick poll here in the office, some of our favorite dairy products are yogurt (Greek-style and regular), chocolate milk, cheese, and ice cream. What’s yours?