Have you ever worried about the quality of the milk you just purchased from the store? Are you filling your families bodies with harmful bacteria, chemicals, or antibiotics? I am here to put your minds at ease.
Every second day, a milk truck picks up the milk from our farm. It is visually inspected and smelt by the driver who is a trained milk grader before it even leaves the tank. Our farm is required to have a Grade A status, a liscence and meet strict guidelines before we can even think about shipping our milk. More recently, all dairy farmers must complete and maintain records through a new CQM (Canadian Quality Milk) program. We also get routine and surprise inspections to keep us on our toes. Its a lot of work, but it is for the benefit of everyone. Dairy farmers follow careful milking procedures and sanitization protocols every day and the milk is cooled to approximately 4 C at the end of each milking. Everything from the rate of cooling, to the temperature of the cleaning cycles are closely monitored electronically so that farmers can prevent problems from occurring.
We work closely with veterinarians. If our cattle get sick, we must adhere to strict protocols and withdrawal times for antibiotic use. Also, in Canada it is against the law to give cows hormones to increase their milk production.
Most importantly, a milk sample is taken from every tank of milk that is picked up from a dairy farm. The milk is sealed in a bottle (just like in my photo) with the farm’s identification number on it. This milk is tested for a number of things. Firstly, it is tested for the amount of fat, protein and other solids that are present. These results are used to help determine what we get paid for our milk. Secondly, the milk is tested for bacteria, somatic cells (white blood cells), antibiotics and the freezing point.
There is bacteria on everything around us and that is why milk is pasteurized. Even the cleanest, and best managed farms have potentially harmful bacteria in their milk so it is never wise to drink raw milk before it is pasteurized. In fact, it is illegal for me to ever sell you raw milk straight from my cows and I would never think of it. Why take the chance? Thankfully, somatic cells are present in our bodies and in our cows to help fight infection. They are a natural part of milk, but if the number of cells gets too high, it may indicate a problem. There is a limit to the number of somatic cells and bacteria that is allowed in the milk we produce. Heavy fines are put in place to penalize farmers that go over the set limits and their milk will not be picked up until the issues are addressed. Antibiotic residues are strictly prohibited. If a test indicates that the milk has antibiotics, the entire truck of milk will be discarded. The freezing point of milk is -0.54C. If the milk varies significantly from this number, farmers are fined because it could indicate the presence of extra water in the milk. Finally, the processors also take a sample of milk from each milk truck that enters their dairy as a double safeguard.
I hope that I have eased any concerns that you have about the quality of the milk you may consume. Canadian milk is one of the purest and safest foods on the market. As I always say, farmers are consumers too. My family proudly buys and drinks the same milk that you get from the grocery store so lets all take a glass of milk and make a toast to celebrate Canada’s dairy industry!
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