While we check the sell-by date on milk before buying it, it can be easy to overlook how it is that milk got from the farm to our fridge. The journey can take as little as two days, which ensures it’s not only nutritious, but also fresh. Here is a “behind the scenes” look at how milk from Connecticut’s dairy farm families is produced and delivered.
On the farm
Delivering fresh, high-quality milk starts with having happy, healthy cows. The health of the cow herd is closely monitored by people and technology. Many dairy farmers have invested in “fit-bit” style monitors to track how often each cow eats, sleeps, and walks each day. Cows have special diets prepared by nutritionists which they receive several times a day. They also receive regular veterinary care to prevent and treat any illnesses.
Connecticut has approximately 19,500 cows and each is generally milked about 2-3 times per day, producing about 6-7 gallons of milk per day. That frequency can vary depending on the farm. For example, some Connecticut farms have robotic milking systems and cows can choose to be milked up to 5 or 6 times per day. However, this doesn’t necessarily mean they produce more milk in a day.
A cow’s udder and teats are cleaned, and the milk is then collected and cooled. Milk is usually stored on the farm at 39 degrees or colder while it waits to be picked up by a milk hauler or processed on the farm. All milk is tested both on the farm and at the processing plant to ensure it is safe and free of antibiotics.
Some Connecticut dairy farms process their milk on site for both fluid milk and value-added products, but the majority of milk is transported to a processing plant. The milk is processed in sealed containers and is not exposed to the elements and does not come into human contact. This helps to ensure its quality. The milk is tested for antibiotics and pasteurized, which is a process of super heating and then cooling the milk to kill any microorganisms that may exist. Next the milk is, homogenized, so the fat and liquid in the milk stay evenly mixed and stored in a refrigerated room until it’s time to load onto a delivery truck.
Milk will also go through a separation process to separate the cream from the milk. After separation, the cream and milk are remixed to the desired fat content to produce whole milk, skim milk, 1 or 2 percent milk and other varieties of milk. The fat content in whole milk is about 3.25 percent, while non-fat skim milk is about .05 percent.
Packaging and Selling Milk
After getting processed, the milk is then packaged into either paper, plastic, or glass containers. Milk that is used to make cheese or yogurt will go through a different process and packaged in other ways. Regardless of how the milk is used or consumed, the packaging process also ensures a high quality, wholesome, and safe product. Many of Connecticut’s dairy farms package and sell their own milk and dairy products and even make home deliveries. So, with only a few clicks online you can have fresh Connecticut milk on your doorstep and support a local farm at the same time.
Connecticut dairy cows produce about 2 million glasses of milk per day, that’s about 125,000 gallons! Along with having 13 essential nutrients, milk is also produced more sustainably today than ever before. In fact, through modern technology advances and a commitment to sustainability, each gallon of milk produced requires less land, uses less water and has a significantly reduced carbon footprint than 70 years ago. So, the next time you grab a gallon of milk or order milk delivery to your home, you can appreciate the journey it took from the farm to your table.