A Behind-the-Scenes Look at Dairy Farming #CAMilkTour @RealCalifMilk
What do you really know about dairy farms?
Many of you e-mail MOMables weekly with questions about how to pack dairy in lunches, should you purchase organic or conventional milk, and if it’s okay that your child eats a lot of dairy.
From time to time, we even receive e-mails from people suggesting we remove all dairy products from our menus because the cows aren’t being treated nicely.
Recently, I had the opportunity to tour the Fiscalini dairy farm and a cheese-making facility, thanks to the California Milk Advisory Board.
In this post, I’ll answer some of your questions and give you a brief glimpse of my visit.
Q1: Dairy farms are owned by big companies, and their goal is to pump as much milk out as they can. True? Definitely NOT. The California Central Valley is home to more than 1,600 hard- working dairy families who operate their farms with integrity and high standards. All farms are inspected by independent auditors, and government officials can “drop in” at any time. Oh! and the cows have a personal veterinatian who checks on them weekly—more often than my kids see their pediatrician—to make sure they are healthy and treated properly.
Q2: Should I purchase organic or conventional milk? The decision to purchase organic versus conventional dairy products is a personal one. Organic milk comes from cows fed organic diets. The nutrient content is the same as conventional and offers the same health benefits. It’s the process that makes the milk organic, not the product.
Above: a happy baby cow mooing “gooood mooorning” to us. Below, with fellow blogger Jessica Shyba from Mommasgonecity touring the facility.
The grounds are cleaned several times per day, and all waste is piped out to a gigantic waste tank. There, bacteria consume the waste and release methane, which is then burned in a generator capable of producing enough power to run Fiscalini’s 530-acre farm, his cheese factory, and 200 additional homes.
After our tour, we enjoyed the farm’s award-winning cheeses. We also met Mr. Fiscalini’s children and grandchildren. Nearly all of California dairy farms continue to be family affairs, and they all work together to create a high-quality product that proudly displays the “Real California Milk” and “Real California Cheese” seals.
Q3: How much dairy should we consume? After talking to a dietitian during my tour, she explained that the dietary guidelines for Americans recommend 3 servings of dairy products for ages 9+; 2 1/2 servings for ages 4–8 years; and 2 servings for ages 2–3 years. These serving suggestions, of course, will vary based on your family’s menu plan and won’t be the same daily.
Q4: I think my kids are eating way too many dairy products. Is that unhealthy? The truth is that kids might eat a lot of dairy one day and not as much the next day. One 8-ounce glass has the same amount of calcium as 12 servings of whole grains, 10 cups of spinach, and 6 servings of legumes. Other power benefits besides calcium are riboflavin, vitamin D, phosphorus, vitamin B12, protein, potassium, vitamin A, and niacin. Of course, a varied diet is best and should not rely on dairy alone for nutrition.
We also indulged in a delicious lunch at the Fiscalini family’s home. The menu showcased the farm’s dairy and cheese products, local fresh vegetables, and free-range chickens. For dessert, a crème faiche cheesecake on a toasted almond shortbread crust and fresh berries. The milk, fresh from the farm, of course.
Q5: What are some of the best ways to pack dairy in my child’s lunch? Oh, you’ll want to stay tuned for that one. We have a 4-week video how-to-series planned for this back-to-school season. Subscribe to our Fresh News, and stay tuned!
While we all attended the tour for different reasons, I can honestly say that we all left informed and more educated on dairy-farming practices and milk safety and quality standards. Most important, we saw firsthand the commitment and the amazing people who work behind the scenes and who stand behind the California Milk and Real California Cheese seals.
Although my tour was put together by the California Milk Advisory Board, I encourage you to look for your state’s dairy council, find a local representative, and visit a local farm.
Disclosure: I received the opportunity to learn about dairy farming practices by the California Milk Advisory Board. I was not compensated nor required to write this post. All photos and opinions stated in this post are my own.