While Kansas ranks only 16th on a 2016 survey of states’ milk production, that still amounts to over 3.2 billion pounds of milk annually. Most of that milk is produced on dairy farms that are “overwhelmingly family-owned and managed,” according to the USDA. As I’ve mentioned before, while small, local business doesn’t necessarily always equal better, in this case, you are almost guaranteed that both workers and cows are treated better.
Unfortunately, a shocking majority of these family farms have been forced to shut down due to many factors, including unstable milk prices and pressures of large corporations.
Thirty years ago, our state boasted 2,300 dairy farms, but now we have fewer than 300. That’s just another statistic — until you remember hundreds of families were pushed out of their livelihood, probably leaving behind some of their heritage and dreams in the process.
The family I was going to highlight had to start phasing out of the dairy business just days ago. No more big-eyed Jersey calves frolicking around in the pasture.
That leads me to talk about “pasture-raised” milk vs. pasteurized milk.
People tend to be polarized on issues surrounding dairy products; raw milk is often either the problem or the panacea. Media hype surrounding the nutritional pros and cons of milk consumption in general pelts conflicting information and research results at us daily.
I’m not going to get into arguments about nutrient absorption, environmental impact, organic and grass-fed, etc. I do know that commercial homogenization and pasteurization processes actually change the molecular structure of the milk, and in my opinion, that’s a bummer.
While a web of regulations dictates a lot of the way family farms are allowed to handle their milk, it is definitely possible to obtain raw dairy.
The recent popularization of alternate milks has also been a major hit to the dairy industry. In my house, we call those “malks” or “nut juices.”
Honestly, I think they’re delicious (don’t tell Brian), and extremely humorous as soon as you picture hooking up miniature milkers to an almond. But it’s way less cute when you realize their toll on the environment and level of commercial processing.
At any rate, this is where local dairies come in real handy: there is a host of benefits when you can get a product straight from its source.
Plus, focusing on maligning the opposition doesn’t do anything about proving your own point.
Local dairies can speak for themselves. Trust me, go find any dairy farmer, and as long as it’s not milking or choring time, they’ll be more than happy to tell you all about their herd.
Grandpa hasn’t lived on the dairy for years now, but some of his clearest and sweetest memories come from out in the barn.
Times have changed a little in the past 90 years, but here we still are, milking cows.
By: Amanda Miller
Source: The Hutchinson News