Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Dairy FAQ: Is milk from pasteurized cows better?

Now that the fair has ended, I finally have time to blog on a (somewhat) more regular basis. I mentioned in my last post that the fair can be exhausting and long, especially if you are there every single day. However, it also is an excellent opportunity to educate the non-farm public about agriculture and life on the farm.



While talking to people about farming, it's amazing the types of things they bring up. Can I start a goat farm? Sure! Are cows and horses the same? Definitely not. And of course, farmers must be getting rich, have you seen how much milk costs in the grocery store?! HA! Yeah right, funny.

One misconception that I've heard several times over the past four or five months from completely different types of people in very different settings is that they "want to only drink milk from pasteurized cows because cows fed corn are no good."

Okay. Let's break this down, shall we?

First, I think those folks thought pasteurized means out on pasture. Pasteurization means heating a substance (in this case, milk) to a high temperature for a set amount of time to kill any harmful bacteria. When they say milk is one of the safest products available, they aren't kidding! There are two main types of pasteurization used in milk: high temperature short time (HTST) and batch or vat pasteurization. HTST heats milk to 161 degrees Fahrenheit for 15 seconds. Batch pasteurization heats milk to 145 degrees Fahrenheit for 30 minutes. There is also ultra high temperature (UHT) pasteurization, which heats milk above 275 degrees Fahrenheit for 1-2 seconds. If you've ever seen milk on a grocery store shelf that is not refrigerated, it's probably UHT. If it's not, it should be in the refrigerator. Research has shown no nutritional difference between pasteurized and unpasteurized milk. Pasteurized milk is just safer...and definitely the way to go.

Cows out on pasture, not "pasteurized cows"

Now that we know the true meaning of the word "pasteurized," let's discuss what I'm sure those people meant when they said this: cows that eat grass in the pasture. Similar to how there are so many different styles of clothes for consumers to wear, there are also many ways to farm for farmers. One method is grazing, which means the cows primarily eat grass and are out on pasture. These cows generally also receive corn and hay, as well as some type of vitamin/mineral supplement. They need a balanced diet. As much as I love salads, eating only lettuce all the time would get really old and probably not be the best choice nutritionally. Cows are the same way.

Corn field.
This fall, these stalks will decrease in moisture, turn brown and either be chopped for silage or combined for cows to eat.

Corn is not bad. In fact, did you know corn is a grass?



Most dairy farmers (and a lot of beef farmers and other types of farmers, too) feed corn in some way. It provides energy for the cows and is a valuable addition to their daily diets. Some farms top dress the corn, which means they add corn on top of another feed (like hay) for the cows to eat. Others mix it up into a total mixed ration (TMR), similar to a casserole with lots of different ingredients, which may include hay, corn silage, soybean meal, cottonseed, vitamin/mineral premix, and other feeds.

These cows are eating a total mixed ration (TMR), a mixture of lots of delicious (atleast for them) ingredients

These cows are enjoying corn before milking time. They graze on pasture. 

A lot of dairies also work with a nutritionist to ensure their cows are receiving the best nutrition every day. How many people work with a dietitian?

Yet again, I think cows have it better than most people.

So, to recap, drinking milk from cows regardless of what those cows eat is nutritious and a good choice.

This precious cow says thank you for drinking milk!

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