Where does your milk come from?
April 22, 2010 4:42 PM   Subscribe

Yeah, yeah, it starts with a cow. But really, where did your milk come from? Decode the product info on your milk or other dairy product, then pinpoint its origin at Where is My Milk From?
posted by gemmy (42 comments total) 23 users marked this as a favorite
Coworkers and I are now debating just how long we can stand in front of the fridge, lewdly fondling the fat-free Knudsen milk carton for its precious codes, before other coworkers start to wonder what our problem is. Uh, thanks!

(The half-and-half worked first try with minimal office disruption; I think there's just no code on the fat-free.)
posted by fairytale of los angeles at 5:06 PM on April 22, 2010 [1 favorite]

posted by Splunge at 5:19 PM on April 22, 2010

Minneapolis, and I'm in NM. neat.
posted by H. Roark at 5:22 PM on April 22, 2010

Wait... is that even an animal?
posted by Horace Rumpole at 5:26 PM on April 22, 2010

Once I was driving on the interstate in Wisconsin and saw a milk truck from Florida of all places. Talk about hauling coals to Newcastle...
posted by jedicus at 5:30 PM on April 22, 2010

The UHT milk I get comes from such exciting locales as Inner Mongolia, Uruguay and New Zeeland. I'm suspicious of the Inner Mongolia milk, the Uruguay milk is the cheapest, but it all tastes the same.
posted by BinGregory at 5:35 PM on April 22, 2010

I buy my milk face-to-face from a guy who's part owner of the creamery, which is in Bow, WA.

I haven't really been doing it for that long, just a couple years, but it already kind of creeps me out when I buy milk any other way.
posted by gurple at 5:35 PM on April 22, 2010

My milk comes from a dairy about five miles away. Oh and I see their Belle of the Month is a pretty brindled Guernsey!
posted by ErikaB at 5:36 PM on April 22, 2010

Oh, hey, that's the same dairy I was talking about. Good stuff, eh, ErikaB?
posted by gurple at 5:38 PM on April 22, 2010

I squeeze my own soy beans, in my teeth.
posted by filthy light thief at 5:41 PM on April 22, 2010 [1 favorite]

My milk is smuggled over the Canadian border and must be precisely refrigerated to the mean seasonal temperature of Ottawa. Anything else would be weird.
posted by Think_Long at 5:44 PM on April 22, 2010

My milk comes from a dairy a bit north of here, delivered to my door every Tuesday by Mr. Moo.
posted by foodgeek at 5:52 PM on April 22, 2010

My milk comes from Fayetteville, Arkansas. The same place my milk came from when I lived in Fayetteville, only now I'm on the other end of a couple hour drive. What I don't know is where they get their raw milk. In any event, that's much better than my yogurt, which came from Tennessee.

My milk can't get much more local without me finding a dairy farmer.
posted by wierdo at 5:55 PM on April 22, 2010

My milk is from another little rural town about 15 northeast of my house. This is oddly comforting.
posted by FelliniBlank at 5:55 PM on April 22, 2010

miles . . . 15 miles
posted by FelliniBlank at 5:55 PM on April 22, 2010

I buy my milk face-to-face from a guy...

posted by DU at 6:21 PM on April 22, 2010 [4 favorites]

Oh and my milk comes from less than an hour away from my house, as it turns out.
posted by DU at 6:23 PM on April 22, 2010

The milk in my fridge comes from a dairy near my parents' house, about 10 miles away. Same stuff I've been drinking for about 20 years. They used to sell raw milk when I was a kid until the county cracked down and stopped them from doing that. Too bad, that was some great stuff.
posted by signalnine at 6:54 PM on April 22, 2010

I wish I could find local dairy milk. I shop at HEB, the most reasonable grocery store in South/Central Texas, but every year this time their store brand milk starts smelling vaguely of ruined asparagus. I have to switch over to Horizon Organic, which at 1.5 gallons a week or so gets costly, or the Poinsettia brand which is carried at both Sam's and Family Dollar. Weird. I have no idea where the dairies are that actually produce any of this milk. Maybe now I'll have an idea.
posted by PuppyCat at 7:02 PM on April 22, 2010

Ah. Houston. That explains a lot.
posted by PuppyCat at 7:06 PM on April 22, 2010

My milk can't get much more local without me finding a dairy farmer.

Getting it from the farmer isn't always the best.

I worked on a dairy for a couple of summers. It was a small family farm in Southern Virginia, less than 100 cows. The cows grazed on land blessed with lots of wild onion and so the raw milk was pretty much undrinkable (but the grandmother made some decent cheese with the Allium-flavored milk).

Those summers on the farm I could have all the milk I wanted for free but I'd buy it instead from WalMart after it had been blended by the dairy co-op that bought our product. Every dairy in the co-op grazes and feeds the cows differently and had a different mix of cows; the co-op has the hard job of collecting, testing, tasting, and blending the milk to meet consumer expectations and FDA rules.

So it might be a surprise, especially if you are of the slow foods, local foods mindset, that your local dairy's milk might taste pretty awful by itself.
posted by peeedro at 7:09 PM on April 22, 2010 [1 favorite]

sperose: "Mine comes from Baltimore, about 35 minutes away. Neat!"

Hopefully your milk doesn't originate from Baltimore.
posted by stbalbach at 7:11 PM on April 22, 2010 [1 favorite]

Locavore bragging rights aside, I hope every milk-drinker has the chance to try "proper" milk at least once. Check food co-ops and the like. Scour the specialty grocery stores in the fancy neighborhoods. Drive a little out of your way if you have to.

The difference between the milk I get from Golden Glen (which is sold in glass bottles at the Market in Anacortes and the Pioneer Market in La Conner) and regular grocery store milk is like night and day.

If you're a coffee drinker, it's the difference between a beautifully roasted, ground, and brewed cup of French Roast, and the "coffee" they serve in airplanes and at gas stations. Or the difference between a garden tomato, and a grocery store tomato.

It's so much better that you regret all the time you wasted buying and consuming the other stuff.
posted by ErikaB at 7:45 PM on April 22, 2010

My milk came from a nondescript industrial location in Tyler, TX. This reminds me of the time I drove to the Turkey Hill dairy in Lancaster, PA. The dairy was indeed in farm country, as they claim...and directly adjacent to a huge garbage dump.
posted by pantsonfire at 8:06 PM on April 22, 2010

Where does your milk come from get packaged.
posted by swift at 8:07 PM on April 22, 2010 [2 favorites]

The milk I buy that lasts an inexplicable 6 weeks (which is why I buy it) comes from Boise, a whopping 345 miles away from SLC. Oh well. I like my ultra-pasteurized organic milk.
posted by msbutah at 8:12 PM on April 22, 2010

Wawa, Pennsylvania
posted by rbf1138 at 8:14 PM on April 22, 2010

I thought it might be fun to try and estimate how much energy/fuel usage is associated with trucking your cow juice from its point of origin. Here goes.

This page claims that a refrigerated truck averages maybe 6.5 mi/gal (US) of fuel and carries about 45 000 lbs. Milk has a density of about 64.4 lbs/ft^3. Therefore, neglecting packaging, such a truck carries about 700 cubic feet of milk. That's roughly 5 200 gallons. This would mean that each gallon of milk can travel about 34 000 miles per gallon of gas (so that's 110 uL/mi). Diesel has an energy density of about 34 MJ/L, so that gallon of milk requires about 3 700 joules of energy to transport one mile.

Putting this all in a different form:

1 gallon of milk takes:
Fuel per unit dairy distance: 180 uL/km
Energy per unit dairy distance: 2 300 J/km

1 liter of milk takes:
Fuel per unit dairy distance: 48 uL/km
Energy per unit dairy distance: 610 J/km

Average milk delivery power per unit dairy distance used by a household consuming 1 gallon of milk per week: 3.8 mW/km

This means that if you drink 1 gallon of milk per week, the dairy would have to be 8 800 km away (by truck) for your purchase to be wasting the equivalent of a single 100-watt light bulb turned on for 8 hours a day. That's about the distance from Los Angeles to Mumbai.

Moral: either avoid trucking your milk from India, or turn off your lights before you leave for work. Or something.

God, I hope I got all that right.
posted by Xezlec at 9:18 PM on April 22, 2010 [3 favorites]

Oops, I used the distance by plane to Mumbai. Well, whatever.
posted by Xezlec at 9:20 PM on April 22, 2010

Well, my milk comes from these cows, whom I could visit if I were willing to take the time off to do so. It's really quite lovely if you live here, and if otherwise, I feel bad for you and your lack of milk and corresponding cows.
posted by mayhap at 10:11 PM on April 22, 2010

I live in Los Angeles and checked the codes on the gallon I just bought. It comes from the nice-sounding "Heartland Farms" about 30 miles away. Cool, I thought. Heartland Farms! Those cows must have a good time. Yay, cows. Then I realize the address was in City of Industry. Believe me, there aint no cows in City of Industry. So I looked closer at the address.

I've been to City of Industry. Industry is full of bad fast food, "massage" parlors, strip malls, strip joints, nail salons, shipping warehouses, and god knows what else. The address for "Heartland Farms" obviously lies in the middle of a maze of twisty little concrete passages, all alike. There are at least two things wrong with the name "Heartland Farms" and it only has two words in it. So I'm not sure how much these codes tell us since mine, at least, is pointing at what is certainly either a local distributor's office or perhaps a small shipping warehouse.

Or maybe there is a dairy cow paradise hiding secretly behind the bleak facade of yet another faceless warehouse in the City of Industry. But I doubt it.
posted by Justinian at 10:47 PM on April 22, 2010

Justinian wrote: "So I'm not sure how much these codes tell us since mine, at least, is pointing at what is certainly either a local distributor's office or perhaps a small shipping warehouse. "

They pretty much tell you where the raw milk was packaged or processed, not where the cows got milked or even where the milk was first taken. For example, in my area, I'm pretty sure the milk from some cows up in Missouri gets trucked to a facility in Missouri that sells the milk to processors, like the one that packaged the milk I bought at the grocery store a couple of days ago.
posted by wierdo at 12:35 AM on April 23, 2010

About 12 miles from my house to Meadow Brook Farms, Clarksville, NY 12041

They deliver glass bottles full of lovely milk to the box on my front porch every Friday morning.
posted by mikelieman at 3:39 AM on April 23, 2010

My milk appears to originate from 300 miles away at HP Hood in Winchester, Virginia, which is kind of depressing. But I have yet to find a local dairy that has any lactose-free products, so it's not like I have a lot of choices.
posted by elizardbits at 5:46 AM on April 23, 2010

my WalMart milk does not compute...scary
posted by phogirl at 5:49 AM on April 23, 2010

Sassy Cow Creamery! (They put a little tag with the picture of the cow on the bottle.)
posted by Cheesoning at 10:38 AM on April 23, 2010

My Publix Greenfield Organix half and half comes from Indiana. I'm okay with that. I'm going to the farmer's market this weekend, but I think the milk they sell there comes from Iowa. You have to shake it up!

Mmmmm. Milk.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 12:46 PM on April 23, 2010

The local discount bulk supermarket sells branded milk and house-brand milk, which is significantly cheaper. As it turns out, they come from the same plant. What is the chance, I wonder, that there are any significant differences in the milk?
posted by alexei at 9:58 PM on April 23, 2010

If you go through Tulsa and do it at dinnertime, take a detour out to Sapulpa and eat at Freddie's. It's a very good lebanese steakhouse. They serve you (very good, IMO) hummus, tabouli and cabbage rolls before you even get to the steak. The steak is only the second best I've had, though. You'd have to go a day out of your way to Dothan, Alabama to get the best steak, chili dogs, and oysters anywhere. (mmm..Hunt's!)

And you must visit the center of the universe (in downtown Tulsa). When described, it seems rather underwhelming, but everyone seems to think it's worth the time once they experience it for themselves.
posted by wierdo at 2:23 PM on April 24, 2010

Oops, I somehow managed to post in the wrong thread, sorry. :(
posted by wierdo at 3:02 PM on April 24, 2010

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