BC milk

BC Milk, it really does a body and soul good

by Samantha Bacchus McLeod

Who doesn’t adore a good creamy cappuccino, especially when the best foam comes from the delicious high-fat milk of our local BC dairy farms.

During a media tour of local BC dairy farms to explore how milk is processed, I was most impressed with the farmers, and their cows. Not only because of the immensely important job they do for our food industry, but also for the relationship they had with their dairy cows. Most of the farmers we spoke to referred to their charges as “our girls”, while they were walking us through the daily workings of a dairy farm, some cows even followed us like they were house pets.

These farmers are up before dawn, heck most farmers are getting out to the fields and barns just as we are settling into a good night’s sleep. Dairy cows are milked every day, and they expect their farmers to be wide eyed and bushy tailed at the barn long before the break of dawn, when they arrive for their morning milking. You see? cows like punctuality and will actually give you the evil eye if you make them wait.

The cows were curious creatures, not funny curious but they showed genuine curiosity in us, the visitors. On our arrival to commence our tour of the dairy farms, we saw the cows grazing in the verdant field beyond, but as we drove up they lifted their heads to observe us. And as we unloaded ourselves from the bus toting our cameras and bags, we saw them drifting towards us. Gradually, like a gaggle of old ladies in a village, they all made their way to the edge of the field to see what we were up to.

For me, I love to know where my food comes from, and I will actively explore any and every farming industry if they will let me. I love to ask really serious questions – like how is my food farmed, where is it processed, and what is the timeline from that farm to my table?

We all need to trace back our food because we need to trust that our food is as natural as possible, and ethically, produced.

I have an insatiable need to share first-hand knowledge of my food tours with everyone I meet. I mean, we would be terrible hypocrites if we cringed at the thought of how we get our milk – while we gather at our neighbourhood cafes for our lattes and cappuccinos, and discuss the “injustice” of farmers milking cows. I see and hear this too often as my friends and I meet for coffee, I hear orders like “Oat-milk latte and a small bacon quiche, please.” Or “Medium almond-chai latte and a chocolate chip cookie, please.” And I want to say, hey please! Pick a side, child.

Who doesn’t adore a good creamy cappuccino, the best foam comes from the high-fat milk, very delicious. I cannot imagine drinking a black hot cocoa at the end of the day. And most of all, there is no way I will ever make a quiche using oat, almond, or one of these new age “milk”, in fact I do not think it would be possible to make a proper quiche without proper cream from free range dairy cows, and gorgeous farm eggs from free range chickens. I cannot imagine an egg-free nor a milk-free world, these are real foods, not modified to plastic-like replicas of itself, these are what our ancestors ate and drank.

Milk. Without real milk, we would not be here today to discuss it, milk has been a staple from infancy to adulthood for most people – from powdered milk baby formula, right up to the everyday, and gourmet, dishes we create.

When I am commissioned for R and D recipes, and of course, when I cook for my family, I like to know I am using the best ingredients. I grew up with food from the local backyards all around my neighbourhood, so living in B.C., I am very fortunate to have access to clean, natural, local foods.

We are so lucky to have so many reputable farms, especially dairy farms. B.C. has some of the highest standards in the world for milk production, and there’s a zero-tolerance for antibiotics in milk.

If a cow gets sick – like we all do from time to time – and require antibiotic treatment, the milk they produce is discarded for a regulated period of time. This is to ensure the milk collected at the farm for the market is antibiotic-free.

On that tour (I mentioned way back at the top), we followed the trail of the milk that day, right from the farm where we got to meet the cows and help feed the calves, to touring the facility where the milk was stored in temperature-regulated bulk tanks.

Next, we met the dairy trucker, who picks up the milk to deliver to the processing plant. We chatted with her and found out she is a licensed milk grader, her job included, visual and smell tests of the milk as well as an inspection of the bulk tank to ensure the milk was kept at the right temperature of below 4°C. She then took a sample, which will be sent to a certified lab where it is tested according to BC’s strict food safety standards.

Immediately upon arrival at the processing plant, the truckload of milk was tested again to double check it was 100% free from antibiotics and growth hormones.

Here’s a quick overview of how our milk travels before it ends up in our gorgeous recipes, and in our morning coffees and cereals, of course:

Once the quality testing is completed, the load of milk is pasteurized. Pasteurization is the process of heating and cooling the milk, which is necessary to kill any low-level bacteria that is completely natural to raw milk.
After the milk is pasteurized, it goes through a separator. The separator spins milk at an ultra-high-speed (6,000 revolutions per minute) to separate the cream from the milk. Different amounts of cream are then re-combined with the milk to create dairy products with a variety of fat percentages. For example, to make 1% partially skimmed milk, only 1% of milk fat is put back in.
Milk undergoes a process called homogenization, which re-combines milk fat with the other components of milk. Under high pressure, milk is run through a fine mesh. The mesh breaks fat into small particles that remain evenly dispersed throughout the milk. Without homogenization, the cream rises to the top of the milk jug, which is not what we want first thing in the morning – pure buttery cream in our coffee, no thanks.
Once milk has been adjusted for the desired fat percentage and homogenized, it is then processed through stainless-steel pipes across the processing facility to be bottled correctly, and sent to the grocery stores.
Other milk batches are made into dairy products such as cheese, yogurt, and ice cream.

Next time you grab that glass of milk to wash down your milk-chocolate chip cookies, feel extra good with the knowledge that you are drinking healthy-local BC milk brought to you by from passionate-hardworking farmers and dairy workers.

Or in my case, when I pour that generous shot of Creamy Baileys into a glass and top it up with cold BC Dairy milk…I like to say, here’s to another day.

Get the recipe for this phenomenal Chocolate Chip Orange Peel Cookies (pictured) right here.

Read about our farmers.

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