More On Milk: Fun Facts On An American Industry Part 2
Milk is a classic and healthy drink, steeped in American culture. Not only does milk provide essential nutrients to consumers, it’s also an industry that creates thousands of jobs to keep our economy on track. In this second part of our two part series, we explore some of the lesser-known facts about the milk industry.
Food Safety: A Top Concern
- Thanks in large part to the hard work of milk producers and haulers, milk is among the safest food products on the market today; less than one percent of foodborne illness outbreaks in the U.S. involve dairy products.
- Milk haulers do much more than just move milk – they’re also the first line of defense against contaminated supply; as part of their checks before collecting milk from a farm, haulers inspect (by sight and smell) the milk in the farm’s bulk tank. They’re empowered to reject any milk that does not meet the standards they’ve been trained to look for. After all, a contaminated batch means that the whole tank trailer will be rejected by the processing facility. Better safe than sorry when you’re hauling thousands of gallons of milk.
- Concern about antibiotics in milk is often unfounded; milk is routinely tested, and any tank that tests positive is immediately discarded, never reaching grocery store shelves.
Milk Production And Transport: From Farm to Fridge
- There are approximately 63,000 dairy farms in the U.S. today, and the majority of them are small-scale farms with less than 200 cows. The vast majority are family-owned and operated.
- The average dairy farm in the U.S. produces 11,470 pounds of milk per day – nearly double the amount produced by farms in 2001.
- Milk production is a team effort; producers depend on many consultants on a daily basis, including: nutritionists to help with optimal feeding, crop scouts to find and grow the best feed, breeding specialists for herd reproduction, housing specialists to help with ventilation and building design, mechanics to keep equipment in working condition, truck drivers to sample and transport milk, etc.
- The milk carton was first invented and used in 1906 (the plastic jug didn’t come into use until the 1960s).
- In most states, the maximum allowable weight for a load of milk (truck and milk) is 80,000 pounds.
- Dairy is the number one agricultural business in California (the top-producing state in the U.S. when it comes to milk), Idaho, Arizona, Utah, New Hampshire, Michigan, New Mexico, New York, Pennsylvania, Vermont, and Wisconsin.
- The dairy industry is a huge contributor to our nation’s economy, responsible for an estimated 900,000 jobs – including roles in production, transportation, testing and processing.
- From farm to fridge, milk passes under the watchful eyes of at least seven different types of workers and individuals: from the farmer, it’s inspected by the bulk hauler/sampler, then the tester, the inspector, the processor, the packager, the retailer, and finally the consumer.
As you can see, milk contributes to more than just healthy bones and bodies – it’s also a significant player when it comes to maintaining a strong, healthy economy, and creating sustainable jobs across the country.
Next time you take a sip of this historical beverage, think about all the ways in which it connects us to our history and our future. We’ve been drinking milk for thousands of years, and it’s still as deeply woven into our culture and economy as it was back then. Not bad for a humble glass of milk.