A mere generation ago it was very common to have milk delivered to your door. Now, most Americans purchase their milk from a grocery or convenience store. But how does it get there?
Most children know that milk comes from cows. But what does that mean? If you cut open a cow, does it bleed milk? What about chocolate milk? Does it come from brown cows?
Do your children have a concept of how the milk they pour on their breakfast cereal gets from the cow to their fridge? I wasn’t sure mine did, so we took a trip to a local dairy!
We visited the Shatto Milk Company about an hour’s drive north of Kansas City. When we arrived, we were greeted by Barb and Leroy Shatto who started us off on our tour with a round of milk tasting. We tried banana, orange creme, strawberry, cotton candy, root beer, coffee, and, of course, chocolate flavored milks. Mr. Shatto told us that their root beer flavored milk has won first place in the world among flavored milks! Their chocolate milk won second in the world two years ago, but last year the chocolate didn’t make it to the competition. It is suspected that the delivery man may have gotten thirsty. Hmmm…
After filling our bellies with delicious milk, we followed a dairy farmer to the milking barn to observe a batch of cows being hooked up to the milking machine. We got to put our fingers in one of the udder attachments to see what the suction feels like. The cows seemed eager to have their turn at the milking machine. It must be uncomfortable to be so heavy with milk!
Then the dairy farmer led us to the milk processing room. There he pointed out the pasteurizer, the homogenizer, and the tank that is used to blend the sugar and flavored powders into the milk. The flavored milk goes back through the pasteurizer once mixed to be sure any bacteria that may have been introduced gets eliminated. We also saw a big churn making butter. Most of the buttermilk is simply washed down the drain since there isn’t much of a market for buttermilk in America these days.
Shatto Milk Company packages their milk in sturdy glass bottles. Glass keeps the milk colder than plastic jugs or paper cartons. The bottles can be washed and reused many, many times. Consumers are charged a deposit fee when they buy Shatto milk, a fee that is then returned when the bottles are returned. Bottles can be returned anywhere Shatto milk is purchased. Glass bottles don’t taint the milk with any unusual smells or tastes, keeping the milk at its finest! We watched as some dairymen ran the bottling machine. They fill and seal more than five thousand bottles of milk every day!
Next we went to the Calf Barn where we got to meet some of the cows up close and personal. Two new calves were born just that morning. They were both boys, so they didn’t get tagged or named. Only girl cows get to stay at the dairy. Can you guess why? Yep, it’s because only girls give milk! Both of the kids got to milk a cow by hand. They also got to see the cows poop and pee, a fascinating event when you’re 3 & 6!
The cows were quite curious. They investigated a demure barn cat and came close to see my camera. It was a really fun experience and I got to field lots of questions when we got home: “Mom, why were the cows’ udders so jiggly?”
My kids now have a better understanding of how milk gets out of a cow and into our refrigerator! Oh, and now they are big fans of candy cotton flavored milk!
This article was originally published in May 2013 by Home & School Mosaics.