Milk flexes muscles this month

We’re right in the middle of June as Dairy Month, a time when dairy products get the recognition they deserve as a great food. Drinking a glass of good, cold milk, eating a dish of your favorite ice cream or a delicious slice of cheese on your burger are all part of the fun of life.

These dairy foods are also good for you.

While the number of dairy farms in this area are down sharply over the years, we still have some of the best ones in the state right here in our county. And when we drink a glass of milk, it may have come from a local dairy farm.

We also find local dairy farms that produce top-quality milk. For example, we have local dairy farms that are recognized nearly every year for shipping quality milk.

All dairy farms have to meet rigid standards for quality to be able to sell their milk. Some that do the best job get a quality premium from the processor.

During the month of June, hundreds of dairy farms across the country will open their farms to visitors, according to the Innovative Center for U.S. Dairy. Cooperating farms do this to provide those who live in urban areas a chance to see where their milk comes from, how it is produced and the care given to the cows. Unfortunately. we don’t have any dairy farm open houses in this area right now.

Even though there is a dairy farm within 100 miles of most consumers, the Innovative Center found that only one in 10 had ever visited or been on one. June and late summer or fall months are ideal times to invite urban visitors to a dairy farm. This provides an opportunity to show them the care given to cows and in producing and shipping top quality milk.

June Dairy month provides an opportunity to also show case dairy products and help consumers become more aware of the role they play in their life. Think about it, when we get up in the morning and drink that cup of coffee, many of us add cream or half-and-half. It improves the coffee taste for us. Or we put butter on our toast, another dairy product.

More and more people are enjoying the taste of butter. They recognize it as a food with a more pleasant taste than the substitutes.

Many of us find that a glass of delicious, cold milk is the beverage of choice for lunch or dinner. It is interesting to note that more people are also enjoying the taste of whole milk recently, rather than the low fat kinds.

Looking at fat content, whole milk typically has 3.6 percent butter fat while the lower fat kinds are 2 or 1 percent of skim with no fat. Considering other sources of fat that we eat, whole milk provides a small amount of the total.

Ice cream is a favorite dessert, especially this time of the year. There are some great varieties or flavors so enjoy a dish anytime of the day.

In the U.S., nearly 12 million gallons of milk are consumed every day in various forms. This includes the milk we drink or butter, cheese and ice cream we eat.

Dairy farming is important locally in terms of farm income in this area. While the number of dairy farms is down sharply, the gallons of milk from local farms may equal that of 75 years ago.

If you know a local dairy farmer, ask him or her to show you around the farm when they have a few spare minutes if they have any this time of the year.

Parker is an independent agricultural writer.