When we go to the grocery store, we all like to know that the food we buy is safe and of good quality. And if we are buying an animal product like milk or meat, we want those animals to be well-cared for and treated in a humane way.
Local farmers are no different. Their families eat the same animal products that the rest of us do. They want the same things the rest of us want - quality food produced in a safe environment for the animals. Or their grain products free from foreign material and any molds or other diseases.
In fact, local farmers also know that if they want to stay in the farming business, they must send quality products to market. Otherwise, they will go out of business.
An interesting study, conducted by the University of Wisconsin-Madison, was recently finished in Wisconsin. Results of this study could also apply to our area. It considered milk quality from 14,591 dairy farms around that state. All dairy farms, large and small, produced milk that easily met federal food safety guidelines.
Looking further, the study wanted to find out if the smaller farms produced higher quality milk. Small farms were those with fewer than 118 cows and large farms had 119 to 713 cows. About 160 herds with more than 713 cows, called concentrated animal feeding operations or CAFOs, were also included.
Milk quality in the CAFO's was highest, with large herds next and the small herds slightly lower. However, in all groups, milk quality was excellent and far above federal standards for milk that goes in the bottle or gallon jug.
One reason for the study was to find out if smaller farms produced higher quality milk than the larger ones. This was not the case.
Some groups may take issue with this study and ask why larger herds would have higher quality milk. Those doing the study suggested it could be the larger herds have more money to spend on good equipment. Or they may be able to get rid of cows with mastitis more quickly. Regardless of herd size, milk quality was excellent.
Local dairy farms, and those across the nation, go through rigid, strict inspections and tests. No other food we buy is subject to the safety requirements that are for milk. Regardless of herd size, local farms send quality milk to the processor to put in the bottle or make cheese, ice cream or other dairy products.
With lots of corn and soybeans going to market recently, those crops are also subject to several tests. Before grain is unloaded at the elevator, a probe takes a random sample of the load. That sample is tested for moisture, foreign matter and molds before it is unloaded. If it doesn't meet standards, it can be rejected.
Rare cases of food poisoning have come mostly from specialty crops, such as the recent muskmelon problem from one grower. Finding the cause of the problem was not easy but apparently came from a facility where the melons were washed.
Yes, as consumers we want safe, quality food. Our farmer neighbors want the same kind of food.
Parker is an independent agricultural writer.