The Ohio State University offers a bachelor of science degree in agriculture, major dairy science. In fact, that is what my husband majored in at college.
There is so much more to raising dairy cows than just time-consuming physical labor. It is really a science in itself, as the title of the major suggests. It is the science and attention to details that enable U.S. dairy farmers to produce the safest dairy products in the world.
The dairy industry takes food safety very seriously. Throughout the years, dairy farmers and processors have worked closely with the Food and Drug Administration and state regulatory officials to establish safety regulations and practices, including Pasteurized Milk Ordinance and the Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point system. As a result, American milk and dairy products are among the safest and most highly regulated foods in the world.
The federal Pasteurized Milk Ordinance is a set of requirements for milk production, milk hauling, pasteurization, product safety, equipment sanitation and labeling. It is one of the most effective tools to protect the safety of milk. It is very effective.
Today, less than 1 percent of food-borne illness outbreaks in the U.S. involve dairy products.
Milk is routinely sampled and tested by state regulatory authorities according to procedures outlined in the PMO. In addition, the FDA and Environmental Protection Agency monitor compliance with the provisions of the PMO on a nationwide basis.
The Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point system is a structured and scientific process used throughout the food industry to help ensure food safety. Processing plants identify critical steps throughout the manufacturing process and establish plans to monitor and minimize any risks.
HACCP plans are viewed, approved and enforced by food safety agencies.
Since its introduction more than a century ago, pasteurization has been recognized around the world as an essential tool for ensuring that milk and dairy products are safe. It is a method of heating the raw milk to a certain temperature for a specific period of time to kill bacteria.
In the U.S., pasteurized milk must be heated to a minimum of 145 degrees Fahrenheit for 30 minutes or to 161 degrees or more for 15 seconds.
Sometimes it is necessary for farmers to treat cows with antibiotics when they are ill, just as humans sometimes need medication when they are sick. If a cow is being treated with antibiotics, she is taken out of the milking herd and not put back into the herd until her milk tests free of antibiotics.
Every tank load of milk entering dairy processing plants is strictly tested for animal drug residues. The U.S. dairy industry conducts more than 3.5 million tests each year to ensure that antibiotics are kept out of the milk supply. In 2003, less than one tenth of 1 percent (0.067 percent) of loads tested positive for animal drug residues, including antibiotics. Any tanker that tests positive is disposed of immediately, never reaching the public.
Another dairy topic is bST - Bovine somatotropin, a hormone that is naturally produced by cows that directs how energy and nutrients are used for growth and milk production. There are several reasons why bST - whether produced naturally by the cow or used as a management tool to increase milk production - does not have any physiological effect on humans consuming the milk.
bST is species-specific, which means that it is biologically inactive in humans. Also, pasteurization destroys 90 percent of the bST in milk. The remaining, trace amounts of bST in milk are broken down into inactive fragments (i.e. constituent amino acids) by enzymes in the human gastrointestinal tract, just like any other protein.
As science and technology have dictated, those involved in the dairy industry have taken the proper steps to make dairy products better and safer for themselves and for all consumers.
Mary Smallsreed is a member of Trumbull County Farm Bureau and grew up on a family dairy farm in northeast Ohio.