Once upon a time, as Johnny circled home base and Jane mastered cartwheels, moms sat in the bleachers, sharing the latest family news and swapping recipes based on meals they’d shared. The world has changed since then. We still gossip (let’s admit, who doesn’t?) and we still talk food. But, while our moms focused on bringing food to the table, we’re talking about how our food is grown and raised, before it ends up in our shopping carts.
We strive to serve healthy foods to our family, but we wonder about whether that glass of milk is safe and wholesome? Are farm animals treated humanely? Are we confident in the environmental stewardship of our farmers?
As a mom of three young children, I often hear those types of questions. And as a dairy farmer, I feel uniquely qualified to answer them because I’m a mom first and I don’t have a farming background.
What about the common misconception of antibiotics in milk? Most people don’t know this, but multiple checkpoints in our food system ensure there are no antibiotics in that glass of milk. Milk from our dairy is tested four times. Like many dairy farmers, we voluntarily test it ourselves. Then, the milk truck driver tests it before it leaves our farm – and again before it is delivered. Finally, the milk is tested again as it is processed. FDA data shows that a positive test for antibiotics is rare, and those cases require immediate disposal. The farmer responsible is required to pay for the full tanker, so dairy farmers take antibiotic-free milk seriously.
Despite what you might have heard, we treat our animals with antibiotics only when they are sick and at the recommendation of a veterinarian. In fact, we feel strongly that to not treat them and let them suffer would be inhumane. We place sick cows in a hospital pen, where we monitor them closely, checking their lungs and heart as well as monitoring feed and water intake daily. And once they recover, we test their milk to be sure that it is antibiotic free before returning them to the milking pen.
-Suzanne Vold is a Minnesota Dairy Farmer and Mother of Three