On the way home from Chicago last week, we stopped in Indiana to visit a facility that’s a combination theme park and working dairy farm. Outside the barns and other buildings, there were play areas where kids could run, slide, climb and jump … always a bonus for parents looking for ways to get the wiggles out before resuming a long car trip.
Inside the buildings, there were areas where tourists could see cows being milked and calves being born — several are born there each day. I know humans are one of the few species whose babies are born helpless, but it still amazes me to see calves standing up and walking around mere hours after birth.
There were also exhibits and short films designed to impress viewers with the wonders of modern milk production. One of the exhibits featured life-sized plastic models of a woman milking a cow in a barn — a representation of the old days. A talking animatronic rooster explained how much he misses those good old days, when he was allowed to hang out in the barn and eat bugs while the farm wife milked the family cow.
(Bugs?! You mean chickens like to eat bugs? Go to a health-food store these days, and most cartons of eggs will proudly announce FROM HENS FED AN ALL-VEGETARIAN DIET. Since chickens naturally prefer bugs, it’s highly unlikely that vegetarian hens are healthier … but they’re no doubt more self-righteous.)
But, so as not to leave the audience feeling too sorry for him, the rooster then explained that when the farm wife milked a cow, the milk was only good for a day or two. In today’s laboratory-clean environment, the milk is extracted, homogenized, pasteurized and fortified, and by gosh, it lasts for weeks. Lovely.
For the record, I don’t believe milking machines and pasteurization are the worst things to happen to the American food supply. We started drinking pasteurized milk long before the rise in obesity and diabetes began. If you live in an area where you can buy raw milk from a local farmer, great. It’s more nutritious. But if you live in downtown Chicago and buy milk shipped from Wisconsin to your local grocery store, pasteurization may be a good idea.
We buy cream from a local dairy farm, and they pasteurize their milk, albeit at the minimum temperature and duration allowed by law. However — and this is what’s important, in my opinion — their cows are raised in pastures and eat grass, not corn.
That certainly isn’t the case on the dairy farm we toured. The exhibits and films, in fact, brag about how much corn they ship in to feed the cows. They’re proud of how their dairy business supports the Midwest’s corn farmers. They didn’t mention supporting the producers of antibiotics and antacids. Roughly half of all antacids produced are fed to cattle — to offset the effects of eating corn.
In the picture below, my wife and girls are learning about how important corn is to the dairy industry. (Hey, maybe we should subsidize corn!)
These pictures are from the same exhibit, explaining what cows eat. Add it up, and you’ll see that an American diary cow’s “nutritious” diet is mostly corn. It’s a wonder that all those dairy farmers in New Zealand (grass-fed cows only) manage to produce any milk at all.
After the tour, my wife and girls indulged in some fresh-from-the-farm ice cream. I didn’t. Good thing, too, since I was driving … within an hour after eating the ice cream, they all fell asleep in the car.