Milk is a cornerstone of our diet, providing the calcium and vitamins we need to stay healthy, but where does it come from? We all know dairy cows produce most of the milk we drink, but that’s only one step of the journey. If you’ve ever wondered how milk travels from the farm to the store, here’s our guide to the entire process.
The first step is the cows. Dairy cows live on farms, where their main job is to eat, sleep, and produce milk. Most dairy farmers milk their cows twice a day. Traditionally, farmers milked cows by hand, but larger farms today utilize machines that make the process much more efficient. After extracting the milk, farmers store it in refrigerated tanks or silos, where it stays for a day or two until a certified milk truck driver comes to collect it.
The milk has to meet a lot of health standards before it reaches the store. To ensure quality, the driver collecting the milk at the farm will inspect the temperature, sight, and smell before transporting it. The driver will also take a sample from the tank and send it to a certified lab for further testing. At the lab, specialists will ensure the milk meets the standards regarding antibiotics, protein, and other elements. If the milk meets all the necessary health and safety requirements, it moves on to the processing stage, where it undergoes pasteurization, homogenization, and separation to create the safe and healthy drink we know and love.
After testing and processing, the milk is ready to hit store shelves. Milk plants use automated machines to efficiently fill and package plastic milk bottles. These machines utilize assembly lines to prepare the product in bulk. During the packaging process, the machines also properly label and date the milk so that customers know how long it will stay fresh.
The final step in how milk travels from the farm to the store is, of course, the store. The packaged milk travels from the milk plant to the grocery store in refrigerated trucks. Here, it’s stored in massive coolers until workers place it on the shelf for customers.