December 28, 2006

Local Dairy Producers Helping Push Farmers’ All Natural Creamery To Top

“Milk, it does the body good” – that’s a dairy industry slogan that has hit its mark in educating readers, viewers and listeners of the health benefits that consumers get from supporting the dairy industry.

Several local producers may want to come up with a new saying, or at minimum just add “especially your palette” to the end of their industry’s motto.

Farmers’ All Natural Creamery, which features milk from a number of area producers, is not only being touted for its taste but also for the plant’s processing which insures high nutritional values in the milk that rolls out of the Kalona, IA production site.

“If all milk tasted as good as Farmers’ All Natural Creamery’s milk, we’d need twice as many dairy cows in this country,” said dairy industry journalist Pate Hardin in his May 2006 article in The Milkweed, a monthly dairy market report published in Wisconsin.

“In late March, on my travels through Iowa, I stopped at the Farmers’ All Natural Creamery, southwest of Iowa City, to learn more about their unique operation,” he said. “The bottle of 2% milk I took with me from that visit was the best commercial fluid milk product I have ever tasted.”

Farmers’ All Natural Creamery bottles organic milk and markets it throughout the Midwest and beyond. Roughly 25 percent of the company’s milk producers are located around Bloomfield, IA. Another half are located around Kalona. However the company purchases milk from local producers Glenn and Paul Zimmerman as well as Curvin Nolt.

The product will be carried by Zimmerman’s Store in Memphis. Prior to the addition of the local outlet, the unique round bottle, wide at the bottom with a narrow neck, and made of a hard PET plastic that won’t leach plastic into the milk, was only available to local consumers that traveled to area HyVee stores. It is distributed by United Natural Foods (Iowa City), Alberts Organics (Denver), Kehe Food Distributors (Chicago), PDI and some small distributors and can also be found at some large food chains such as Whole Foods throughout the Midwest, Dierbergs stores in St. Louis, Jewel stores in Chicago, and in large and small stores as far away as Atlanta and Denver.

While the taste is an obvious selling point for the company’s product, the hidden nutritional values are helping expand the market for the organically produced product.

“We pick up these farmers’ milk, and take it to the creamery where it is treated much more gently than most milk,” said Martic Scott of Kolona Organics, LLC. “First, we don’t homogenize it, which means the cream rises to the top and has to be shaken back in. Second, we use a time-consuming low-temperature pasteurization process, which never heats the milk high enough to alter the flavor, which is what Peter is raving about in his article.”

In his writings, Hardin has praised the movement of some in the dairy industry away from high temperature pasteurization and homogenization as well as the benefits of fresh forage for dairy cows.

“I think high-temperature pasteurization of fluid milk is nutritionally questionable, if not wrong,” he said “Pardon me, but cooking the bejeebers out of milk anneals (hardens) the proteins and makes them less nutritionally available. What good is protein in milk if it is not biologically available?”

Hardin says the dairy industry, as a whole, needs to take a look at its processing technologies and ask if they enhance or detract from the milk’s nutritional value.

“How many dairy processors have acknowledged the growing debate about the negatives of milk homogenization?” he asked. “Homogenized milk—we all know—breaks down the butterfat molecules so that they are forever dispersed throughout the milk. But shattering the milk fat molecules is believed to contribute to the fats getting into bloodstreams of some persons. And oxidation of the broken pieces of milk fat globules is believed to denigrate nutritional value and quality. We ought to be thinking about a resurgence of non-homogenized consumer milk products. The taste and nutrition can be superior, I believe.”

But Hardin didn’t stop with just two selling points for the local product. He also highlighted the positives of producing milk with dairy cattle that actually graze forage.

“Scientists are learning more and more about nutritional attributes from milk cows that have eaten fresh forages,” Hardin said. “The biggest nutritional attribute from grass-fed cows is Conjugated Lineolic Acids (CLAs), which are just about the top cancer-fighter available nutritionally.”

The journalist noted that additional benefits seem to be there for grazing dairy cattle, but noted the lack of funding for more research on the topic, pointing to the fact that grazing is not a popular topic among the huge dairy businesses that funded many of the research projects.

“The milk from Farmers’ All Natural Creamery “gets it right” in many categories,” Hardin stated “Besides being organic - from small dairy farmers with an eye for quality, many of whom graze; the product is not homogenized; the product is VAT-pasteurized; and the product is sold in an attractive container in which you can see the milk. When tasting this milk, and having knowledge about some of the factors that go into its on-farm production and plant-processing, I must conclude in puzzlement: why can’t other fluid milk processors take serious steps to improve the nutritional value and flavor of beverage milk.”

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