This post is sponsored post by Dairy Famers of Canada.
Grilled cheese is one of the best comfort foods. It’s so much more than a gooey delight of cheese between two perfectly toasted pieces of bread. It’s a hug made out of food and it never fails to provide relief and happiness.
What provides comfort is the cheese, of course, and in Canada, we are lucky to have a wide variety of cheeses made from 100% Canadian milk to comfort us. More importantly, we can count on safe, nutritious, high quality dairy products whether it be cheese, milk, cream, yogurt, or ice cream, all made in our own backyard.
The local food movement continues to grow with books and blogs, news reports and scientific studies about the benefits - health, economic and social - of eating locally-produced food. What happens to our milk when it leaves the farm and how does it makes its way to our grocery store shelves? It turns out that our dairy products are more local than one might think.
It takes about two or three days, depending on where you live, from when the cows are milked for that same milk to find its way to the grocery store. Considering how much happens from farm to table, the Canadian system is quite a feat.
Cows spend about 12 hours a day lying down, which is why comfortable bedding is of utmost importance. The rest of the time, they eat, ruminate and can even get brushed. Gone are the days of farmers individually milking their herd by hand. Today, we use comfortable milking machines or robotic milkers for an efficient milking process: it only takes 5 minutes to milk a cow and they get milked twice a day. Milk is sent directly into a stainless steel cooling tank which cools the milk and keeps it fresh until the milk truck arrives for pick up.
There are so many little things that happen on the farm on a daily basis that help Canadian cows produce the best quality milk in the world. Cow comfort and health are a priority. Farmers and their staff work with veterinarians, who often visit once a week, hoof trimmers and nutritionists, who help determine the best feed for the animals.
Milk is picked up from the farm every two days. The driver is no mere driver. His job, on top of getting the milk from point A to point B, is to determine whether the farm’s milk is fit to be loaded onto the truck. He checks the appearance and smell, and tests the quality. The milk only leaves the farm when it gets the driver’s seal of approval. The process is repeated at the milk processing plant. The test checks for antibiotics, because milk containing any residues cannot be sold. There are strict laws in Canada governing the use of antibiotics. To ensure milk products do not contain traces of antibiotic residues, treated animals are milked separately and the milk is discarded in an environmentally-friendly way until the antibiotics are no longer in the cow’s system. Additionally, the use of artificial growth hormones called rbST is forbidden in Canada
After all this testing, the milk still isn’t ready to be sent to the store. It first needs to be pasteurized and homogenized, and fat is removed to make four different types of milk: homogenized (3.25%), partly skimmed (2% and 1%) and skim milk. Finally, it’s packaged and sent to a grocery store where we get to enjoy the fruits of all this labour. Or it will be used to make cheese, cream, butter, or ice cream.
The farm to table process involves many people. Farmers, transporters and processors must build on each other’s work to ensure the milk is at its very best every step of the process. Farmers invest in their cows. Processors invest in people who create unique products. Together they make delicious, nutritious foods that not only keep Canadians healthy, but help them find a bit of comfort as many do with a grilled-cheese hug.