Monday, December 20, 2010

Got Milk? Part 2 - Turner Dairy Farms

Last week, I told you about my visit with Lone Oak Farms, one of the farms that supplies Turner’s Dairy with raw milk (click here to read that post). But you’re probably wondering what happens to the milk between the farm and the supermarket. That’s where Turner’s comes in. But first, a little background on the company.

The dairy was founded in 1930 (80 years ago!) by Chuck’s grandfather, Charles Turner. Since then, it has continued to expand and thrive, thanks in large part to the company’s commitment to extremely high standards. In fact, Turner’s milk regularly wins awards at the World Dairy Expo in Madison, WI – where they compete with much larger dairies in the heart of dairy country!

The first thing Chuck pointed out on our tour was Turner’s testing labs, where all of their milk is tested for bacteria as it comes into the facility (as raw milk), and as it leaves to be distributed to customers. Turner’s adheres to even stricter standards than what’s required by the FDA, ensuring that their customers receive the highest-quality milk.

As we left the lab, Chuck pointed out two enormous silos (below). After the raw milk arrives and passes bacterial testing, it is pumped into these silos, which each hold 50,000 gallons of milk. From there, we entered the processing facility, which houses room upon room filled with a maze of stainless steel pipes that transport the milk as it’s processed.

Milk silos housing 50,000 gallons each

Turner’s milk is pasteurized and homogenized through an energy-efficient system that utilizes heat transfer to ensure that no energy is wasted. To be pasteurized, milk must be heated to 175 degrees, and held at that temperature for 20 seconds. After pasteurization, the milk is homogenized - a process which “explodes” the fat particles in milk so that the milk and the cream don’t separate when your milk’s sitting in your fridge.

A maze of pipes transports raw milk through the pasteurization and homogenization process

Next, Turner’s packaging room was a bustle of activity, with 4 separate systems working to bottle milk, iced tea, and juice. By far the busiest of these stations was the one that packed the milk into half pint-size cartons for use in schools. This station typically runs for 16 hours a day, 6 days a week. It was really cool to see the flattened cartons be folded, filled, sealed, and stamped in a matter of seconds as they made their way down the winding conveyor belt. I also watched as bottles of various sizes were labeled, filled, and capped.

Cartons of 2% milk are folded, filled, and sealed in a few quick seconds

Gallons of milk are labeled, filled, and capped

Processed milk is then loaded onto Turner’s trucks, which typically cover 50 delivery routes every day. In all, it only takes 36-48 hours from the time Turner’s receives the raw milk to the time it’s delivered to their customers. That’s fresh!

My visit to Turner’s Dairy and Lone Oak Farms gave me a whole new appreciation for the milk that I enjoy every day. I take pride in knowing that Eat’n Park is not only using the highest-quality milk, but at the same time, we’re supporting local farmers by purchasing milk from Turner’s.

To learn more about Turner’s Dairy, visit their website at http://www.turnerdairy.net/

Until next time,
Jamie

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