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Wednesday, October 15, 2008

rBGH-free: Eliminating artificial hormones from our milk

For the last five years, I’ve been working toward a goal that has finally come to fruition: all of Eat’n Park’s milk is now free from rBST/rBGH hormones. By eliminating these hormones, we wanted to preserve the natural credibility of our milk supply and continue to deliver a high quality product. This was not an easy task, but the farmers we work with made the change because natural milk production poses fewer health risks to their herds and will decrease the expense on medication for treating the cows.

To give you a little background, Bovine somatotropin is a naturally occurring hormone in cattle that regulates growth and milk production. When it’s produced artificially by genetic engineering techniques, it’s then called recombinant bovine somatotropin (rBST) or recombinant bovine growth hormone (rBGH). This hormone is administered at the farm level, and it in turn increases milk production. However, there are certain drawbacks to using rBST/rBGH (click here for more info: http://www.centerforfoodsafety.org/rbgh2.cfm), and for us, these outweighed the benefits of continuing to use the hormones.

To convince our partner farms that eliminating rBGH/rBST was the right thing to do, I strapped on my work boots and started visiting dairy farms in and around Western PA with Chuck Turner. Chuck is the owner of the family owned and operated Turner Dairy Farms (http://www.turnerdairy.net), which processes all of the milk that is produced by the other farms that we buy from. Chuck and I visited farms large and small – some with 30 cows, and others with 300 - most of which have been in the same family for more than three generations. After discussing the potential consequences of using artificial hormones and the benefits to eliminating them, these farmers understood why we wanted to buy milk that was free from rBST.

Side note: It was so cool to see how progressive some of our farmers were. One of them had a Palm Pilot that included all of the names of the cows, how many calves they birthed, and how many pounds of milk they produced per milking. Another was using a mixture of cow poop and other organic material to produce gas to heat their barn and house.I’m happy to report that my visits were a success! After completing the farm visits, not only did I understand dairy farming a little more, but I was also confident that our fluid milk was coming from local farm families that have chosen not to treat their herds with rBST. We’re fortunate to have suppliers who are willing to work with us to produce the highest quality products. And on that note, because of their relentless focus on quality, Turner Dairy was recently awarded First Place for Best Tasting Milk at the World Dairy Expo. Just one of the reasons that we have, in my mind, the best milkshakes anywhere!! Congratulations, Chuck and Turner Dairy!

If you’re interested in finding out more about Turner Dairy or Harrisburg Dairy, which processes the milk for our eastern locations, check out their websites below:
Turner Dairy http://www.turnerdairy.net/OurFarms.htm
Harrisburg Dairies www.harrisburgdairies.com/home.htm



1 comment:

khanada said...

I am so glad to hear about the decision to go with hormone-free milk! It really is a better choice overall. I absolutely love Eat 'n Park and only wished there were some closer to me!