While most milk drinkers have a general understanding that milk comes from cows, few of us stop to ask many more questions than that. Trevor Fitzgerald, a Seattleite who’s studying information systems at Brigham Young University, recently poked around to learn more about milk. The result of his efforts is a website that decodes your carton to tell you where your milk was processed.
Where Is My Milk From? is revealing — and can be a little unsettling. (We currently have in our refrigerator a carton of organic half-and-half that was processed in Boise, Idaho, more than 400 miles away.)
Fitzgerald says that beyond the processing plant, however, he’s unable to get much more information. He wrote in an email:
As far as I can tell, the only additional tracking information on the dairy products is some kind of batch number. Dairies and plants have not been as cooperative in giving me details on what a lot of the other numbers mean. I am fairly confident, however, that one carton of milk likely contains milk from multiple cows, and possibly even multiple dairies.
Finally, sidestepping the question of organic milk, for which we expect to pay a premium price, Fitzgerald found more bewilderment:
To me, one of the most fascinating findings is that the same plant bottles several different brands of the same product. What that means is that when you go to the grocery store and look at two different brands of milk, with two different prices, they are likely from the exact same plant, and by extension, contain the same milk. The only difference is the label and the price!
Bargain hunters, beware. And milk drinkers: If you haven’t seen Matthew Amster-Burton’s milk investigation, now’s a good time to take a look.
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