Let’s face it. Milk comes from cows. Cows eat grass. Green grass makes white milk, which makes pink on the cheeks. But cows also get dirty. This might surprise those who pour milk from a carton!
A college girl visiting a farm once asked me, "The bull, what does he do?"
I stumbled as I explained to all seven girls present, "If a cow is to give milk, that is, if she is to make milk, she must have had a baby calf, and if she has a baby, it has both a father and a mother."
The girl responded, "Then is it only the mother cow who has milk?" Yes. Two other college girls admitted that they, too, thought that all cows gave milk!
It’s time for me to tell how dairymen milked cows before they bought milking machines, pasteurizers and homogenization equipment and before they used cartons.
Cows get dirty, contaminated with bacteria. Many people once bought milk from small, one-farm dairies because they could visit the farm and be certain that milk was handled properly. They watched as cows came into the barn and each one went to her own stanchion to eat.
The owner and two milkers closed the stanchions loosely, and then each one went to the right-hand side of a cow and wiped her bag and teats with disinfectant. Then they disinfected their own hands and sat down on a one-legged stool and held sterilized buckets between their legs.
Using both hands, they selected two of the four teats and squeezed, one and then the other. Soon there was the sound of milk hitting the empty metal buckets - "Squeak, squark. Squeak, squark."
The milk was as warm as the cows’ bodies. Foam rose, and the buckets filled.
Farmers including O.D. Meyers - my dad - were proud when their dairies ranked "Grade A." Visitors became friends and customers. Dad’s motto was, "Clean milk, fresh from my own cows." Mr. Sides advertised "From the moo to you."
Milk from various other farms was sold to processing plants to be mixed together and "pasteurized" to make it pure. Louis Pasteur, a French chemist, identified bacteria and killed them by a heating process.
That meant that milk was heated to a temperature of 145 degrees and held there for 30 minutes to prevent spoilage by destroying micro-organisms. It then had to be cooled and stored in refrigerated rooms awaiting delivery.
Pasteurization was not received well by consumers at first because the milk tasted cooked! Innovations cost money, and little dairies disappeared one at a time.
To meet the necessary expenses, Dad announced these new prices: quarts, 10 cents each; pints, 6 cents each; and gallons, 35 cents each.
After Mother’s death in 1937, Dad sold half interest in the retail dairy to my husband and me. He retained ownership of the cows, farm and milking machines.
Meyers and Gerard Dairy added a new Dodge delivery truck, pasteurizing equipment and a large insulated refrigeration room. We sold to a large dairy plant in 1943.
The taste of pasteurized milk improved, and other innovations included homogenization - which broke up the fat particles and eliminated the cream line seen in glass bottles.
Cartons were welcomed in spite of the new equipment costs and the trash involved. There was no "wash and return" and no breakage, and the cost was passed on to the consumer.
I still thrill at the scene of a large herd of black and white dairy cows in a green pasture - eating grass, making pink on peoples’ cheeks - and I knew that Dad was ahead of his time when his competitors preferred Jerseys and Guernseys, the cream producers.