Milk has hit the Chinese headlines once again over the past weeks and for all the wrong reasons. Although this recent scandal started in New Zealand, not at home, public confidence in buying dairy products here has taken another dent. With memories of the 2008 melamine milk disaster that killed six babies and poisoned another 300,000 infants in China still fairly fresh, trust in dairy products is understandably precarious.
The Murky Milky Way
Less newsworthy than melamine, mercury or botulism, but still a cause for concern, is the amount of milk contaminated with human growth hormones and antibiotics. Growth hormones are given to cows to speed up their development so that they can produce milk far earlier in their lives than nature intended. While the cows may produce a higher yield during their lives, the growth hormones leech into their milk and are inadvertently drunk by consumers. In the USA, the increased level of hormones in the environment, along with obesity, has been linked to girls reaching puberty at a far younger age.1 Steer clear!
It’s harder to avoid antibiotics in dairy farming since cows do get sick. Of course, cows housed in over-crowded conditions are more susceptible to illness than those roaming the fields. Safe dairies separate their sick cows from the herd and discard their milk while they’re being treated with antibiotics. But this isn’t always the case.
So finding the perfect drop for your morning tea or coffee may take a little more thought in China. But don’t despair: there ARE excellent and reputable dairies in China.
Content Cows In Yanqing County
One of our favorite milk suppliers is Green Yard Dairy in West Yanqing County. Cows here live a truly enviable life. In summertime, they chew on fresh peppermint to reduce heat stress, and at night they’re lulled to sleep in spacious barns by gentle, soothing music! When they’re hungry, Green Yard cows are fed a mix of organic alfalfa sprouts, soybeans, grass and hay, all of which is grown next door on land owned by the dairy. If their cows get sick, they’re treated with Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) instead of antibiotics!
Before being milked, Green Yard cows are washed clean. And rather than process the milk at Ultra-High Temperatures (UHT), Green Yard cools the milk rapidly to 4-6oC, which suppresses naturally occurring bacteria without taking away the milk’s nutritional value. Milk’s then transported straight from the milking room to the processing chamber along a purifying and cooling pipeline. Every batch of milk is tested by the Green Yard lab to make sure it’s 100% organic. On top of this, Green Yard renews its organic certificate annually so that it's standards are always top-notch.
Idyllic Japanese Dairies in Shandong
We’re also a fan of Asahi milk. The Japanese owned company now has 100 dairies in Shandong province and all are run according to the most stringent standards. Asahi cows eat free range and only feed on products grown on the idyllic Asahi farms. Our CEO, Steve Liang, says, “Of all the farms I evaluated, this was by far the best. If you do a taste test of Chinese brands and Asahi, you’ll taste the difference immediately”.
Served hot on your cereal or cold in your coffee, it’s perfectly possible to drink fresh, safe and excellent milk in China. When choosing our milk for FIELDS, we stick by our promise that we’ll only sell food that we can be proud of serving our own families. We’re sure that’s moo-sic to your ears!
1. Jeffrey Kluger, “What's So Great About Organic Food?,” Time Magazine, August 18, 2010, accessed August 14, 2013, http://www.time.com/time/specials/packages/article/0,28804,2011756_2011730_2011720-1,00.html