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A dairy cow chewing grass in a field

First, a note to a reader with whom I have been playing phone tag. The procedure to process and sell raw milk in Pennsylvania begins with the Department of Agriculture, which issues raw milk permits. Contact the department’s Bureau of Food Safety and Laboratory Services at 717-787-4315.

Another Ride on the Butter Train

I recently had an opportunity to talk with Pennsylvania Milk Marketing Board member Jim Van Blarcom about Bradford County dairy history. He reads my columns, and in reference to the one on the butter train that ran from western New York to Boston asked if I was aware of the butter train that once traveled from Troy, Pennsylvania, to Annapolis, Maryland. I was not, so I did a little research and provide the following courtesy of the Troy Gazette-Register and local historian Joyce Tice.

In many communities in the Northeast, the railroad was a huge asset to developing industries, including dairy. At the turn of the 19th century, butter was not a hot commodity like it is today. In Bradford County, Pennsylvania, butter was bringing about six pence a pound, or approximately 10 cents, depending on your source.

Prices did improve just prior to the Civil War, but a big boost came during the war itself. Close to $500,000 worth of butter was shipped from Troy by 1887. This would have been a considerable sum in those days. Farmers used two shippers — Redington, Maxell & Leonard out of New York and Newbury & Park in Philadelphia.

The shippers would prepare all the butter they received for shipment — weighing, testing and labeling with producers’ names. Of real note here is that in 1909 Troy butter was under contract as 100% of the butter used by the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis.

Pennsylvania dairy history never ceases to amaze me, and I intend to further investigate the Troy-Annapolis connection. Stand by.

A Word on Plant-Based Beverages

Now that I have shared that fascinating bit of butter history, I want to revert to a more recent topic. It seems Santa has entered the technology age and I just received an email from an anonymous elf at the North Pole complaining about nondairy drinks served with cookies on Christmas Eve.

The criticism was not harsh, but rather asked that some information be provided to the public when Santa and elves take advantage of the treats at present-delivery time. Knowing whether the beverage accompanying cookies is dairy or nondairy would be helpful to the Christmas crew so that nondairy is available to any lactose-intolerant reindeer or elves.

The suggestion was to place a sign by the glass if it is not dairy, then Santa could distribute it as warranted. Sounds good to me, just sayin’!

Of course, the point was also made that lactose-free dairy beverages are readily available in all of our Pennsylvania retail outlets.

I have certainly presented this type of information before. We at the Milk Marketing Board are not insensitive to those who need or prefer plant-based beverages, and we support our nondairy agriculture colleagues. Our job is to promote the dairy industry, and we do believe that milk is nature’s most perfect food product. And we know that plant-based beverages require the addition of many things to even come close to the nutrition provided by milk (speaking of real cow’s milk here).

Research Coming on Minimum Milk Pricing

On another note, I shared in a recent column that we plan to conduct a research project on minimum milk pricing, a topic that generates a lot of questions. We hope that all of the necessary and bureaucratic requirements will soon be met so that we can move forward with this project. We want to know the impacts of our minimum milk pricing system and if there are ways to improve it.

I mention this again because of discussions I had with the public at our booth at the Pennsylvania Farm Show. The conversations related to the fluctuation in milk prices and why the price gets so high at times.

It is important for our Pennsylvania consumers to understand that our system is currently based on the cost to purchase milk from the farmer, process and store it, and then transport it to the retail store for display and sales. No party in this chain is making exorbitant profits from milk.

As I have indicated in several columns, if you buy milk cheaper in another state than in Pennsylvania, someone is losing money, most likely the retailer who uses milk as a loss leader to draw consumers to that store. The loss on the sale of milk will be made up with other purchases in that store. Most retailers have technology to keep track of what milk buyers purchase beyond milk.

We look forward to sharing the results of our research project with you. The board and staff support quality research on all facets of the dairy industry.

PMMB is also available to respond to any questions and concerns. I can be reached at 717-210-8244 or by email at chardbarge@pa.gov.

Carol Hardbarger is the secretary of the Pennsylvania Milk Marketing Board.

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