Wednesday, February 08, 2012

Where does your milk come from?

Humans beings are one of the few animal species that continue to drink milk from another species after they have become adults. The cow is considered sacred in some faiths because she is the mother apart from your mother who gives you milk. Almost all of us enjoy milk, cheese, buttermilk, ice cream and other milk products.

Those who come from villages in India will inform us that the good dairy men and women treat the cows well and allow the calf to have its share of milk before milking the additional milk for human consumption. When cows are no longer capable of producing milk, there are many Go-Shamrakhshanas or charity homes that take care of cows that can no longer produce milk (my own aunt ran one).

What however is the status of these cows when in the hand of those who are more business minded? Where does our milk come from when for example in the US? What are some of the corporate businesses practices in dairy production? I went to a dairy farm in the US to find out.

1. The cow is kept continuously pregnant to produce milk

The HR of a company needs to ensure that a resource keeps producing or is laid off. In the same way, a cow needs to keep producing milk. Cows however only produce milk if they have delivered and need to feed a newborn calf. To ensure that the cows keep producing milk, they are artificially impregnated and when their milk runs try, they are again artificially impregnated. In other words they are kept continuously pregnant to continuously produce milk.

2. The calf is separated from the cow at birth

To ensure that motherly affection and bonds do not develop, the calf is separated from the cow after birth. Thus the calf never knows who the mother is and never gets to feed directly from the mother cow. The business reason is that it is easier for everyone that way. If the bond develops, it becomes more difficult to separate them.

3. Milked by machines and housed in small pens

The cows are taught to be obedient and line up every day and queue into a cow milking machine. The machine keeps milking them until there is no milk left to be drawn after which the cows are led back to the small pen that houses them.

The tails of each cow bears a marking that shows whether that cow has been impregnated.

4. Artificial diet

Cows natural food include green grass, hay and leafy vegetables. However in these facilities, the remains of other cows are mashed and crushed and fed to the living ones in an obscene display of cannibalism. This practice led to mad cow disease that resulted in culling of many cows in dairy farms. Some farms also use artificial growth hormones to quickly make calves become the next set of milk producers and to produce more milk which leads to udder disease called Mastitis.

5. Gender discrimination

The female gender can rejoice. While girl children are rejected in many cultures in favor of boys, here it is the other way around. Apart from one of two males required for impregnation, all male calves are immediately put to death and/or sent to the butcher. Only female calves are kept and pampered to be able to be continuously pregnant and to continuously produce milk after which they too are sent to the butcher.

A small American girl was shocked in the group and asked the lady how she could bear to separate the calf from the cow at that stage and to treat the animals like this. The lady gave a corporate answer. It is efficient for business. As human populations increase and there is increased demand for milk and milk products, such behavior and "Business Efficiency" will continue.

It is very difficult to ensure that the animal was treated humanely and that the calf had its share of milk and that the cowherd sings sings for the cow while milking manually these days. It is all corporate supply chain and efficient process.

I have thus decided to abandon drinking dairy milk in the US. For some reason I also found that this dairy milk often led to diarrhea. I have instead found several wonderful substitutes such as Soymilk.


Vijiscientific said...

Excellent article! Milk is only a raw material. There are more than thousands of products that contain milk and it's derivatives ( such as cheese, butter etc.) those you have mentioned. While it might be tough to eliminate milk and milk products entirely from our food, bringing awareness on the behind the scenes will certainly help re-evaluate the corporate practices as well as ours.

Anonymous said...

I cannot agree more.

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