Celebrate America’s family dairy farms by kicking back with a tall glass of milk and learning some fun facts about dairy foods.
Few things are as refreshing—or nutritious—on a warm summer day as a tall glass of cold milk. With essential nutrients like calcium, potassium and vitamin A, plus protein to help build and repair muscle tissue, milk is a great choice for many active people. Even more exciting are the foods made from milk: a slice of cheese temptingly melted over a grilled hamburger or a dish of ice cream providing the perfect summer dessert. No wonder the dairy industry chose June as the perfect month to celebrate dairy foods and the family dairy farms that produce them.
National Milk Month was established in 1937 by a group of chain stores to promote drinking milk and increase demand at a time when cows were turned out to pasture and milk production was at a peak. It ran from June 10 to July 10, with the original theme of “Keep Youthful—Drink Milk.” The National Dairy Council stepped in to promote the cause in 1939, adjusted the timeframe to encompass the month of June, and renamed the event “June Dairy Month.” In 1955, the American Dairy Association took over the promotion of June Dairy Month, which has developed into an annual celebration of the contributions the dairy industry has made to the world over the centuries…actually, millennia.
Fun Facts About Dairy Foods
The modern cow is descended from a now-extinct wild bovine called the aurochs (pronounced OR-ox). Humans domesticated the aurochs about 10,000 years ago, and have been consuming cows’ milk ever since. The first cow in America arrived in the Jamestown colony in 1611 and, until the 1850s, nearly every family had its own cow. So for June Dairy Month, let’s celebrate the dairy cow and the products made from her milk with some fun dairy facts!
- The average dairy cow weighs about 1,400 lbs.
- Cows have 32 teeth, all of them on the bottom with a dental pad on top.
- Cows have an acute sense of smell, and can smell something up to six miles away.
- A cow eats 90–100 pounds of food and drinks about 35 gallons of water (the equivalent of a bathtub full) every day.
- A cow spends about 6 hours eating and 8 hours chewing its cud every day.
- A cow does not actually have four stomachs, but a single stomach with four compartments:
- Rumen – The first part of the cow’s stomach helps break down complex plant products like grass.
- Reticulum – The food is then mixed with saliva to produce a cud, which the cow brings back up to her mouth to chew and break down further.
- Omasum – Where all the water is absorbed out of the food.
- Abomasum – Where the food is finally digested, as in a human stomach.
- A cow produces an average of 6.3 gallons of milk daily. That’s more than 2,300 gallons each year and 350,000 glasses of milk in a lifetime.
- A cow is more valuable for its milk, cheese, butter and yogurt than for its beef.
- U.S. dairy farms produce roughly 21 billion gallons of milk annually.
- All 50 states in the U.S. have dairy farms.
- Dairy farmers are paid by the hundredweight (100 pounds), not by the gallon. There are approximately 8.6 pounds of milk per gallon.
- 99 percent of all U.S. households purchase milk. The average American consumes almost 25 gallons of milk each year.
- About 72 percent of the calcium in the U.S. food supply comes from dairy foods.
- To get the amount of calcium in an 8-ounce glass of milk, you’d have to eat seven oranges or six slices of wheat bread.
- Fresh milk will stay fresher longer if you add a pinch of salt to each quart.
Facts About Cheese and Other Dairy Products
- The natural yellow color of butter comes mainly from the beta-carotene found in the grass cows eat.
- Americans eat more than 300,000 tons of yogurt per year.
- About 300 varieties of cheese are sold in the United States.
- The most popular cheese in America is Cheddar.
- Vanilla is America’s favorite ice cream flavor.
- It takes about 50 licks to finish a single ice cream scoop.
- It takes 10 pounds of milk to make one pound of cheese.
- It takes 12 pounds of whole milk to make one gallon of ice cream.
- It takes 21.8 pounds of milk to make one pound of butter.
- If Wisconsin were a country, it would rank fourth in the world in terms of total cheese production, behind the U.S., Germany and France, and just ahead of Italy.
So now that you know more about milk and dairy products than your friends do, why not get everyone together for a grilled cheese and ice cream? Celebrate June Dairy Month!