The Art & Science of Dairy from Farm to Table: Distribution and Retail

Jun 28, 2019
woman getting milk out of the cooler at a grocery store

Our fifth and final stop in the journey of milk from the farm to the table is the distribution and retail of milk and dairy foods. This is the part of the journey that ultimately ends with delicious milk, cheese and yogurt on your dinner table and in your refrigerator. And that means the journey of milk ends with you – yes, you have a role to play in keeping milk safe and fresh!

You’ll recall from the last article, milk is pasteurized and packaged at dairy processing facilities so it is ready for shipment. Distribution companies pick-up milk and other dairy products in refrigerated trucks from the local processing plants and deliver them to grocery stores, convenience markets, gas stations, schools and other retail outlets.

Now, more than ever, the choices available in your grocery’s dairy aisle might be just a bit overwhelming. Do you choose the red cap or the blue cap, the organic or the regular, chocolate, lactose free, or dairy-free? Not to mention all of the options when it comes to purchasing cheese and yogurt. 

It is important to keep in mind that milk and other dairy foods are perishable. To preserve the safety and quality, the following tips are recommended:

  • Refrigerate milk and other dairy foods at 40⁰F or less as soon as possible after purchase.
  • Return dairy products to the refrigerator immediately after serving or utilizing in recipes.
  • Keep milk containers closed to prevent the absorption of other flavors – an absorbed flavor changes the taste, but the milk is still safe.
  • Protect milk from exposure to light. Light can reduce the riboflavin (a B vitamin found in milk) and cause off-flavors.
  • If properly cared for, milk generally stays fresh two to three days after the printed date on the carton. Yogurt can stay fresh for up to a week after the date on the container.

As a mom and registered dietitian, milk is a nutritional bargain at less than 25 cents per 8-ounce glass, on a gallon basis. Especially when you think of all the liquid assets inside! Milk provides great taste plus 9 essential nutrients – it’s how nature does wellness. Regular, organic, chocolate or lactose-free; milk, cheese or yogurt – all are wholesome, safe and nutritious.

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