Recipes - Milk

The Vitamin D in Dairy

vitamin D in dairy

It seems that everyone north of the Mason-Dixon Line has been advised to take Vitamin D in the winter. In the cold tundra of a brutal Minnesota winter, we take the supplement every morning as part of a regular vitamin regimen. Vitamin D has a role in the release of ‘happy’ hormones, Serotonin, and Dopamine. Vitamin D is produced naturally in the human body through bare skin exposure to ultraviolet rays which causes a chemical reaction that produces and releases the vitamin in a usable form. The problem is that Minnesotan skin does not see the sun for half the year, so our doctors tell us to take it every morning as a supplement instead.

One of the lesser-known benefits of Vitamin D directly relates to the dairy industry.


Dairy is the best source of calcium in the diet. On every carton of Grade A milk, you see the words ‘Vitamin D added.’ This is important because Vitamin D facilitates the absorption of calcium by the body. Everyone knows that calcium creates healthy bones and teeth, but did you know that every cell in the human body uses calcium in some way? Overall, calcium is the most abundant mineral in the human body, accounting for 1-2% of our total body weight. What the general public doesn’t understand is that the bioavailability of calcium is extremely low without the presence of Vitamin D, Lactose, or Casein. These are complexes which all synergistically promote absorption of calcium into the cells, bone and teeth matrixes. Vitamin D, Lactose, or Casein are also found in cheese and most other dairy products.

It turns out that the bioavailability of calcium in dairy cows’ milk is roughly 30-35%. Cooked spinach is approximately 5%, so by way of comparison, one cup of cow’s milk is equal to eight cups of cooked spinach. As further points of comparison, the bioavailability of calcium in one cup of dairy milk is equal to two cups of kale, four cups of pinto beans, or five slices of calcium-enriched bread.

Popular nut and oat beverages are not immune to a lack of bioavailability of calcium, but for different reasons. While producers fortify the beverages with Vitamin D and calcium, plant foods have considerable amounts of inhibitory substances in them that bind to the calcium, creating a salt complex that can not be used by the body.

The combination of Vitamin D and calcium is essential for maintaining good health. Fortified dairy milk is one of the very the best sources for both Vitamin D and bioavailable calcium.

Brett Roeller is the Director of National Accounts at QualiTru Sampling Systems. Find out a little more about him on QualiTru’s Our Team page. Visit Our Blog for other articles Brett has produced.

By Brett Roeller
Director of National Accounts, QualiTru Sampling Systems   Follow Brett on LinkedIn



Happy Cows Make Happy Milk

Happy cows make happy milk

I recently was scrolling through my social media feed and came across a picture of the cow with a set of Virtual Reality goggles over its head. Reading the article, the premise seemed sound, although a bit outlandish. Let a cow see itself relaxing in a lush green pasture and it will make higher quality milk.

I have read studies out of Brazil where cows’ stress hormone, cortisol, is measured against different handling methods. To no one’s surprise, cows as a species are easily stressed.

So this begs the question, what makes cows happy?

First off, you need to make the immediate assumption that cows are like crotchety librarians. They want to follow a schedule, don’t want anyone running around chaotically and for God’s sake, be quiet! Old time dairy farmers have always said, if you keep them cool, dry and fed they are happy.

There are a few other specific things we can be doing though that will make our girls more comfortable. Cows are social and love to be brushed, either by an installed barn brush or other means. I recently read about robotic farms that require the hired hands to spend time in the stalls brushing the cows. Why? Because cows love it.

When moving cows, it is critical to not make a ton of noise or hurt them. Harming a cow causes it stress, which lowers milk production. The Humane Farm Animal Care (HFAC) is an organization that certifies that animals that humans use for food are treated well. The curriculum is designed to protect the animals, but it also makes handling and movement much less stressful on them. There are some simple blocking movements, for example, that will steer cows where they are supposed to go without every touching them.

The bedding also plays a critical role in overall cow health and contentment. Because cows spend hours lying on bedding while manufacturing milk, it needs to be dry and comfortable. Finally, make sure that cows have ample room to move around. Being confined to tight quarters makes them tense and increases overall stress.

Taking care to provide cows with comfortable, stress free living environments will add measurable benefits to production and overall milk quality. Happy cows = healthy cows = better milk.

By Brett Roeller
Director of National Accounts, QualiTru Sampling Systems   Follow Brett on LinkedIn



What Killed Dean Foods?

Deans Foods

Deans Foods filed for bankruptcy last month and blamed the downturn of fluid milk as the reason.

I find this explanation lacking.

What killed Dean Foods is a lack of diversification and not reading the signs around them and acting accordingly.

It is true that fluid milk sales have been dropping for years with an overall loss of 20% over the last 10 years, but organic fluid milk is up 25% since 2012. Almond, soy, and rice beverages do cut into fluid milk sales and are up 50%, while oat milk is up an amazing 639% since 2014. Even dairy milk’s eternal best friend, breakfast cereal, has been on a downward path with a 20% loss by volume since 2009. Deans took a further hit when Walmart built its own fluid milk plant, thus cancelling a sizable contract with the company.

Here is my question. At what point did Deans say to itself, “We as a company need to start diversifying our products, because fluid milk is going the way of the print newspaper.”

I believe that if Deans Foods had been watching the signs, there would have been ample time to invest more into its ice cream and cultured products, which continue to show increases in volume. Such a strategic move might have kept the company afloat. Last year Deans did buy Good Karma Foods, a plant-based beverage company, but this feels like a last-ditch effort and obviously it came too late.

The lesson in all this is simple.

Industry trends are all around us. Companies need to carefully watch the ebbs and flows and adjust accordingly in order to stay profitable. If a company chooses to do things the way it always has, then Deans Foods is a shining cautionary tale.

By Brett Roeller
Director of National Accounts, QualiTru Sampling Systems   Follow Brett on LinkedIn



Give Dairy Sustainability the Recognition it Deserves

give dairy sustainability the recognition it deserves

Photo credit:

Early in my career, I was told to never bring up politics or religion. It is easy to understand why you would want to avoid conflict, but what I have never understood is how sustainability and the environment is a political, and to some, a religious topic.

I grew up loving the natural environment, with activities ranging from spending lazy weekends by the lake to organizing technology free backpacking trips in the mountains. Sustainability to me is a way to protect the natural habitat that has provided so much rejuvenation and substance in my own life.

Understandably, we can disagree about which resources need to be preserved and how to best go about doing it. In dairy, this conflict is heightened by social media. It shocks me when I see videos where cows are abused or read articles saying that dairy professionals are not concerned with public health. These voices are especially concerning when they come from people who haven’t even visited a farm or don’t understand the layers of regulations to which dairy plants must comply.

Based off my experiences visiting farms and dairy plants, many are already integrating a lot of sustainable actions that haven’t captured the attention of the general public. Initiatives range from developing closed system farms, developing onsite digestors, recycling water and reducing plastic use in packaging to eliminating product waste or reducing potential recalls and wasted product.

Sustainability commitments on corporate levels within many industries are helping build public awareness. Regarding dairy, it is our individual and industry wide responsibility to help build awareness by highlighting those sustainability actions that we see daily.

Sustainability is already redefining our industry. Let’s help give those efforts the recognition they deserve.

Anne Bigalke
By Anne Bigalke
VP of International Markets, QualiTru Sampling Systems   Follow Anne on LinkedIn



One YouTube Video Away from Closing

One YouTube video away from closing

I am a dog person. I once had two pugs named Smith and Wesson, whom I was closer to than some of my relatives. I am also a hunter. I eat the animals I kill and try to never shoot at anything I can’t kill in one shot.

Here in lies the dichotomy of being human. Animals are both pets and food. They, however, are not human.

People like to attribute human traits, emotions, or intentions to animals. It is considered to an innate tendency of human psychology.

Never has this been truer than in today’s dairy market. Animal welfare is one of the main reasons why consumers are switching from milk to almond beverage. Further, people who continue to eat and drink dairy want to know from which farm their milk is coming. This new reality also comes with a higher scrutiny on producers and that scrutiny is incredibly public with the advent of social media.

In today’s dairy market, producers are under extreme financial duress. When coupled with the potential for bad publicity, producers could be one YouTube video away from going out of business.

True, there are instances of abuse out there, but these are truly few and far between. General dairy practices are coming under fire now in this era where human like animal care is being unfairly demanded by some in the public. I recently watched a video where the narrator who was an animal rights activist walked through a free stall barn, railing about the manure in the alleys. To anyone in the industry, you could clearly see that the mechanical scrapers were doing their job well. However, this person was making a judgment from the perspective of what constitutes acceptable human living conditions and not those that are entirely suitable for a cow.

Assigning human emotions to farming can be dangerous, as it leaves out substantial amounts of environmental factors and species dependent characteristics. It would be extremely easy to keep the alleys of a barn clean if the cows would simply stop pooping in them. The problem is that nothing we do will make this happen. Cows poop, whenever and wherever they want. Farmers respond in the only manner that is reasonable; they clean their milking parlors using an industry standard protocol.

We in the dairy industry need to keep educating the public. 99.9% of dairy producers do that they do as a labor of love. The average farmer takes home roughly $7.39 per hour and works weekend, nights and holidays. They deserve our respect and as an industry, we need to help educate the public on good farming practices.

By Brett Roeller
Director of National Accounts, QualiTru Sampling Systems   Follow Brett on LinkedIn



Skim vs Whole Milk

skim vs whole milk

In 2010 the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act lowered the fat content for school lunches and mandated all milk to be fat-free. The theory behind the legislation was a sound one.

Remove high fat and sodium foods from school lunches, provide healthier options and make sure the next generation learns to eat correctly hopefully lowering childhood obesity. The problem is that in doing so, the federal government mandated that all milk needed to be fat-free skim milk.

For years, it has been drilled in our heads that “Whole Milk makes us Fat” and that is a terrible misconception.

Recently, a 15-year observational study was published in the journal named ‘Circulation,’ which found that people who drink full-fat whole milk, eat cheese and use butter are less likely to develop diabetes. This is based on the findings that children who consumed more dairy, had a lower intake of sugar-sweetened beverages and trans-fats, a lower glycemic load, and consumed less red and processed meats. Further, the subject group had the same incidence of cardiovascular disease as the general population and appeared to gain less weight than their low-fat counterparts.

Quite simply, the 2010 nutritional guidelines need to be re-visited. Full-fat milk and products work on the body in two ways. On a physiological level, the fatty acids in whole milk and full-fat products help with hormone regulation, potentially causing us to store less fat and speed up our metabolism.

Children need the fat in milk for proper brain development and overall body function maintenance. When consumed in moderation and as part of the well-balanced diet, whole milk also helps control satiation. When you drink a glass of whole milk, you actually feel full or overall less hungry; thus, you eat less.

Is it healthy to go on a cheese binge and eat 4000 calories of aged cheddar? No.

Should full-fat dairy products in moderation be a part of everyone’s overall diet. Yes.

So, feel free to use half and half in your coffee and buy whole milk for your morning cereal. Use real cheese on your hamburgers and make sure your kids get two cups of milk per day… their bodies will thank you now and in the future.

By Brett Roeller
Director of National Accounts, QualiTru Sampling Systems   Follow Brett on LinkedIn



All Calcium is not created Equal

whats in your glass calcium nutrients vitamins minerals

Did your mother constantly tell you, ‘Drink your milk; it has lots of calcium.’ Mine sure did.

Calcium is such an important element. A life without calcium would be extremely difficult, as our teeth and entire skeleton is made from it. Without calcium, we wouldn’t be able to walk, move our arms, or chew our food. 

Recently, the National Dairy Council publicized a “What’s in your glass” schematic of dairy milk versus soy, almond, coconut and rice beverages. Three of the four non-dairy beverages all had exactly 45% of the daily recommended amount of calcium; dairy only had 30% of the recommended amount.

This seemed odd to me, so I began to research and uncovered that not all calcium is created equally.

Here’s why.

Calcium is naturally occurring in dairy milk. The dairy industry also fortifies some types of milk with vitamin D, which aids in the assimilation of the element into our bodies. As the cow eats a perfectly balanced ration of highly nutritious silage, grains, hay and assorted commodities, the bacteria in her stomachs breaks the calcium down and it is absorbed into her blood stream. 

After pregnancy, her lactating mammary glands pull the calcium out and add it in high quantities to her milk to support the growth of her baby as calcium hydrogen phosphate, CaHPO4. The CaHPO4 is a molecule that is homogenously mixed and readily available for immediate absorption. It does not come out of suspension and immediately can be assimilated by the human or baby cow body.

By contrast, when tree nuts, oats and rice are squished into liquid beverages, the naturally occurring amount of calcium is around 1-8%. The exception is soy, which is 51%. These beverage producers have to fortify the beverage with calcium to continue to market it as dietary dairy milk replacement, so they add powdered chalk to it. That’s right. Chalk. Like the chalk teachers once used to write on the blackboard. Another name for it is calcium carbonate.

 In these non-dairy beverages, after a few days the calcium begins to sink to the bottom of the carton. After a week or two when you finally get to the last glass, the calcium is the chunky stuff you feel on your tongue as you drink it. More important, most of the calcium carbonate gets obliterated by the acid in your stomach, being converted to CaCL2 and thus is not fully absorbed into the body. CaCL2 is what is used to melt ice on your driveway in the winter

Consumers need to understand what they are reading when these nutritional guides are published and have a clear understanding of what they are putting into their bodies. Most people drink these alternative beverages because of the perceived health benefits, but they end up not getting the nutritional benefit for which they paid for.

Clearly, all calcium is not created equally.

By Brett Roeller
Director of National Accounts, QualiTru Sampling Systems   Follow Brett on LinkedIn



Fairlife vs. Industry Perception Part II

Fair Oaks industry repercussions

Four months ago, if you would have asked the plant manager of the FAIRLIFE Michigan plant what they would be doing in July, ‘catching up on projects’ would not have been the answer. This FAIRLIFE plant was at capacity daily and it could barely keep up with demand. It ran 24 hours a day, 7 days a week with little or no down time. It was kicking out product as fast as it could, and even then grocery stores could not keep the product stocked on their shelves.

Then “The Video” came out.

Within a week of “The Video” hitting the internet, FAIRLIFE lost 20% of its market demand. The sight of a farm employee kicking a baby cow was everywhere. News outlets all over the world covered the story. It exploded all over social media, and everyone had their opinion. Influencers were emotionally sharing their thoughts, and even grandmothers were re-posting the video and talking about how awful the industry had become since she was on the farm. These were not the creation of PETA or another animal advocacy group, and consumers knew it. As Regulators in the Dairy Industry stayed silent, FAIRLIFE went into public relations crisis mode. Unfortunately, no amount of posts on their website, or ‘We are Sorry’ marketing actions can erase in consumers minds what was captured on “The Video”.

A month after I wrote my first article on FAIRLIFE, not only does the 20% reduction in consumer demand hurts FAIRLIFE financially, but it is also having a ripple effect throughout the dairy industry. For Example:

  • The USDA is beginning to get barraged by comments to remove dairy from its family nutrition guilds that it publishes every few years.
  • Animal advocacy groups are getting swamped with new members wanting to protect the dairy cows.
  • Almond drink, or plant based ‘Milk’ producers are seeing increases in second quarter earnings, and overall the US has bad overall taste in its mouth.

There is an overall bad taste in the mouth of US consumers when they think of where their milk comes from. We are about to see a change in the dairy industry, and it will not be a good one. After four years of depressed prices, the dairy producer is about to meet their next challenge and that is public opinion and perception. Luckily, most consumers think that yogurt, butter and cheese come from a grocery store and not from a cow. These products will continue to grow, but fluid milk or milk drink products may be in for a rough time.

Food Safety has moved from a concern to assumed. Consumers are more interested in what the cow’s name is, and if they get to go outside, rather than concerned if they are drinking safe milk.

We need to do better as an industry. We need to adapt to this new consumer perception.

By Brett Roeller
Director of National Accounts, QualiTru Sampling Systems   Follow Brett on LinkedIn



Almond ‘Milk’

almond milk is not milk

The farmer wakes up early and walks out to the almond barn to shovel fertilizer around the base of each tree. He then walks over and using a miniature milking harness attaches it to the bottom of each almond on the branch of every tree in the barn. After about 15 minutes, the harness detaches after each almond has produced a few drops of Grade A, almond milk.

That’s how almond milk is harvested right?


Or maybe almond ‘milk’ is not the correct name, and a more accurate one is ‘almond squishings’ with 98% purified water.

What’s the big deal? It’s a white liquid and it’s in the dairy aisle of my grocery store, right?

Wrong. Dairy milk is harvested from a lactating bovine and is packed with nutrients. The basic breakdown of dairy milk components is protein, carbohydrates, fats, minerals and a plethora of other nutrients the body needs to grow.

There are only two almonds in each glass of almond milk, which is why it is only 80 calories per serving. There is nothing wrong with drinking almond milk, as it is a great dietary substitute for people with restricted diets. It indeed does have some of the essential nutrients the body needs, but a consumer would need to drink the entire cartoon to see significant nutritional benefits.

The issue is in the naming. Almond milk is riding the popularity and brand recognition of dairy milk and marketing itself as a nondairy alternative. It is buying shelf space right next to the dairy products in the grocery stores and converting customers over, but at what cost? If consumers purchasing the product think that is has the same nutritional value as dairy milk, they are ultimately being swindled

The only thing that society can do is become informed. Almond milk does have some benefits, like blood pressure and hormone regulation and it can be a healthy choice for restricted diets, but let’s be clear.

Almond milk is not ‘milk’. If you want the powerhouse nutrition of whole milk, you will not get it from a glass of 98% purified water and two almonds.


By Brett Roeller
Director of National Accounts, QualiTru Sampling Systems   Follow Brett on LinkedIn



Industry Repercussions after Fair Oaks

Fair Oaks industry repercussions

Many of us have seen or heard of the recent Fair Oaks undercover videos showing disturbing animal abuse at a Northern Indiana.

Dairy Farm Social media is filled with animal rights groups who are raging against animal cruelty and blaming the entire dairy industry. An average person may be sitting in a cubical eating a small yogurt cup and shaking his head, trying to understand what kind of person would harm a baby cow. The continual stream of negative attention is making it seem like the entire industry is nothing more than cows that are slaves to corporations and that baby cows are being beaten daily. The facts about the dairy industry are dramatically different, but at this moment, these details are irrelevant to the average consumer.

Somewhere in the US that person is tasting the last yogurt cup he will ever purchase and will instead quietly start buying almond yogurt from now on.

The dairy industry is in real trouble.

After four consecutive years of depressed milk prices, the industry was looking forward to the third and fourth quarters of 2019, which were projected to see increases in milk prices and give the remaining dairy producers some much needed financial relief.

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) just announced that the US has lost 2,700 dairy farms last year alone, and that the rate of dairy farm suicides is currently higher than that for veterans.

For example, Wisconsin lost 915 farmers to suicide in 2017 at least in part due to the hardships attributed to the financial losses in the industry. The relief to the industry was projected to start in 2019 and continue to increase over 2020, but after the Fair Oaks exposure the dairy industry may see a continuation of the depression or even worse, a further slide down.

Those of us who work in the dairy industry understand that these were completely isolated incidents, perpetrated by employees who had only been on the farms for a few short months.

We understand that they were immediately terminated and are now facing criminal charges, but can we truly blame the general public for not understanding? I have personally been on hundreds of the largest dairy farms in America and have never once observed anything even close to what was captured in the videos.

To the contrary, I have only seen the farms that will not even allow the employees to speak loudly to the cows or move them around by whistling. The vast majority of dairy farmers take great care of their cows, because they know that a content cow produces better tasting and higher volumes of milk.

The employees of Fairy Oaks have been terminated and may be charged criminally, and Fair Oaks has been terminated as a supplier of Fairlife. The link below is Fairlife’s response to this incident, but I would bet the general public is completely unaware of that actions taken.

Read Fairlife’s statement

Now, after videos of isolated incidents at a single farm, the entire industry is being persecuted and the already financially stressed farmer is about the take the brunt of it.


By Brett Roeller
Director of National Accounts, QualiTru Sampling Systems   Follow Brett on LinkedIn