A Day at Prairie Farms and Kuehnert Dairy
My most recent stop on my Indiana Dairy tour was to Kuehnert Dairy Farm! Did you miss the other stops? Catch up on my trip to Four Leaf Clover Dairy HERE and Troxel Dairy Farm HERE and HERE. From American dreams to modern technology in action- my Indiana Dairy tour has taught me a lot!
Does the name Prairie Farms sound familiar to any of you? Even if you don’t live directly in the Midwest, you may have heard of Prairie Farms. I have been drinking/eating their dairy products my whole life so imagine how excited I was to get to tour one of their production facilities!
A few weeks I had the opportunity through an invitation from Indiana Dairy and Indiana Family of Farmers to take a peek into a day of making the dairy products that our families have grown to love and trust. We boarded a bus in Indianapolis and headed to the Fort Wayne area of Indiana. There we not only had a chance to see the process they go through to provide milk and dairy products to homes, schools and hospitals, but also had a chance to visit one of their farm families. I say ‘their’ because Prairie Farms is farmer owned.
That’s right- Prairie Farms is owned by a group of dairy farm families.
For over 70 years Prairie Farms has been farmer owned and at this time is over 700 farms strong. I was amazed at the vast area of coverage that they have in both the retail and food service industry. Like many large production companies- they make products in their own name and for other labels. No matter the ‘name on the label’ it is the same high quality dairy. I think I have tried it all. They even make a mocha (coffee) milk!
Ever since I visited Prairie Farms I have noticed their labels everywhere, especially in Walgreens, CVS, and Lucky’s Market in Bloomington, Indiana. Lucky’s carries almost every product they make in their name. There are so many things I learned that day, the nuances of large scale dairy production, the rigorous regulations they must follow from cow to gallon of milk- but I will spare you all of that. My take away was that on average it takes no longer than 48 hours for milk to go from cow to container to store shelf. That’s impressive. Doesn’t get any fresher than that!
Also, that place was immaculate. For all of the activity and function, making dips to sour cream to chocolate milk- everything was constantly being tested, cleaned, tested and cleaned some more. There is a common thread amongst all of the people working there and that is responsibility for what they are sending out into the world. And pride. Many employees there are career employees. That tells me a lot.
Dairy Fact Finder
I also learned (well, was reminded actually since I knew this) but there are NO growth hormones used on dairy cattle in Indiana. Not by anyone who sells to production dairy facilities. This was due to consumer demand. Actually- each load of milk is tested at the farm for hormones. If they are present the milk has to be dumped. Period. So think of that the next time you see a label stating that milk has no hormones. Read more about that HERE.
Do you or anyone you know suffer from lactose intolerance? Learn more about that HERE.
We even learned why certain containers of milk have a longer refrigerated shelf life than others. At Prairie Farms they test samples based off of industry standards to achieve the most accurate use by/sell by dates to ensure the best product. Read more HERE.
Now do you want to see where the dairy journey begins?
Not far from the Prairie Farms facility resides a family farm owned by the Kuehnert Family. They are raising their 6th generation on this farm and their pride oozes out of every nook and cranny. I have been to many Indiana dairy farms in the last several years but Kuehnert Dairy Farm is unlike all of those in that it uses robotic milking technology to milk their cows. This enables them to hire less help, focus on more farm duties (because there is always plenty or work to go around) and monitor their cows both visually and electronically. Sarah is also a registered dietitian and works part time off of the farm. I am not sure when she sleeps!
From there the milk moves to a cooled holding tank where it waits for pick up- which happens daily. It is then checked again. Note: at no point in this process does the milk get exposed to air or human touch. It goes straight from the cow to the truck to the dairy facility to your store. And the fact that this all happens in a matter of hours is pretty amazing!
Of course we saw babies (ok, they are calves but babies sounds so much cuter!)
We even saw what they do with the poo! There is a use or rather- RE use for everything on this farm. So many people ask: how is farming sustainable? I am not a fan of that word. By definition sustainable means to DO MORE WITH LESS. If farms (or anyone for that matter) weren’t sustainable they wouldn’t be in business. Because as much as farmers love farming (because I believe you have to and I believe they do indeed love what they do) it is also a business. Like how I run a business- I try to run a tight ship. It’s the same on a farm just exponentially larger and more important!
They even have a bit of robotic help in the barn! This little guy helps to keep the food (silage, haylage, etc) within a tongues reach for the cows thus eliminating the need for someone to do this. Now THAT is efficient!
I would like to thank the Kuehnert Family for providing us with such a tasty and generous lunch. It was much appreciated!
The whole point of my dairy tour this year is not just to share dairy tips and facts, although I am happy I can do that, but it is also to show you the face behind your milk. Where your milk really comes from. To reassure you that when you grab that gallon of milk for your family from your local grocery store that you can rest assured that is came from a dairy most likely in your own neck of the woods. You may even know your farmer. I think that is a measure of comfort in a world of labels, misinformation and internet confusion. At the end of the day you should buy what you want- what you can afford and what means something to you. Whether that be at your local dairy in a glass bottle, if you have it delivered or if you buy it at the grocery store. The choice is yours, I am just here to make you feel more informed about your choices.
Please contact me or leave a message if you have a comment, question or suggestion for future content related to this post. If I cannot answer your question or concern, I will direct it to someone who can. As always I am available via email at: [email protected] and I would love for you to follow along on my journeys through food and facts on Instagram at @BasilmommaHT
Want to visit Kuehnert Dairy Farm for yourself? Stay tuned to their Facebook page in the fall for details on their annual fall festival and tours!