We get a broad scope of frequently-asked questions here. We figured it would be great for all to list a few of these common inquiries here. If you do not find the answer here, feel free to contact us!
Q: What does the date on a container mean?
A: The "Sell By" date means that the product should remain fresh up to that date when unopened and properly stored.
Q: How long will the product last after the expiration date?
A: Dairy products are very perishable. For best quality, you should use the product before the expiration or "Sell By" date. The number of times the product has been opened and resealed and the amount of time left out of the refrigerator during each use impacts how long it will last. Also, drinking straight from the container affects perishability as bacteria from your mouth may cause the product to spoil faster. Your sense of smell and taste are great indicators of how fresh the product is. If the product looks, smells and tastes OK, it is probably fine to eat or drink.
Q: Can refrigerator temperature affect the shelf life of milk?
A: Yes, the temperature of your refrigerator definitely affects the shelf life of dairy. Setting the temperature at 38 degrees should ensure a shelf life of seven days beyond the "sell by code" stamped on the bottle.
Q: How long should the product last after opening?
A: How long a product lasts after opening depends on several things:
- How close to the "Sell By" date the product was originally opened.
- How many times it has been opened and resealed.
- How long it is out of the refrigerator or freezer each time.
- Whether the product was consumed directly from the container.
Milk should remain fresh 5-7 days after opening when treated properly. If you open milk for the first time on or near the "Sell By" date, the milk may not last this long.
Q: What dairy products can I freeze? A: Follow these general guidelines:
Milk: Can be frozen for up to 30 days. You may detect some off flavors after thawing. Always thaw frozen milk in the refrigerator.
Dips and Dressings: Freezing of dips is not recommended, as it will change the appearance and texture of the products. They may become grainy and watery.
Cottage Cheese: When cottage cheese is frozen, ice crystals swell and break the curd structure, resulting in a mushy, watery texture when thawed.
Sour Cream: For most sour creams, freezing is not recommended because it will change the appearance and texture of the product, which may become grainy and watery.
Fat-Free Sour Creams: These products tend to be more freeze/thaw-stable than low-fat or regular sour cream. However, for best quality, do not freeze.
Creams: Whipping cream will not whip up properly if it has been frozen.
Eggnog: You can freeze eggnog for later use, although you may detect some off flavors after thawing. Always thaw frozen product in the refrigerator.
Q: Does chocolate milk contain caffeine?
A: Yes, chocolate milk contains about 3.7 mg. of caffeine per 8-ounce serving, or 7.5 mg. per 12-ounce serving. A 12-once serving of root beer has about 23 mg. of caffeine, while brewed coffee has 203 mg.
Q: Do dairy products contain sugar?
A: Many dairy products contain lactose, the sugar naturally present in milk. Sugars are not listed on product nutrition panels unless other sugars have been added.
Q: How much milk does a cow give each day?
A: On average, a cow will produce 6-7 gallons of milk each day.
Q: What do cows eat?
A: Cows eat about 100 pounds of feed each day, which is a combination of hay, grain and silage (fermented corn or grass). They drink a lot of water too – up to 50 gallons a day.
Q: How many stomachs do cows have?
A: A cow has one stomach with four different chambers, which is why many people say that a cow has four stomachs.
Q: How many breeds of dairy cattle are there?
A: There are six main breeds of dairy cows: Ayrshire, Brown Swiss, Guernsey, Holstein, Jersey and Milking Shorthorn.
Q: What do you call male and female dairy animals?
A: Males are called bulls. Females, prior to giving birth, are called calves or heifers. Once they give birth, female dairy animals are called cows. All cows give milk once they have a calf.
Q: How do dairy farmers care for the land and other natural resources? A: Most dairy farmers live and work on their farms everyday, so it’s important for them to protect the land, water and air for their families, their surrounding communities and future generations. All dairy farms must meet standards for manure storage, handling and recycling per guidelines from their state and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Caring for the environment is a smart business practice, and helps to ensure healthy cows, happy neighbors and a safe home.
Q: Why do some dairies produce odor?
A: While there are natural odors associated with animal agriculture, dairy farmers work hard to minimize these odors by maintaining clean facilities and managing manure, which is an important nutrient for cropland. Research and development has inspired new practices and innovative technologies to help farmers maintain clean air for everyone.
Q: What do farms do with the manure?
A: Dairy cow manure is always put to good use. Some of it is spread on the fields as a natural source of fertilizer. Or it can be composted and sold to local garden stores. Some farmers dry it and use it as a bedding source similar to sawdust. There are even farmers in the U.S. that are able to turn their manure into power through methane digesters, a process that converts manure to energy.
Q: What about manure getting into the groundwater?
A: Quality groundwater is essential to dairy farms. Cows need to drink clean water so that they will produce quality milk. Government agencies have rigorous processes for granting permits for dairy farms, for inspecting and testing the water and for recycling manure. In addition, each farm maintains a Nutrient Management Plan which helps ensure that the nutrients go into the crops, not the groundwater.
Q: How do modern dairy farmers serve as good stewards of the environment for future generations?
A: Modern technology helps farmers boost efficiency and care for their animals and surroundings. Technologies like “methane digesters,” composting and conservation buffers actively work to conserve energy and water and reduce odor and waste, while creating organic fertilizer for local nurseries, neighbors and croplands. It’s all part of making farms sustainable for the future.
Milk Safety & Quality
Q: How and why is milk pasteurized?
A: All milk intended for direct consumption should be pasteurized -- it's a matter of food safety. Pasteurization is a simple, effective method to kill potentially harmful bacteria without affecting the taste or nutritional value of milk. With standard pasteurization, milk is heated to a temperature of at least 161 degrees Fahrenheit for not less than 15 seconds, followed by rapid cooling.
Q: Are there antibiotics in milk?
A: No. All milk – both regular and organic – is tested for antibiotics. Any tanker that tests positive is disposed of immediately.
Q: Are there pesticides in milk?
A: No. Stringent government standards ensure that all milk is safe, pure and nutritious. The most recent government testing found that all of the milk samples tested were found to be completely free from pesticide residue.
Q: What is rbST or BGH?
A: Bovine somatotropin (bST) is a hormone that occurs naturally in all cows, and its physiological function is to help direct milk production. Through biotechnology, scientists have created a synthesized copy of bST -- which some dairy farmers choose to use as a milk production management tool on some cows.
To download the Milk and Hormones Fact Sheet PDF click here.
Q: Are there hormones added to milk?
A: No. Hormones are naturally present in many foods of plant and animal origin, including milk. Some farmers choose to supplement some of their cows with additional bST, to increase milk production, but science shows that there is no effect on hormone levels in the milk itself.
To download the Milk and Hormones Fact Sheet PDF click here.
Q: Is rbST safe for my family?
A: Since rbST was approved for use by the Food and Drug Administration in the early 1990s, its safety has been affirmed and reaffirmed by the scientific community. Scientists tell us that rbST is species-specific, meaning that it is biologically inactive in humans. Also, pasteurization destroys 90 percent of rbST in milk. Numerous scientific studies have shown there is no significant difference between milk from rbST supplemented and non-rbST-supplemented cows. That's why the FDA has established that dairy products from cows treated with rbST do not need to be labeled.
To download the Milk and Hormones Fact Sheet PDF click here.
Q: Is organic milk better for me and my family than “regular” milk?
A: Organic milk is just one of many options in the dairy case to fit different lifestyles and personal preferences. Organic and regular milk are equally as good for you. Check the nutrition label, and you’ll see that every 8-ounce serving offers the same amount of essential nutrients.
For information on the nutritional value of dairy products, visit the National Dairy Council.
To download the Organic Milk PDF, click here.
Q: Is milk from cloned cows safe?
A: Both the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) support the conclusion that milk from cloned cows is no different than milk from conventionally bred cows. Milk and milk products are among the most tested and regulated foods in this country and all U.S. dairy foods go through extensive and rigorous safety and quality tests before they reach the consumer. Currently, FDA has a voluntary moratorium on food from cloned animals.
Q: What are dairy farmers doing about animal welfare?
A: Dairy farmers strive to deliver high-quality animal care every day and they take tremendous pride in doing so. Healthy cows produce high-quality products, so it doesn’t make sense for a farmer to give his or her cows anything less than the best treatment. Nutritious diets, comfortable living conditions and good medical care are among the many practices routinely used by dairy farmers to ensure a healthy herd.
To download the Animal Care PDF, click here.
Q: How are newborn calves cared for?
A: Dairy farmers provide comfortable, safe and hygenic conditions for both motherand calf during the birthing process and afterward. Because dairy farmers care about the health of their calves, the calves are placed into separate living quarters shortly after birth to control their environment and protect their health. Since newborn calves need time to build up their immune systems, it’s better that they aren’t around older animals — and the possible germs those animals could pass along. Also, it’s very important that the calves get two quarts of colostrum — the mother’s first milk after giving birth — when they are newborns. Colostrum is high in fat and protein and has lots of antibodies in it that help strengthen the immune system. When calves are left to nurse their mothers, they usually don’t receive enough. That’s why dairy farmers often step in and feed them colostrum from a bottle.
Q: Why do farmers treat cows with antibiotics?
A: Sometimes, cows get sick, just as some humans do. Without proper medical care, the cows would become seriously ill or die. So, it is simply humane to treat them– and make them well again with medications prescribed by veterinarians. If a cow is treated with antibiotics, she is kept in a separate pen or milking group. The milk from that cow is disposed of, and does not reach the food supply.
Q: What’s different about organic farms?
A: A specific set of farming practices makes milk and other foods eligible for “certified organic” status. On organic dairies, cows must receive feed that was grown without the use of pesticides, commercial fertilizers or genetically- modified ingredients. They are not treated with supplemental hormones and are not given certain medications to treat illness. If they are given medication, then they must permanently leave the milking herd. They also must have access to the pasture. Many of the same practices are utilized by conventional dairy farmers, as all farmers make the welfare of their animals and environmental stewardship top priorities.
Q: Have large, corporate-owned “factory farms” driven America’s family farms out of business?
A: No. Of the 65,000 dairy farms in America today, most are smaller farms with less than 200 cows. In fact, 99 percent of American dairy farms, including larger farms, are family-owned and operated. Like other business owners, many dairy farmers are modernizing, expanding and improving overall efficiency in order to continue to support their families and provide consumers with high-quality, affordable milk and dairy products. Dairy farming is a very diverse industry, and there is room for all sizes of dairy farms.
Q: Are dairy farmers currently cloning cows?
A: Cloning is a niche-market technology and it remains to be seen whether dairy farmers will choose to use it. There are currently very few cloned dairy cows in this country – only about 150 cows out of the 9 million total U.S. dairy cows – and many of these are "show" animals. Dairy farmers and cattle ranchers have been using safe and proven methods to breed the best livestock for decades, and cloning simply gives farmers another option in breeding animals. Currently, FDA has a voluntary moratorium on food from cloned animals.
Q. What are the health benefits of dairy foods?
A. Together, dairy foods provide a powerful package of nine essential nutrients—including calcium, potassium, phosphorus, protein, vitamins D, A, B12, riboflavin and niacin (niacin equivalents)—that helps keep bones strong and bodies healthy. Studies show dairy foods, when consumed as part of a healthy diet, improve overall diet quality and may help to reduce the risk of osteoporosis, hypertension, obesity, colon cancer and metabolic syndrome (a cluster of conditions that can lead to heart disease and type-2 diabetes). To translate that to the pocketbook, a 2004 report demonstrated that if adult Americans increased their intake of dairy foods to three to four servings a day, over $25 billion could be saved in unnecessary healthcare costs in just the first year.
For more information, see the Dairy Health Benefits page.
Q. How do dairy foods help build stronger bones?
A. There is overwhelming scientific evidence that consuming adequate amounts of calcium or foods naturally rich in calcium such as milk, cheese and yogurt throughout life may delay or minimize age-related bone loss and thereby decrease the risk for osteoporosis. According to analyses, all but two of 70 randomized, controlled intervention studies demonstrated that calcium intake increases bone gain during growth, reduces bone loss with age, and/or reduces fracture risk. Also, more than three-quarters of 110 observational studies supported calcium's beneficial role in bone health. Calcium intake to meet daily recommendations continues to be a critical concern. Milk and milk products provide nearly 75 percent of the calcium available in the food supply. The 2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recognizes that people who consume more dairy foods have better overall diets, consume more nutrients and have improved bone health.
For more information, see Dairy's Role in Bone Health and Dairy's Role in Adolescent Bone Health.
Q. Should I avoid dairy foods if I'm concerned about maintaining my weight?
A. The 2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends three cups of low-fat or fat-free milk or milk products every day as part of a healthy diet. The Guidelines also state that adults and children should not avoid milk and milk products because of concerns that these products will lead to weight gain. Together milk, cheese and yogurt provide a unique nutrient package of nine essential nutrients that help Americans improve overall diet quality. A growing body of research suggests that enjoying three servings of low-fat or fat-free milk, cheese or yogurt each day as part of a nutrient-rich, balanced diet may help maintain a healthy weight. At least 45 observational studies exploring dietary intake patterns and body weight in various population groups report that those who consume greater amounts of dairy foods tend to weigh less than those who consume less dairy. In addition, clinical trials of overweight and obese adults showed that those who followed reduced-calorie diets and increased their dairy intake to three servings a day achieved better results than those who cut calories and consumed inadequate amounts of dairy foods and calcium.
For more information, see The Role of Protein in Satiety & Weight Management, Healthy Weight with Dairy.
Q. How do dairy foods help manage blood pressure?
A. Dairy foods are among the top contributors of calcium, potassium and magnesium, nutrients that may play an important role in maintaining healthy blood pressure. In fact, a large-scale government study called DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) found that a balanced, low-fat diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and low-fat dairy foods may help manage blood pressure.
For more information, see Spotlight On Dairy Foods, Dairy Nutrients & Blood Pressure and Dairy's Role in Managing Blood Pressure, and for sample meal plans see DASH to the Diet: Following the DASH Eating Plan and 5 Days of DASH: 15 Meals to Help Ease the Pressure.
Q. How can someone with lactose intolerance still enjoy dairy foods?
A. Different people can handle different amounts of lactose, and there's a solution to meet most needs in the dairy case – from lactose-free milk to dairy foods that are typically easier to digest. Aged cheeses are naturally lower in lactose and many yogurts contain live and active cultures which help digest lactose.
Choose from a wide variety of lactose-free options or naturally lower-lactose containing choices in the dairy case that meet the taste and health needs of most people, including:
- Lactose-free white milk
- Lactose-free chocolate milk
- Aged cheeses like Cheddar, Monterey Jack and Swiss, which are naturally lower in lactose
- Yogurts containing "Live and Active Cultures"
Try other dairy foods in small amounts and with meals to find out which ones and which amounts work well for you. For more information and tips, see the Lactose Intolerance Facts page.
Q. How is lactose intolerance different than a milk allergy?
A. Being lactose intolerant is not the same as having a cow's milk allergy. An allergic reaction to cow's milk is triggered by the immune system, not the digestive system, as is the case with lactose intolerance. Lactose-free milk is created by adding the natural enzyme lactase to milk, which converts lactose (natural milk sugar) into the two simple sugars lactose is naturally comprised of (glucose and galactose), making it easier to digest. For more information, see Lactose Intolerance Revisited.
Q. What nutrients are in dairy foods?
A. Together, milk, cheese and yogurt provide a powerful package of nine essential nutrients—including calcium, potassium, phosphorus, magnesium, vitamin D, A, B12, riboflavin and niacin (niacin equivalents)—that help keep bones strong and bodies healthy. For more information see the Dairy's Unique Nutrient Package section.
Q. How many servings of dairy foods should I eat every day?
A. No matter what your age, dairy's nutrients are an essential part of promoting good bone health and good overall health. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend three servings of low-fat or fat-free milk and milk products every day as part of a healthy diet for people 9 years and older. The Guidelines also encourage children ages 2 – 8 to consume 2 cups of low-fat or fat-free milk or equivalent milk products each day. This may be provided as three child-size servings of dairy foods to add up to a total of 2 cups.
See the Dietary Guidelines section for more information, as well as a meal plan to help you follow the recommendations.
Q. How much calcium do I need?
A. The National Academy of Sciences recommends Americans consume between 500 mg to 1,300 mg depending on your age. To find out how much calcium you need – and how many Americans aren't getting enough – see our Calcium Recommendations Fact Sheet.
Q. Why can't I just take a calcium supplement?
A. The health professional community overwhelmingly agrees that food – especially food that naturally contains calcium – is the first priority in meeting calcium needs. The American Dietetic Association, National Institutes of Health and the American Academy of Pediatrics believe that individuals should attempt to meet their nutrient needs through food first.
Q. What are nutrient-rich foods?
A. Nutrient-rich foods give you the most vitamins, minerals and other nutrients for fewer calories. To live well, build your daily eating plan on a variety of nutrient-rich foods:
- Brightly colored fruits and 100% fruit juices
- Vibrant-colored vegetables and potatoes
- Whole, fortified and fiber-rich grain foods
- Low-fat and fat-free milk, cheese and yogurt
- Lean meat, skinless poultry, fish, eggs, beans and nuts
For more information about nutrient-rich foods and the Nutrient Rich Foods Coalition (NRFC), see Nutrient Rich Foods: A Positive Approach To Building Healthier Diets or visit our Education Materials.
Q. What's the role of dairy foods in government nutrition guidelines?
A. Dairy foods have a powerful package of essential nutrients. For that reason, the milk and milk products group has long been a critical building block of the food guidance system and nutritional guidance for Americans. For more information, see the Dietary Guidance section.
Q. Are calcium-fortified soy or rice beverages good substitutes for milk?
A. No. Calcium-fortified foods may help close the gap between calcium recommendations and intake. However, they vary in calcium content, calcium bioavailability, and quality – and are not the nutritional equivalent of milk and milk products. An analysis of the physical properties of the calcium fortification systems in 10 orange juice, three soy and one rice beverage brands revealed that the state of calcium fortification in various beverages is at best quite uneven – and would likely result in less calcium delivery into the body than the calcium content on the beverage label would suggest. Milk was found to be a more reliable calcium source than most of the orange juice brands tested, and all four popular brands of soy and rice beverages. When looking for a calcium-rich beverage, milk is the most reliable choice. Milk contains approximately 300 mg of calcium per cup in a form that is easily absorbable. For more information, visit Dairy's Unique Nutrient Combination.
Q. Is organic milk better for you than regular milk?
A. It's great to have choices in the marketplace, but there is no difference in the quality, safety and nutrition of organic dairy products compared with conventional dairy products. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) oversees national standards that food labeled "organic" must meet. Organic food can differ from conventionally-produced food in the way it is grown, handled, and processed. For more information on organic foods, refer to the Organic Milk FAQ and USDA's Certified Organic Program.
Q. What is dairy's role in child nutrition?
A. The 2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans identified five "nutrients of concern" for children that play important roles in overall health and disease prevention, and yet most children aren't getting enough of them. Together, dairy foods supply three of the five "nutrients of concern" for which children have low intakes: calcium, potassium and magnesium (the other two are vitamin E and fiber). In fact, milk is the primary beverage source of several key nutrients in America's diet – including calcium, potassium, phosphorus, protein, vitamin A, magnesium and zinc. Visit the Child Nutrition Health Education Kit for more information and downloadable resources on dairy's important role in child nutrition.
Q. How much milk should a child or adolescent consume each day?
A. Children ages 2 – 8 are encouraged to consume two cups of milk or equivalent milk products each day, as recommended by the 2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. This may be provided as three child-size servings of dairy foods to add up to a total of two cups of milk or equivalent milk products. Learn more by visiting the Child Nutrition section.
Q. Are milk allergies common in children?
A. Milk protein allergy is most common in infancy and early childhood. Only about 2.5 percent of infants and young children in the first three years of life are affected by a cow's milk allergy.
Q. What is Fuel Up to Play 60?
A. Fuel Up to Play 60 is an in-school nutrition and physical activity program launched by National Dairy Council (NDC) and the National Football League, in collaboration with the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). The program encourages youth to consume nutrient-rich foods (low-fat and fat-free dairy, fruits, vegetables and whole grains) and achieve 60 minutes of physical activity every day.
Fuel Up to Play 60 is designed to engage and empower youth to take action for their own health by implementing long-term, positive changes for themselves and their schools and inspiring their friends to do the same. Customizable and non-prescriptive program components are grounded in research with youth, including tools and resources, in-school promotional materials, a website, youth challenges and rewards.
In its first year, over 60,000 schools enrolled in Fuel Up to Play 60 nationwide. Together with the involvement of supporting organizations, Fuel Up to Play 60 will further its progress by expanding its reach and impact in the years to come.
Q. How and why is milk pasteurized?
A. All milk is intended for direct consumption should be pasteurized – it's a matter of food safety. Pasteurization is a simple, effective method to kill potentially harmful bacteria without affecting the taste or nutritional value of milk. With standard pasteurization, milk is heated to a minimum of 145°F for 30 minutes or to 161°F or more for 15 seconds, followed by rapid cooling. See our Raw Milk Fact Sheet for science-based information on un-pasteurized milk.
Q. What can I do at home to help protect my family from food-borne illness?
A. Individuals and their actions play an important role in food safety. To help prevent food-borne illness, food safety experts recommend the following four simple steps: - Wash your hands. The most important step is also the easiest – keep your hands clean when handling any food.
- Protect against cross-contamination. In order to prevent any possible cross-contamination, wash all surfaces (including cutting boards and kitchen counters) in between uses. Be especially careful to wash knives and surfaces after cutting raw poultry, meat and fish.
- Keep foods out of the "danger zone." As a general rule, foods should always be very cold or very hot. Foods that are in between 41 and 140 degrees Fahrenheit can serve as a breeding ground for harmful bacteria. Keep foods in the refrigerator until ready to cook or drink. Once food is cooked, serve hot or (if serving later) rapidly chill in an ice-water bath before refrigerating. Shop for milk and other perishable items last, just prior to check-out, and immediately take these perishable items home or place them in a cooler to maintain proper temperatures.
- Be extra-careful in the summer. The living may be easy in the summer, but it's also the peak period for food borne disease. While the microorganisms that can cause disease grow faster in the summer months, the real culprit is often our enjoyable summer cookouts and picnics. Protect against cross contamination by using a clean platter or plate to take food off the grill and by washing any tools you use to handle raw meat, poultry and fish. Also, keep raw meats and chilled foods safe in a cooler instead of baking in the hot summer sun.
To learn more about food safety, visit the Partnership for Food Safety Education's Web site.
Q. Are all dairy foods antibiotic-free?
A. Yes. In fact, numerous safety measures are in place to help ensure that antibiotics don't enter the milk supply. For example, a sick cow that is being treated with antibiotics is taken from the milking herd, treated and not put back into the herd until her milk tests free of antibiotics. Additionally, every tank load of milk is strictly tested for antibiotics. Any tanker that tests positive is disposed of immediately, never reaching the public. For more information on milk safety regulations and procedures, see the Food Safety Fact Sheet and Modern Dairy Farming Practices & Milk Quality: Myths & Facts.