This is true: Stan is the name of our new milkman. We're trying out Calder Dairy's delivery service and last Thursday we got our first round. Calder is a dairy farm over in Carleton, just outside of Detroit. I heard John Calder say that the farm started out as the retirement project of his grandparents with just a single cow. But animals tend to multiply. Now they have about 100 cows and each has a name. Although I haven't been there, I understand they give farm tours where you get to milk a cow and they welcome groups to visit any day of the week. I've also heard John Loomis from Zingerman's Creamery talk about how his search for the best quality milk for his cow's milk cheeses led him to Calder.
Thirty years ago Michigan had over 12,500 dairy farms, but in 2005 there were fewer than 2800. Yet Michigan is still the 8th largest producer of milk in the country with 300,000 cows producing 5.7 billion pounds of milk. That partly points to larger factory farms with more cows each and also higher production per cow and the widespread use of hormones like rBGH, which increases milk production but is also thought (but not proven) to have harmful effects, like early onset of puberty for girls.
There are lots of milk choices these days. Should you get organic milk, like Organic Valley? Or local milk, like Guernsey or Calder? Which ones have rGBH? Which ones come from factory farms and which let their cows have happy cow lives? The Cornucopia Institute has a great Dairy Report and Score Card to help understand some of the decision points and rates the national brands. I know that dairy is like meat in terms of planetary impact and that we should be consuming less of it overall, but we love it so. Why does it have to be so tasty?
Calder milk is probably the best milk I've tasted. I'm not sure whether it's because the milk is actually better because they treat their cows better or because they use glass bottles which lets you taste the milk rather than the plastic or the carton. It's not organic or completely grass-fed, but their milk is, in my opinion, wonderful. It's also on the expensive side. A half gallon at the Co-op is $2.99. Which is about what I would spend on a bag of chips. Or less.
Even though Calder also makes other dairy products, like fabulous butter, whipping cream, and cottage cheese, the Co-op only carries the milk. And we always seem to run out at an inconvenient time when the store is closed and have to go buy some other brand which makes me cranky because it doesn't taste good. So, we're trying the delivery option. The prices on their delivery list are a tiny bit cheaper than the Co-op's, but they tack on an extra $2 for the delivery each week. So again, a little more expensive but it's a priority to have good dairy at our house and I'm giving up the chips for the time being.
For the delivery, you have a specific day and time when it comes and you have to put out a cooler with an ice pack to receive it. Stan said he has about 80 deliveries in Ann Arbor. He also told me that if I need something last minute, like eggs or yogurt or onion dip, he carries extras of lots of things on their product list and I can just give him a call that morning. They also let you do special orders - for example, we're getting milk every week but getting cottage cheese every other week. And next week we're getting 2 pints of whipping cream for a party. They say "Just give us a call." And they bill monthly.
So far so good. I'm looking forward to never running out of milk again.