Honest. Canadian. Dairy. It comes naturally to us.

Article 5 min

Canadian dairy not only tastes great, it’s also of the highest quality. To achieve purity, our milk undergoes rigorous testing that ensures it meets government-imposed health and safety regulations as well as our industry’s own self-imposed quality standards. The end result is great-tasting dairy products you can feel good about.

By DFC - PLC, Communications Team
The beauty of naturally wholesome milk, up close
The beauty of naturally wholesome milk, up close

Highlights

  • Over 98% of Canadian dairy farms are family owned
  • Strict Canadian dairy farming standards help ensure our farmers deliver high quality milk and provide good care for their cows
  • Our farmers’ commitment : 100% Canadian milk free of antibiotics and produced without artificial growth hormones.
  • Enjoying Canadian dairy is a simple way to lower the distance your food travels to get to your table and to support the local economy

When it comes to Canadian dairy, the journey is more important than the destination. We can feel confident that the milk we drink for breakfast and that goes into making the delicious cheeses we enjoy as a snack, makes its way through many steps and processes before reaching us. Let’s explore what these processes are, and how they enhance the quality of our Canadian dairy.

The barn at Lac La Nonne Dairy
The Schalkwyk family keeps a close eye on the cows at Lac La Nonne Dairy in Alberta.

Quality farms, quality milk

You could say that Canadian milk is a family affair. Over 98 percent of Canadian dairy farms are family owned and passed down from one generation to the next. It’s only natural that when it comes to the milk they produce, attention to quality runs in the family.

In addition to strict government regulations, Dairy Farmers of Canada and its members, along with the provincial dairy farmer groups have established further quality assurance programs that farmers must follow by implementing their own food safety measures on the farm.

As quality standards in dairy farming are continuously evolving, on-farm validators regularly verify that farm practices meet these standards, ensuring the highest quality milk, best care for cows, and sustainable farming practices.

Naturally delicious

“Antibiotic-free” is a word that gets tossed around a lot. But what does it mean? Should we worry about antibiotics in food? In short, no. Let’s take milk for example. If a cow becomes ill and receives treatment with antibiotics, farmers must clearly identify her (often with a red Velcro band on her hind legs). That way whoever is milking her knows to immediately discard her milk. The milk from the treated cow will continue to be discarded for a specific period of time referred to as the ‘withdrawal period’. That cow’s milk will not get into the supply chain, meaning it will never reach the processing plant, and certainly won’t make it to the grocery store. In a nutshell (or rather, a carton,) you will never come in contact with milk from a cow being given antibiotics.

Canadian law also strictly prohibits the use of artificial growth hormones. While these hormones have no proven adverse effects on human health, science has shown they can have a negative impact on the health and welfare of cows. Some countries still allow the use of growth hormones, which is why many Canadians think it’s best to drink local Canadian milk and avoid these hormones all together.

Specialists make the rounds to check up on the herd
Canadian dairy farmers get the support of veterinarians and cow nutrition specialists to help ensure their cows get the care and nutrition they need.

Regular veterinarian visits keep cows in the best of health

The quality of our milk starts at the source, and that means ensuring cows are their healthiest. Dairy farmers must demonstrate that they work with a veterinarian in order to be allowed to ship milk. Veterinarians have several roles on the farm, visiting some farms as often as twice a month to help farmers keep their cows in top shape. In fact, most Canadian dairy cows see their doctor more often than we humans see our family doctors! Those are some healthy cows.

While the milk sold in grocery stores has already passed several quality assurance tests, there’s another way vets and farmers make sure cows are healthy: by testing their milk’s Somatic Cell Count (SCC). Somatic cells are the equivalent in milk of what white blood cells are in blood – the level is an early indicator if the cow is fighting off an infection. Canadian milk is sold with SCC counts well under the federal allowance, which is in line with the level of many other countries to ensure that the cow is as healthy as possible.

Less travel time means fresher milk

Canada implemented the supply management system back in the 1960s to ensure farmers produce enough milk to meet the demand of consumers for milk and dairy products.

A milk truck
Every 2 days, milk is picked up at the farm. The refrigerated milk truck must keep the milk below 4 °C until it is offloaded at the processing plant.

The production of local Canadian dairy has resulted in several sustainability benefits. Since everything is local, milk travels the shortest distance possible from the farm to the plant to be pasteurized and made into dairy products. This reduces the ‘food miles’ and ensures milk is typically delivered fresh to stores in the city every day.

The Werts at Stanlee Farms
Canadian dairy farmers like the Wert family take pride is providing the best possible milk.

Why make Canadian dairy a regular part of your lifestyle?  Each sip of milk you drink is naturally delicious, made to the highest safety and quality standards, helps support family farms and contributes to the local economy. That’s something we can all feel good about.

Sources

Alberta Milk. "What is the difference between Canadian and American milk?" albertamilk.com

https://albertamilk.com/ask-dairy-farmer/difference-canadian-american-milk/

Bergeron, Renée. "The Quality of Canadian Milk." dairynutrition.ca

https://www.dairynutrition.ca/scientific-evidence/experts-summaries/the-quality-of-canadian-milk

Holstein Canada. "The Canadian Dairy Industry." holstein.ca

https://www.holstein.ca/Public/en/About_Us/The_Canadian_Dairy_Industry/The_Canadian_Dairy_Industry

The National Farm Animal Care Council. "Code of Practice for the Care and Handling of Dairy Cattle." nfacc.ca

http://www.nfacc.ca/codes-of-practice/dairy-cattle/code