Canadian milk standards are among the highest in the world. Our dairy farmers are committed to delivering their best on taste, safety, and quality. Take a look beyond the carton and see how dairy farmers and dairy processors are bringing us delicious milk that’s free of antibiotics and artificial growth hormones.
Food safety starts with first-class barns
Well-ventilated, clean barns are essential to maintaining the best in safety standards because dairy cows need comfortable, dry stalls to lead a healthy life. Providing the ideal environment for our animals is integral to producing milk that’s safe and high in quality.
Keeping cows healthy with a diet rich in nutrients
All good farmers know that nutrition is the foundation of a strong herd. The quality of their product depends on the feed animals are given. In addition to feed regulations set out by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, Canadian dairy farmers have additional measures in place to ensure they:
- Work with experts to understand the nutritional value of the crops they grow and add appropriate nutritional supplements as needed;
- Clearly and consistently label the feed for different cows and animals (for example: calves have different nutritional needs than lactating cows); and
- Properly store each type of feed.
Because diet has such an important impact on animal health and welfare, farmers work with experts in cattle nutrition to balance the hundreds of nutrients that compose a cow’s feed.
Potable water is also an essential part of keeping adult cows and weaned calves healthy – and by extension, ensuring the safety and quality of the milk cows produce.
Using pesticides safely and carefully
When pesticides or chemicals are used on a dairy farm, they must be properly handled and stored to prevent cross-contamination (with bedding, feed, water, and other products) as well as accidental exposure (for cattle and people).
Provincial regulations require a license for pesticide use in the field. All pesticides must be registered, approved for use, and meet Canadian standards for product quality, efficacy, and safety. When pesticides are applied to crops, a fixed amount of time must lapse before harvest in order to ensure that no unsafe residues remain.
Animal care around the clock
Proper barns and a nutritious diet are key elements in maintaining a strong herd, but sometimes a cow gets sick. That’s why every Canadian dairy farmer works alongside a veterinarian.
If a cow needs medical attention, she is removed from the milk production line to receive proper care and to ensure that her milk is kept separate from the milk that we drink. When necessary, a veterinarian may prescribe antibiotics to a cow. Only once she has rested and is feeling well, and once there is no antibiotic residue left in her milk will the cow re-enter the milk production line. This, as well as rigorous testing, ensures the milk we drink stays free of antibiotics.
Moreover, rbST, the artificial growth hormone, is strictly prohibited on Canadian dairy farms.
Good, fresh milk from start to finish
Once a dairy cow is milked, it takes only 3 days for her milk to get to the milk carton in the grocery store. To keep milk fresh and safe, dairy farmers and processors take many precautions.
Just after milking, a cow’s milk is cooled and stored in a stainless steel bulk tank at a temperature between 0 and 4°C to reduce bacterial growth. Every 2 days, a milk truck arrives at the farm to collect the milk. Before onloading, the milk is sampled, and its safety and quality are verified by the milk truck driver, a qualified milk grader. It’s kept at a temperature under 4°C until the milk arrives at the processing plant. It’s tested once more before unloading to ensure it meets standards for quality and food safety, and is clear of antibiotics or other inhibitors. Only then will the milk be pasteurized and entered into the production line to become one of the Canadian dairy products we know and love.
Keeping standards high
To maintain Canadian standards, not just anyone can produce or ship milk in Canada. Dairy farmers must be licensed, and their farms inspected before getting authorization to ship milk. They must also adhere to provincial regulations on food safety, animal care, the environment, and more – over 100 different regulations must be met.
Our commitment to Canadian quality milk
Producing quality milk is hard work. Many controls need to be respected to ensure every glass of milk as perfect as can be, but that’s what makes dairy farming so fulfilling. Producing 100% Canadian milk that’s safe, high in quality, sustainable, delicious, and nutritious is a great source of pride for our dairy farmers. Through initiatives like proAction, Canadian dairy farmers are continually improving their practices to reduce food safety risks on the farm. The bar is high for Canadian milk – and we wouldn’t like it any other way.
Health Canada. “Setting Standards for Maximum Residue Limits (MRLs) of Veterinary Drugs Used in Food-Producing Animals.” canada.ca
Canadian Dairy Information Centre. “National Dairy Code: Production and Processing Requirements.” dairyinfo.cgc.ca
Government of Canada. “Food Safety Recognition Program.” inspection.gc.ca
Government of Canada. “Livestock Feeds.” inspection.gc.ca