Here are our most recent lab results for our raw milk, since our cow Frieda freshened. Spring is usually a pretty difficult time to keep everyone clean and healthy between the melting snow, accompanying mud and manure but thankfully we’ve managed to make it through the season relatively unscathed.
The cows are officially on grass so you may notice a difference in taste – usually the feedback we receive is that there is a slightly sweeter, creamer taste due to the high concentration of sugars in the grass this time of the year.
We are also starting “cream season” which means you should start to notice much more cream for the next few weeks. Generally when the cows are on the spring and early summer grasses their cream production increases, sometimes quite dramatically, and will be at its lowest levels in the dead of winter (February-ish). This is the perfect time to try your hand at making your own raw milk butter or sour cream!
Aerobic Plate Count
- Desired Range: less than 1,000 cfu/mL
- Our Results: 29 cfu/mL
- What this is: an indicator of the level of bacteria capable of growing in an aerobic (exposed to oxygen) environment and a mesophilic temperature (medium range). Generally, an indication of how sanitary the equipment and general milking conditions are. Directly tells us the number of bacteria (beneficial or otherwise) living in a food product.
- Desired Range: less than 50 cfu/mL
- Our Results: less than 1 cfu/mL
- What this is: another indication of sanitation and the number of potential pathogens/bacterial colonies present in a food product. Looks more specifically at fecal contamination than equipment sanitation (like plate count does), which potentially creates a hospitable environment for strains of pathogens to flourish. In the State of Michigan, the limit for milk transported in bulk cooling tanks containing raw milk is 100 cfu/mL. Once the milk is pasteurized, the required coliform level is 10 cfu/mL. Our coliform levels, therefore, are actually cleaner than pasteurized milk from the store.
Somatic Cell Count
- Desired Range: less than 200,000 cfu/mL
- Our Results: 39,900 cfu/mL
- What this is: an indicator of white blood cell count, which shows if an infection is present in the cow (and thus the milk). Mostly, we’re concerned about mastitis, an infection in the udder, which is caused by a combination of poor health and poor hygiene in the cow, and the milking/living environment. Levels higher than 200,000 indicate the presence of a sub-clinical to clinical infection and SCC is the best indicator of overall milk quality – from its ability to keep fresh for longer periods of time, to how good & clean it tastes and how well it can be converted into other dairy products.
- Quick Note: Our “desired range” comes from the State of Vermont’s Raw Milk guidelines for retail sales, which is the strictest in the country. In Michigan, SCC for Grade A fluid milk must be less than 1,000,000 per mL -levels this high guarantee that milk from cows with mastitis (and the accompanying pus & blood) is being used and is on shelves. Pasteurization will kill most of the bacteria and pathogens, and that dead sludge is then homogenized into the milk.