At the Litchfield academy, Lloyd Metzger, a dairy food scientist at South Dakota State University, led off the lectures on what’s required to produce and sell high-quality milk, from cow through the retail dairy case. Other lessons:
- The calcium and phosphorus in milk bind to casein and stay in solution. In so-called vegetable "milks" such as soymilk, the calcium and phosphorus are chemical additives that tend to settle to the bottom of the carton and are never absorbed.
- Bovine growth hormone produced by the cow is chemically indistinguishable from recombinant bovine somatotropin.
- Fluid milk typically takes two days or less from the time it’s produced until it’s delivered to retail stores, and most milk travels less than 250 miles to get there. "Milk is the only large-scale local food available today in the country," Metzger said.
Cindy Sorensen of Midwest Dairy gave information on consumer behavior in stores, based on an audit of 22,000 grocery stores, 343,000 shopping trips and 2,500 consumer interviews:
- Shoppers spend an average of just 25 seconds in the dairy aisle.
- To slow shoppers down, stores need to make the dairy aisle more appealing, organize it by category, and use banners and other tools to educate.
- Stores are experimenting with dairy kiosks at the checkout for "grab-n-go" shoppers who just stop in for milk, eggs or bread—much like a convenience store. "Anything you can do to offer the consumer a solution for her needs will bring her back to the store," Sorensen said.