25 May 2008

Sassy, like a cow

On Saturday afternoon we had a grand adventure at The Sassy Cow Creamery.

It was their grand opening celebration, so we were treated to not only free milk, ice cream, and cheese, but a tour of both the farm and the processing plant as well.

They have a stock car sponsored by them and Thonys Think Tank, which has the unfortunate distinction of having poor grammar on their portion of the car. I immediately thought of "Eats, Shoots, and Leaves" when I saw this one.

It was a fantastic time, and I was happy to see a thriving family farm.
There was a 5 day old calf, and they had a contest to name her. M chose "Mary", which I suppose we could consider a deceptively simple selection.
Later on we got to see some just-about-to-calve cows, including one who was about to give birth - was actually starting to give birth. I myself was a bit freaked out by it, if only because it reminded me of the last time I gave birth (to M). It was a long time ago, but I won't soon forget the experience. Ah, the circle of life.

The Sassy Cow Creamery processes milk from Baerwolf Farms. Brothers Rob and James are the farmers, and only milk from their cows goes through the dairy.
Chuck the Plant Manager took us through for a tour of the processing facility, which is right behind the retail shop.

They process both organic and conventional milk there, and it all starts here, where milk is pumped in to one of two tanks (organic in one, conventional in the other). Chuck explained that organic milk is always run first and on clean equipment so that no conventional milk is in the product.

There were huge pallets of plastic bottles which looked really cool.
Then we walked through some rubber mats with "soapy" water in them. Chuck explained that the footbath was part of the food safety precautions they took in the plant, because of the potentially dangerous bacteria Listeria. So we all left slightly soapy-looking foot prints in our wake.

All of the processing equipment looked really interesting. We learned how the milk comes in and goes out at 40 degrees, but in between is heated to 166.9, which is the pasteurization point. It goes from that temperature back down to 40 degrees by being run through a chiller.And this thing has something to do with the butterfat content of whatever they are processing, but I can't remember what it does. Basically it sounds as if they separate the milk from the cream and then mix them back up in the right proportions (for skim, 2%, etc.).

The freestall open barn was interesting. The cows who were close to giving birth were on hay but the other cows we saw were "sand bedded", which was supposed to be comfortable for them. The cows were pretty non plussed by all of us walking through, and some were even comfortable getting pet on the head or neck.

Baerwolf Farms/Sassy Cow are going to be coming to the Cows on the Concourse with many other dairy farms and cows on Saturday June 7. It's a fun time with lots and lots of dairy foods to eat and cows to meet. Definitely recommended, especially if you can't get out to the farm.

I picked up some locally produced cheese and the ever-tasty Potter's Crackers from here in Madison, as well as a half-gallon of milk. It tickles me to drink milk from a farm I've seen, touched, and smelled.

Sassy Cow Creamery Milk is sold in Madison (I saw their Organic stuff at Woody's East for a mere 5.79 USD a gallon), and around Dane county. Check out their website for more info about the farms and dairy.

I definitely think a visit to The Sassy Cow Creamery is in our future again, even if they are not having a special event. It is a short drive with some really pretty scenery, and I'm sure we can find more places to visit nearby.

See Palmer's post for more pictures (including the cow about to give birth).

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