I am not proud to admit this, but I had a temper tantrum in my local grocery store on Monday. I think I actually scared two other shoppers and their children, when much to my horror, I went to the milk aisle and there was no Golden Guernsey Chocolate Milk in the cooler.
Let me be clear: chocolate milk is a big deal to me. If I open my fridge and someone has drank the last of my half gallon of Golden Guernsey Chocolate Milk, there is hell to pay.
Hence my horror upon finding only Dean's Foods chocolate milk in my grocery store on Monday. Yes, Dean's Foods. No Golden Guernsey. Even the single serving Golden Guernsey Low-Fat, Regular and Chocolate Malt Chocolate Milks were replaced by Dean's single servings.
Turns out it must have been a) a bad dream, or b) a fluke, because when I went back today, there were half gallons of Golden Guernsey chocolate milk back in the cooler (alas, it appears they've replaced the GG Chugs with Dean's single servings. Bummer). However, this got me to thinking -- last April, Dean's Foods bought Golden Guernsey. While these things happen all the time and the product usually stays the same, there is no guarantee Dean's Foods won't just keep their own chocolate milk recipe, discard Golden Guernsey's, and throw my life into complete and utter chaos.
I am actually so worried about this possibility that I've done two things: 1) I've contacted the Dean's Foods media dept., asking if they plan to continue the Golden Guernsey recipe and 2) scoped out other chocolate milks just in case my beloved Golden Guernsey gets kicked to the curb.
With this in mind, this morning I drove to three local grocery stores and purchased every different brand of chocolate milk I could find. Turns out that chocolate milk is a lot like artisan cheese -- different farmstead producers and local dairies make their own and each one tastes remarkably different.
While I would love to be able to get Tetzner Dairy Farm's milk in Washburn, or Castle Rock Organic Farm glass-bottled milk in Osseo, or Davis Farm milk in Kennan, alas, all of these farmstead producers live too far away and only have local distribution. Because I live in the Madison-area foodshed, the choices I have when it comes to chocolate milk basically break down to the following - I've rated each milk on a scale of one to five cows, with five cows being the best:
1. Dean's Foods -- the container I bought had the plant number of 55-96, which means it was bottled at the Verifine Dairy Products Company in Sheboygan (every carton, jug, bag or bottle of milk produced in Wisconsin is required to have a four-, five-, or six-digit number printed on the container. You can look up that number in this Wisconsin dairy plant directory and find out the exact place your milk was bottled. This is cool for dairy geeks like me, so thought I'd share.) Dean's Foods is a big company, so I'm guessing it may have multiple bottling plants. But its chocolate milk just tastes like a bad Hershey's syrup mix. Too sweet and syrupy. Wouldn't recommend it. Rating: 1.5 cows.
2. Organic Valley -- I keep trying this chocolate milk, hoping it will magically someday get better, but every time I drink it, it tastes like cardboard. No flavor. Nada. Nothing. I like the company, I like their products, but the choc milk just doesn't do it for me. Also, the only plant number I can find on the carton starts with a 27, which leads me to believe it's not actually being manufactured in Wisconsin, as all Wisconsin dairy processing plant numbers start with a 55. Disqualified. Rating: 0 cows for not being bottled in Wisconsin.
3. Kwik Trip -- this LaCrosse-based company has hundreds of Kwik Trip stores scattered throughout the tri-state region, and processes its milk at its own facility in LaCrosse. Although its chocolate milk is not bad, it's not great either. But, it does get points for convenience, as there are three Kwik Trips -- yes, three -- in my little town of Oregon, population 8,000. Rating: 2.5 cows.
4. Babcock Hall Chocolate Milk -- this stuff is pretty good. The problem is, I can only buy it at the Babcock Hall on the UW-Madison campus. Between the one-way streets, the masses of students zooming in front of me on their annoying Vespa scooters, and little to no parking in front of the store, this is just not an everyday option. Good for special events, but I'm looking for milk in my fridge every day. Rating: 4 cows.
5. Kemp's/Roundy's -- this "swiss style" chocolate milk is actually really good. In fact, it tastes exactly the same as my Golden Guernsey choc milk, although it is bottled at a different facility - plant number 55-1500, in Cedarburg, Wis. (whereas my beloved Golden Guernsey milk is bottled in Waukesha). One has to wonder if it's not the same recipe. In any case, if the Golden G goes down in flames, this is a good alternative. Rating: 5 cows.
6. Oberweis -- okay, so this milk is actually bottled in Aurora, Illinois, but much of the company's milk is sourced from Wisconsin dairy farms. Oberweis glass bottles can be found all over Madison, so it's a real alternative, except for the fact that I don't like it. It tastes similar to Dean's and has that Hershey's Syrup aftertaste. Blech. Rating: 1 cow.
7. Nesquik -- hailing from the great state of California, we have the infamous Nestle Nesquik Chocolate Milk. While I was out shopping, I kept coming across these single-serve plastic bottles, so thought, what the hell - let's try it. Yeah, here's my recommendation: don't. Remember when you were a kid and you mixed the Nesquik powder into your milk and drank it? It tastes like that, only worse. Yuck. Rating: 0 cows.
8. Sassy Cow Creamery -- last but not least, we have this locally-owned and bottled milk from the Baerwolf family between Sun Prairie and Columbus, Wis. This milk is the only chocolate milk I tried that is sweetened with sugar, instead of high fructose corn syrup, and you can tell. It carries a milder, sweeter taste - the kind of taste where you can suck down an entire half gallon without getting sick (don't ask). It also won first place at the 2008 World Dairy Expo Championship Dairy Product Contest, earning an unheard of perfect score of 100. So this milk definitely gets a thumbs up. Rating: 5 cows.
So now I have seven half gallons of chocolate milk in my fridge, all opened, and all missing about 1/2 cup of milk. Well, except for Sassy Cow, which I actually drank most of because it was yes, that good. Time to break out another box of Lactaid.