Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Chocolate Milk Review

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.

Arghhhhh!!!

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.

14 comments:

Bill Anderson said...

Haha! So if this raw milk bill passes, I wonder if we'll start seeing raw chocolate milk from state-certified raw milk farms.

I wouldn't count on it... but you never know. That raw grassfed Jersey milk is so sweet and rich you don't even need to add sugar to it!

Market Vendors said...

Couldn't agree with you more - Sassy Cow Creamery Chocolate Milk by far is the best in my book!

MJ said...

I'm gutted over the potential loss of Blue Marble dairy and its dandy little cream bottles. I can't compare their choco to anything on your list, but the samples they gave away at the Westside Farmers Market were yummy.

Bill Anderson said...

Blue Marble situation

Dan said...

I didn't know there was a GG bottling factory in Waukesha. Any idea where it is?

Bill Anderson said...

Letter from Blue Marble:

On a fall day, 1969, three young boys and their mother go for a walk to have a picnic under the big oak tree up on the hill in the cattle pasture. They had just come from the grocery store, so they had a lot of produce to pick through. You see, they drove around the back and picked up the food that was being discarded. They didn’t know that they were poor. They only knew that the old bananas mother could make into bread, the not so bad stuff they could eat, and the rotten stuff would get fed to the pigs.

As they stood under the massive tree, mother unfolded the red and white checkered table cloth, which made a beautiful contrast to the lush green pasture. She placed the wicker basked in the center of the table cloth and they all sat Indian style and began to divide up the very best of the produce. The children did not see fear, panic or worry. They only saw love as their mother handed out the fruit. “Oh look, you can see the capital”, she said as the children looked in amazement at the city, which looked so far away. “We may have to move to a different farm boys”, mother said. “The owner wants to sell this land and your father and I can not afford to buy it this close to the city”. We looked at each other confused, because to us, the city seemed a world away.

Forty years later in the fall of 2009, up on a hill on the edge of the city, there stands a might lone oak tree. Next to it, a large building; the Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection.

(continued...)

Bill Anderson said...

(continued...)

There is a sign dedicating the tree to a person I have never met. That person was never on any of the picnics or sleigh rides we went on, 40 years earlier. I don’t recall seeing him as we gathered the cows after school before the evening milking. Anyhow, the tree was dedicated to him.

In 1971, our family packed up and moved to a farm next to a small town we had never heard of, Barneveld. The school was not only but a few grades, but all the grades kindergarten through 12, were all in one building, all under one roof. Far different from the Madison school system we had come from. If we missed the bus, we had to run to school. “Only two miles as the crow flies”, father used to say. Problem was, we weren’t crows. We were young boys with short legs. Needless to say, we did not miss the bus very often.

I grew up and graduated high school and decided to farm with my father. After a few successful years, I figured it was time to purchase half the cattle and equipment in April 1984. June 8, 1984, our farm and the town of Barneveld were wiped out by a tornado. We saved what we could, buried what we couldn’t and rebuilt the rest. Sixteen years later with the farmer and the consumer getting further disconnected, along with the RBGH approval, mad cow disease, and genetically modified crops, I had an idea. What if the farmer and the consumer were to work together? (For the common good of both) I would bottle my own milk and sell directly to the consumer in glass bottles, as close to raw milk as possible.

Over the next five years, an idea became reality. Blue Marble was born, along with many ups and downs of starting a new business. In November 2009, at the edge of total burn out and a bunch of stress related health issues, I decided to scale back and stop bottling for a time to recharge and refocus.

(continued...)

Bill Anderson said...

(continued...)

When the inspector came out, Wednesday November 25, 2009, and told me that they had found a possible problem with one product on one date, I informed her that we were done bottling for a time. I asked if there was anything we needed to do about the milk in question. She stated that they tested all the products, only on the whole milk dated 11-27-09 was in question. That if I was done bottling for an undetermined time, it would be best to voluntary surrender our license and there would be no more issues. When we opened up again, we would get re-inspected. Nothing was said about a recall/press release. Apparently, some other DATCP employees decided that they would do a press release without notifying myself or the inspector that came to the farm. They did this totally out of fear, even though no bacteria or pathogens were found. To make things worse, they did this after hours, 6:30 p.m., Wednesday night before Thanksgiving. On top of that, they had the press release state all Blue Marble products dated 11-27-09 and after should be discarded. Remember, only one product whole milk; one dated 11-27-09 was there ever a question. I would have gladly recalled all the whole milk dated 11-27-09, it would have been less than 30 bottles total. Instead, they ruined the Blue Marble reputation because of fear.

We live in a fear based society, change is coming. We are becoming more aware of our connection to the Earth and each other. Join together, replace fear with harmony. Who am I trying to kid putting a pen to paper? I flunked tenth grade English – twice. I am just a simple farmer, na├»ve enough to believe in a dream, that I can make a difference.

What someone works years on can be destroyed in seconds. I learned this back in 1984, the year of the tornado. Looks as though I will have to start to rebuild again.

Life is a journey…………Dream on.

I suppose that I should be grateful to DATCP because of their actions, my children may get to share the same experience that I had as a child – to forage through discarded produce looking for something edible. Maybe this spring, I’ll plant an acorn on a hill, not far from the city.

I hope that you can forgive me for any wrongs I have done.

God Bless,

Nick Kirch
Founder/Owner/Operator
Blue Marble Family Farm

Bill Anderson said...

Something needs to be done about these people at DATCP. Did you hear about the latest "memorandum of understanding" between DATCP, the DNR, and the DBA (Dairy Bussiness Association -- representative of CAFO factory-farming agribussiness)?

http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=187375949758

And this while they are in an all out war against family farmers in Wisconsin.

Sick, sick stuff. Extremely discouraging, how biased and backwards our regulators are. Who is going to do something about them?

cheese underground lady said...

Hi Dan -- this is in response to your question about where the Golden Guernsey bottling plant is in Waukesha. According to my trusty Wisconsin Dairy Plant Directory, it is located at 2101 Delafield St., Waukesha, WI.

cheese underground lady said...

Hi Bill -- thanks for posting the letter from Nick Kirch. What a powerful testimony. The Isthmus just posted a story on the situation. Read it here: http://www.isthmus.com/daily/article.php?article=27614

Leslie said...

What a great article. We're gonna have to go out tomorrow and buy a whole bunch of chocolate milk :)

Otehlia said...

Sassy Cow rocks! Have you tired their eggnog? Btw, what a job swigging all that HFCS!

Anonymous said...

I've accidentally been so caught up in the wonderful creamy chocolaty bliss that I've drinkin a half gallon at in one drink before. results were not enjoyable.