Did you know that dairy is one of the most highly regulated and tested foods you can buy? Milk is tested for safety 2-3 times before it gets to your grocery store dairy case. Your dairy farmers test the milk, the milk processor’s tanker truck drivers test the milk and the processor tests the milk once it is received!
First, at the dairy farm, dairy farmers are very careful to separate sick cows from the rest of the herd. They are milked at different times (often in different milking areas) so their milk is kept separate and safely discarded. Even so, dairy farmers test each full tank of milk for antibiotic residue before letting their processor knows to come pick up the milk.
Next, when the processor’s tanker truck driver gets to the farm, the first thing he or she does is take a sample of milk from the bulk tank and test it again. They make sure there is no antibiotic residue and also that the milk is at a safe temperature.
Finally, when the truck driver delivers the tanker of milk to the processing plant, it is tested once more for antibiotic residue and other imperfections that can cause problems with the machinery at the plant. This is also where the milk is tested for milk fat content, protein content and many other quality factors that determine what the milk will be used for (fluid milk, cheese, yogurt or other products) and how much a dairy farmer will be paid for the milk.
Dairy farmers care deeply about the safety of their milk – if antibiotic residue is found in the milk at any point in this journey, the dairy farmer responsible is fined and the milk must be dumped. The farmer will receive no payment and will pay a penalty to their processor for having the milk transported when it could not be used.