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By Leon Thompson

May 2, 2016 (East County) – My earliest childhood memories are of my grandfather’s dairy farm in Solway, Minnesota, where I learned to love cows.  The sign on the barn read “Our Cows Are Outstanding In Their Field.”  We moved to Poway in 1959 less than two blocks from the DeJong Dairy.  I naturally got up at 5:00 a.m. to help with chores and was rewarded with a giant breakfast with the DeJong family and bottles of fresh milk to take home. 

There were two dairies in Poway at the time.  The Poway Dairy where the Power’s family had a “Cash and Carry” drive-through on Poway Road in the middle of town.  Since then the DeJong family moved their cows to Rainbow and Ralph Powers became a Real Estate developer. 

The milk we drank back then was minimally processed.  The cream would settle to the top, sometimes so much so that mother would pour off some of the cream for whipping or for coffee.  Since those days milk has undergone a transformation.  

Welcome to the world of industrial-scale milk production.  Dairymen were offered a commitment by Carnation to purchase their cream.  Not their milk just their cream.  The cream can be separated from the milk in a centrifuge that spins off the cream.  Carnation and other processors make ice cream, cream cheese and butter.   But what to do with the rest of the milk? 

Dairy farmers began spinning off their cream and adding back 3.5% of the butterfat and calling it whole milk.  For those who were looking to lose weight by reducing calories 2%, 1% or totally non-fat milk.  ½ and ½ is half skim-milk and half cream.  Homogenized, ultra-pasteurized and from cows injected with anti-biotics, synthetic hormones and fed Monsanto’s corn.

My grandfather rotated his cows to fields of fresh green grass for their health and kept quite a number of Jersey cows (Jerseys are the small brown-colored cows with the long eyelashes) because though their daily volume of milk was small their milk was rich in sweet cream. 

Today the huge black and white Holstein cows that dominate the milking herds are often injected with genetically altered growth hormones to produce more milk.  GMO-grown feed is blended in a system called Total Mixed Ration (TMR) control.  Cows are milked three times a day now and fattened up in feed farms before being sent to slaughter.

So, yes, I don’t blame anyone for being cautious about drinking milk.  However it seems foolish that so many Americans consume hundreds of calories of soft drinks and Slurpies but purchase low-fat or skim-milk to save around 30 calories over whole milk.  It’s not so much the number of calories but where the calories come from.   A tall glass of cold milk after a hard day’s work is more refreshing and better for you than Gatorade or Red Bull, in my opinion. 

It may not be the “perfect food” anymore, but even with all its faults milk is still more nutritious and safe than many of processed foods and beverages popular today.   The U.S. department of Agriculture revised its “food pyramid” recommending more milk and milk products as a part of a healthy diet.

But first, it would seem there needs to be a return of the family dairy farm in the local communities where possible.  Return to the old ways of animal husbandry.  And bring back the Jersey Cows. 

The opinions in this article reflect the views of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of East County Magazine. To submit an editorial for consideration, please contact


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