According to studies done on Wisconsin dairies, milk from large-scale dairy farms may be safer than milk from local producers. The study was performed by Stave Ingham, a professor of food science at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. For the purposes of the study, large farms were defined as farms having 118 to 713 cows. Those with more were defined as extra-large, while those with 117 or fewer were defined as small.
The study itself looked at the presence of bacteria and other cells in the finished product that could reveal a link between quality and farm size. Contrary to many popular beliefs, milk from large and extra-large Wisconsin farms contained lower levels of bacteria than milk made on smaller, locally run farms.
The study, Ingham claimed, seemed to cast doubt on the commonly held idea that there is a link between food quality and farm size.
Small farmers were quick to point out serious flaws in the study. The presence of bacteria was not the only measure of food quality. Taste and environmental stewardship are major factors in judging agricultural products, local dairy farmers claim, two areas in which they perform better than larger farms. In addition, milk from small and large farms both met all the standards for grade A certification.
In addition, this study misses the importance of the link between local consumption and the local economy. Consuming food from local growers helps stimulate small farms which in turn stimulate the local economy, often providing much needed jobs.
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Written by: Justin Ellison / Farm Plus Staff Writer