What's in My Milk?

There's a lot of discussion in society today about our food supply and agriculture in general. One of the most common discussions is about dairy cows and our milk supply. There are many misconceptions that go around about dairy cows, especially about what exactly is in our milk. Specifically about hormones, antibiotics, and other foreign substances that we don't want to ingest.

Our milk supply in the United States is extremely safe and very healthy! Let's start by talking about what's NOT in our milk:


You will never, ever, ever drink milk that contains antibiotics. Literally never. It's not even a remote possibility. How, you ask? Some cows receive antibiotics, right? How do they stay out of our milk? Let's look at a scenario really quick: 

Say you own a dairy farm and are currently milking a herd of 250 Holsteins. You have 2 cows that come down with mastitis, which is an infection of the mammary gland. You call your vet out to check out your cows and the vet prescribes amoxicillin to treat the infection. You will then put a leg band on your cows receiving antibiotics, or give them some other physical identification. These 2 cows will also be milked last in the herd. When it comes milking time, you'll milk your 248 cows not receiving antibiotics, then bring in your treated cows. You'll unhook the milk line from the tank and milk your treated cows into a dump bucket. Their milk will then be properly discarded of. After milking those 2 cows, you'll sanitize your milking equipment and start the process over during the next milking period. No antibiotics go into the holding tank! You will continue to do this during treatment and then after treatment for the withdrawal time of the medication- that is, for how long it takes for milk to be rid of the antibiotic residues. This can range anywhere from 2-8 days. When the truck comes to pick up your milk, they will take a sample of it to test for the presence of antibiotic residue. Milk trucks typically go to multiple farms at a time, so all the different farms milk gets mixed into the tanker truck. If the sample from your farm comes back positive, you have just contaminated an entire tanker truck of milk. Congratulations, you now have to pay for the entire truck of milk that was supposed to be delivered to the processing plant, but now has to be dumped out because you contaminated it.

There is a financial incentive for farmers to not contaminate milk with antibiotics, but furthermore, there is a duty that they feel compelled to uphold- to provide a safe food supply for our communities.

This sweet girl's milk contains exactly ZERO antibiotics!


Exogenous hormones are hormones that are given to dairy cows that they do not produce themselves. "Wait, are you saying that there actually are hormones in our milk???" Well, actually, yes. There are hormones in your milk - endogenous hormones that the cows naturally produce themselves. This includes estrogen, oxytocin, and bovine somatotropin (growth hormone). These hormones are produced by various glands throughout the cow's body and essentially help the cow to continue living. And yes, they get in the milk. But the good thing is that everything you eat contains hormones that are produced by the animal or plant. Yes, even plants produce hormones. You know that coffee that you drink to get your day going? It contains up to 20 micrograms of phytoestrogens per 100 grams. Good news - that is a miniscule amount. More good news - hormones from other animals and plants aren't exactly useful by your body! 

Take a look at the graphic below:

Which estrogen molecule will fit in the human estrogen receptor? Human estrogen! So, don't worry about those endogenous hormones - they're harmless and if you didn't know about them, well, hey, you've already been ingesting them for however many years now and you're alive to tell the tale!

The majority of your milk that you buy in the store, however, comes with a label that states something to the effect of: "This milk is from cows not treated with rBST. The Food and Drug Administration has determined that there is no significant difference between rBST treated and non-rBST treated cows." rBST is recombinant bovine somatotropin. It is a molecule that is synthesized to act like bovine somatotropin that the cows naturally produced. It was approved by the FDA for administration to dairy cows to increase milk production. It is completely safe to give to cows and there are no health concerns to humans drinking milk from cows that have been given rBST. However, the majority of producers in the United States do not give their cows rBST, hence the fact that most of the jugs of milk you see in stores contain that label. It has not really shown to be economically feasible or increase milk production all that much.

This cutie, who happens to share my birthday, doesn't get any exogenous hormones! She naturally produces a lot of milk.


There's more than a few things wrong with this image. First of all, any blood or pus that is exiting a cow's teat is a sign of a major case of mastitis. In order to ensure that all cows are healthy and have functioning teats, milkers will "strip" the teats prior to hooking up the milking machine to the claw. This means that the milkers will squeeze a couple squirts of milk out of each teat to make sure everything is healthy and working properly and to stimulate the cow's body to let the milk out. If there is any sign of infection, that cow is NOT milked into the holding tank. Therefore, even if the cow is sick, no pus or blood even enters your milk supply. 

Now, I'm not going to lie - teats get dirty sometimes. Most dairy cows, especially in the South, are bedded on sand. It stays clean and cool and the cows love it. When they lay down, however, sand or other bedding can (and will) get on the teats. Before cows are hooked up to the milk machine, and after they are stripped, they go through a cleaning process that involves dipping each teat in a hydrogen peroxide solution and wiping them off to clean off any dirt or debris and to kill any pathogens that may be on them. 

Secondly, there are many filters in the pipes that travel from the milk machine to the holding tank. They trap anything that may have made it into the milk to ensure that there is absolutely no debris. This, combined with pasteurization, which kills any bacteria or other harmful organisms, ensure that we have clean, high quality, healthy milk for everyone to drink!

Lastly, when milk comes out of the cow, it is white. Like really white. As white as it is when you buy it. Milk is not artificially whitened, despite what some rumors may say!

These girls live on grass. There might be dirt on their teats. It will be cleaned off before they're milked! They also produce naturally very white milk.
 So there's a quick (although lengthy) rundown of what's not in your milk! As you can probably tell, agriculture and animal production is an extremely complicated, regulated process. So complicated, even, that some groups fill in what they don't understand with lies and misinformation! Agriculture awareness and literacy is so important today, and I really hope that this has helped shed some light on what goes on in milk production!

This little girl is living in a cozy hutch to keep her healthy and safe!


Three Day Weekend

I originally titled this post "Snow Day Survival" because Raleigh was predicted to get up to 8 inches of snow Friday night. The big storm was coming and everyone was pumped. We stocked up on food and movies and everything you need so you don't have to leave the house all weekend. The precipitation started around 5 PM...

as rain.

It rained, and rained, and rained, and rained some more. Finally around 3 AM, I woke up and saw ice on the tree outside my window. When I woke up around 8:30. there was a dusting of snow.  Can you say "huge disappointment?" It continued to snow until 1 PM, but we ended up with maybe 1 inch of the 8 we were predicted to get. We made the most of it though! What started as cooking brunch for Harrison, Anthony, Sam, and Adam, turned into 10 people in our tiny apartment. After a brief panic about how much food we stocked up on, 2 loaves of bread, 1 pound of bacon, and 1 carton of eggs turned into 3 loaves of bread, 2 pounds of bacon, and 3 cartons of eggs. Fishes and loaves, y'all. Fishes and loaves.

It was nothing short of a good time with the 10 of us packed in a small kitchen, having breakfast drinks, and stuffing ourselves full of French toast, bacon, and grits. We ventured out to the lone dirt road within the city limits of Raleigh for some good ol' fashioned sledding behind pickup trucks. After that and a brief visit to campus, we were all sufficiently frozen, so we retired inside to play Cards Against Humanity and hang out.

Sunday was spent on the couch, eating, watching Carolina embarrass us in basketball, and doing a whole lot of nothing. Monday, with classes cancelled, Harrison and I ventured to Clayton for a little bit of sledding with Erin. Beforehand, we stopped by Cameron Village to get him a pullover. We ended up with him a pullover, delicious biscuits from Rise (BLT and chicken/pimiento cheese- OMG), and an interview with a news station- we actually made it on TV, too!

The typical NC ice storm turned into a really nice three day weekend with the people I love the most!


Last First Day of Class

I'm writing this much later that I planned on, especially considering that I should have had it written and scheduled to post yesterday... Monday was supposed to be our first day of class, but our snow ice storm postponed that to today. So yay for a 3 day weekend!

I had my lone Tuesday class and have spent the rest of my day in the office. The class is "Techniques of Animal Care" and we basically go to all the educational units and learn how to manage the different livestock species, which I'm really looking forward to. Two of my best friends since freshman year are in it with me, so it's shaping up to be a super fun class. One of us, when we got to class, inevitably brought up that this is essentially the beginning of the end. It was my last first day of class today and it feels... anticlimactic. I'm 7/8 done with college. Knowing that the real world is waiting for me in May stresses me out just a little, but it's also really exciting.

I'm really excited for this semester, which I can already feel is shaping up to be a great one. We've already talked about so many things we have planned with my clubs and classes and also things with friends outside of school-related activities.

So here's to college and graduation and savoring every moment!

P.S. Lots of love for Clemson for bringing the National Championship home to the ACC! It feels kind of weird that the Pack came one kick away from beating the team that would go on to win it all...



I realized that I had written about what has probably been the biggest change in my life this semester - I'm a dog mom! I bought the sweet little beagle when I was at Emerald Isle for vacation in July and my family brought her home while I was at the zoo on July 23rd. The tiny little 8-week old puppy has now grown into a 7-month old bundle of energy. As this post is going live, she'll be at the vet being spayed ):

I picked her out because she was so calm and reserved, one of the quietest in the litter, and because of her coloring (I really wanted a traditional tri-color). She maintained that attitude for, oh, I don't know, maybe 3 days of having her home? All of the sudden the spunk came out and she is absolutely wide open! She has a devilish streak that you can't even get mad at her for and she knows exactly when to hide under the table or my bed so you can't catch her. To say she's intuitive would be an understatement.

I knew I wanted to get a dog my senior year. Why, I don't really know. Did I completely know what I was getting myself into, time-wise and financially? No, absolutely not. I remember talking to Harrison about wanting to get a puppy and he was basically the only one who ever encouraged me to get her. Do I regret getting her? No, absolutely not. I wouldn't trade the puppy snuggles for anything!

For as wild as she can be, she's actually a pretty good apartment dog. She's the perfect size to keep in an apartment, which was part of the reason I wanted a beagle. She is rather laid back when she's inside. She tends to find a toy or a bone to chew on and then falls asleep when I'm working on homework or can't pay her full attention. She loves car rides and going to the dog park. Speaking of the dog park, it's an absolute life-saver. I'll take her out there for 45 minutes to an hour and she runs non-stop! She's nice and worn out when I get her home. A bath (not her favorite thing) is always necessary when we get back, though. She's also not too vocal. Beagles have a reputation for using their voice, which she does - only when she's hiding under my bed, evading capture, or when it's 11PM during exam week.

She uses her paws as hands. No joke. I don't know how to explain it completely, but she's strangely human-like. She also likes to stand on her back legs and wrap her front legs/paws around your arm (occasionally your leg) when she wants something, especially if you have food. It really reminds my mom of a kangaroo, how they utilize their arms and such, so that's how she got her nickname: Roo.

Some of her other quirks: she sticks her head inside the shower curtain when I'm in the shower, hates beer, always looks away when a camera is pointed at her, typically sleeps completely under the covers, hates statues (especially of other animals), likes my guy friends more than me, bosses around my roommate's 80-lb. chocolate lab, thinks the best toy ever is a sock, grabs the end of your leggings when you put them on, and loves carrots.

She's spoiled rotten, can play fetch better than any other beagle I know, takes up the whole bed, sometimes steals my lunch off my desk, has destroyed half the things I own, and I absolutely adore her.



2016 was a challenging year. I went through most of it feeling like I never really had my feet planted in the ground. Despite the fact that I feel like I floated through most of last year, towards the end, I think I started to figure some of it out. I'm in a much better place going into 2017. So much so, that I'm excited for what lies ahead - even the big changes that I'm usually not a fan of!

When it comes to New Year's resolutions... I'm so over them. It's not because I'm bad at them (which I am), but because they feel too confining. I enter each new year with a hard and fast list of things I need to accomplish, when really, my progress through each year feels more fluid. Of course, I still have goals I want to accomplish in different areas, fitness being a main one, but I wanted to approach 2017 a little differently because, well, it's going to be a different year.

Throughout October, November, and December, as I really started to find my way through the haze that was the first half of 2016, I started to realize how important it is to not just have an "organized" life, but to have a life that you enjoy. My focus has been on perfection and organization for as long as I can remember. I'm constantly thinking, "If my life can look like X, Y, and Z, then it'll be perfect and I'll be happy." We all know that isn't how it works. I believe in the power of organization and order, but I've also started believing more in enjoying the life you have in front of you rather than trying to make it fit into bins and boxes and binders. You have to have grace with yourself and with those around you.

And that's when it hit me. My focus in 2017 would be GRACE. It would be enjoying life as it comes, savoring moments, loving my people, putting in good and honest work, and perhaps most importantly, forgiving myself when I can't do it all.

Of course, my vision for 2017 also involves a few major goals I've set for myself:

1. Focus on what matters
2. Care better for my mind and body
3. Save and simplify more, spend and acquire less

I have action steps to go along with each of those three goals that make them a bit more measurable, but having all-encompassing statements feels more fluid that those strict resolutions I talked about earlier. I'm excited and (somewhat) prepared for a grace-filled, transitional year!