The vast majority of dairy cattle in the United States never see the outdoors while they’re lactating. Over 50% of the milk produced in the US comes from just 1750 large farms, primarily in California, Idaho, New Mexico, and Texas. In contrast, about 22% or more than 3000 of Wisconsin’s dairy farmers use managed grazing. Can the unique features of milk from pastured cows contribute to the resurgence of an artisan dairy tradition?
As a number of farmstead processors have found, the milk from pastured cows is different from what Americans have come to consider “conventional” milk. Can the unique features of this milk contribute to the resurgence of an artisan dairy tradition focused on high-value, specialty products? The emergence of several companies in the region that are successfully marketing grass-based products suggests that the answer is yes. One key to supporting growth in this sector is to identify the unique properties of the milk from pastured cows and to explore the potential of developing premium products from this milk.