February 10, 2010

The People and Science Behind The Ice Cream

Print More

We come to Cornell to work hard and achieve success. Yes, we have all proclaimed that education is our number one concern. But it’s time to come clean Cornell, our true mission is to complete the Big Red Ambition list, the 161 Things Every Cornellian Should Do. If you have not checked off number 12 yet, “Order ice cream from the Dairy Bar,” you’d better hurry up. In June of this year, the Dairy Bar will be closing for five years. This devastating news is a result of Cornell’s recent decision to renovate part of Stocking Hall, including the Dairy Bar.

For those of us who are Animal Science majors, it has become a staple in our educational experience. It’s a convenient place to catch a quick meal in between a few An Sci classes instead of venturing down to campus. The closing of the Dairy Bar is especially tragic for those of us who have chosen to focus in dairy science. Yes, we do exist and have chosen to devote our lives to the advancement and improvement of the dairy industry.

Personally I find it sad when people initially do not believe that I am truly at Cornell to study cows and that there are over 150 students just like me. While it may not be well known amongst Cornellians, the Cornell Dairy Science Department is a global leader in dairy innovation. The majority of the students in the dairy program come from family dairy farms around the country. For four years we study the best ways to raise, feed and care for cattle. Most of us will go on to have careers in marketing, nutrition, and production agriculture. We choose Cornell because of the knowledge we can gain and apply to the advancement of the dairy industry. While most of us may not be returning home after we graduate, we are pursuing careers that will improve the lives of those who do.

In order to improve the dairy industry, we, as the future leaders of the dairy industry, need to begin to breaking down some of the misconceptions that are farmers are facing. Movies, such as the recently released Food, Inc., show society a negative portrayal of the agricultural industry. They highlight the extreme circumstances, the isolated incidents that are a poor representation of the actual industry.

As Cornellians, we pride ourselves on our ability to absorb all available information. It’s time now to gain a bit of an agricultural education. A key issue that dairy farmers are currently dealing with on a daily basis involves the marketing of their milk and dairy products.

Go into any grocery store and you are likely to find a milk label that states that the product is “bST free” or “hormone free.” Both of these labeling techniques create a false belief in the consumer. Labeling is not stringently regulated by the USDA or FDA; the labels are generated by the marketing department of dairy processing plants to give the product a competitive advantage.

The truth is that all lactating dairy cows naturally have bST and hormones circulating in their body. As we should already know from our days in Biology 101, hormones are naturally produced in all biological creatures. Bovine somatotropin, bST, is a naturally occurring protein hormone that is produced in the pituitary gland of cows. rBST is bST that has been produced using recombination technology; the product was released to the market in 1994 by Monsanto. It is currently owned and marketed by Elanco Animal Health.

This product is injected into dairy cows to increase their efficiency of milk production, by preventing mammary cell death. Cows supplemented with bST produce approximately 10 percent more milk than they would on average. Milk produced by cattle given bST has undergone strict FDA testing and has been declared safe for human consumption; no significant difference exists between milk produced by treated and non-treated cows.

In today’s dairy industry, any advantage a farmer has to generate additional income is important. Milk prices are at an all-time low, making it harder for most farms to survive. Every additional dollar that a dairy farmer can make is crucial because it is one less that they have to take on in debt. While every shopper loves low milk prices, right now these low milk prices mean disaster for dairy farmers, especially those that are trying to help a child pay for a Cornell education.

So the next time you make the long trek up Tower Road to indulge in Cornell Dairy ice cream (and check off number 12), remember all the hard work that your fellow Cornellians are doing to ensure that the ice cream you consume is of the highest quality possible.

Amanda Smith is a junior in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. She may be reached at acs245@cornell.edu. Guest Room appears periodically this semester.

Original Author: Amanda Smith