Locally-grown produce is one of the biggest trends of this past decade. People are slowly moving towards supporting local farmers and recognizing the work that goes into growing our food. But what about milk? I grew up in India where milk and yoghurt were an essential part of our daily diet. Today with family food sensitivities, my relationship with dairy is more complicated. Despite this change though, after years of researching and writing about food, it is clear to me that we should support local dairy farmers. Canadian dairy, in particular.
Milk is a big part of my early memories. As a child, my mom used to wake my brother and me up every morning with a cup of milk. That first sip of malted cocoa (Bournvita) and hot milk would get me to jump out of bed. When I had kids, this was just one of the many traditions I borrowed from my parents. What I wasn’t ready for, though? Food allergies!
Dairy is a big part of traditional healing wisdom in India. Generations of families choose yoghurt to bolster gut-health and immunity. In addition to yoghurt, there’s the benefits of turmeric milk. Haldi doodh is an ancient immunity-boosting remedy in India long before Golden Milk became a trendy hashtag.
Family Dairy Sensitivities
Dairy has always been a big part of my childhood meals. I was glad that it didn’t take much for my older daughter to love dairy in all forms, especially her early morning cuppa.
But things changed when we discovered that our younger one had food allergies — and suddenly dairy was top of the list of no-no’s. No milk, butter, ghee, cheese, kefir and the biggest miss of all, no yoghurt. The last one was particularly hard since till then I had been encouraging my kids to have yoghurt with every meal.
I found cooking very hard in those early months, and menu planning became a very “unfun” adventure. If you cook (or eat) Indian food then you know how hard it is to skip dairy…and tomatoes – also on her no-no list – but that is a story for another day.
Fast forward many years and dairy is back on the menu, mostly!
What I Found About Canadian Dairy
The years of researching the effects of dairy for my kiddo I found one thing – Canadian dairy is exceptional! Not only is Canadian dairy artificial growth hormone-free, but most Canadian milk comes from small, locally owned family farms. There are 10,670 dairy farms around Canada and most of them (98%) are family-owned and operated with an average herd size of <100 cows.
I have attended a number of events over the years hosted by the Dairy Farmers of Canada and Ontario Dairy Farmers. The warmth that the farming families feel towards their land and their herd is obvious in every interaction. The industry is also constantly innovating and finding more sustainable and SAFE ways to farm — for the workers, customers and the cattle. The variety of Canadian dairy that is available at grocery stores is AMAZING and it makes it easy to support local dairy farmers.
What is A2 Milk?
One example of innovation that I am very excited for personally is the launch of A2 milk in Canada. This is regular milk that contains A2 beta-casein protein (where most milk contains a mix of A1/ A2). My hubby who has been lactose-intolerant for many years is able to have A2 milk comfortably. Of course, this is based on my observations and the sample size of one (my hubby) but in the meanwhile, YAY, DAIRY, right?
There is a lot of anecdotal evidence around the health benefits of A2 milk in India, and how it is easier to digest for many people. I have been looking for it for many years here in Canada. Imagine my surprise when I found it at my local farmers market.
If you are lactose-intolerant and are willing to try A2 Milk out, check out Sheldon Creek Dairy farms. They offer their entire range including A2 Milk on their website, in various stores and they sell it every Sunday at their kiosk in St Lawrence Market in Toronto.
Note: I have not been paid to share this information with you. I have attended a number of events hosted by Ontario Dairy and the Dairy Farmers of Canada and what I am sharing with you here is my honest opinion.
Support Local Dairy Farmers
For Canadians it is simple. Buy dairy that features the Dairy Farmers of Canada’s logo — it is a cow, usually blue or black, with the Canadian maple leaf. Milk, cheese, butter, ghee et al bearing the Dairy Farmers of Canada logo means that the food is made with 100% Canadian milk, and buying it directly supports Canadian dairy farmers and processors. If you live elsewhere, find out more about your local milk supply, and support your local dairy farmer.
Recently I received a copy of the new Milk Calendar. It has a variety of recipes from chefs and food experts around Canada. You can order your own milk calendar here. Reading through it I was reminded of how much I love cooking with dairy in all forms. So here’s my milky recipe. Kheer.
Indian Kheer — Rice Pudding
Kheer is a sweet rice dessert that is really a celebration of milk. There are many different versions of this family recipe, but I have to say my mom makes the best kheer. It is milk that is simmered for hours and turned into a decadent, mellow, UNFORGETTABLE rice pudding. Here’s the recipe!