Artisanal processing refers to making a value-added product from a raw agricultural material, in this case MILK, using traditional, usually labor-intensive, hands-on practices. In the old days lots of farmers' wives made butter and cheese for sale to their neighbors. But over the years farms have given up these direct sales, mostly because of increased regulation, and now most sell only raw milk to big dairy cooperatives, which ship the milk thousands of miles and subject the milk to nutrient-depleting processing methods. What farmers get paid for raw milk sometimes doesn't even cover their costs, while processors rake in big bucks on "value-added" products that consist of over-processed milk, further corrupted by a variety of chemicals, artificial flavors, colors, packaging and other treatments. Small dairy farms are on the edge, being pushed out by large farms that are producing too much milk, which causes prices paid to the farmers to go down, though retail prices rise due to fancy packaging, greedy management and profit-hungry investors. Making dairy products on the farm gives the mom-and-pop operation a chance to recapture some of the profits ordinarily lost to middlemen, while offering consumers a closer link to the source of their dairy foods and, in most cases, more wholesome products. Thanks to an increasing sophistication about wholesome foods and local production, the farmstead and artisan dairy movement is growing rapidly in the U.S.
Got Milk? smalldairy.com has resources you can use! Established in 1998 to assist small commercial dairies in finding information about on-farm and artisanal processing, this site now also serves homesteaders and suburban kitchen cheesemakers.Want Milk? (cheese, butter, yogurt, ice cream, kefir?) We can help you find dairy sources, including local cheesemakers, bottlers and other small-scale dairy processors.
Update on BookstoreIt turns out that we didn’t have to close the smalldairy bookstore after all!The free version of the store allows for ten items, so we’ve kept it open. You can also find dairy books in our Amazon store.