Milk From the Cow to Victory Circle

For me, the most exciting part of the Indianapolis 500 is not the lead changes, the lightning-fast pit stops, or the enthusiastic crowd–I love the traditions and ceremonies the winner of the race uses to celebrate victory. The Borg-Warner Trophy. The wreath. Kissing the bricks. And, of course, drinking milk!

The Bottle of Milk at the Indianapolis 500 begins the same way your gallon of milk does–on a farm. Often beginning at 3 a.m., cows start ambling in to the milking parlor to be milked. Cows are typically milked two or three times a day–although some farms have robots that can milk the cows anytime they want! Find out more about that here.

A cow will spend about ten minutes being milked each time she comes in to the parlor to be milked. Her udder is cleaned and then the milking machine is attached. The machines use vacuum suction to gently milk her. Milk is warm (101 degree Fahrenheit!) when it leaves the cow but is quickly chilled to about 37 degrees in the farm’s bulk tank. The bulk tank is a refrigerated tank where milk is held until a milk truck picks it up. The milk truck will come every day or every other day to pick up a farm’s milk.

When the milk truck driver (the “hauler”) gets to the farm, he or she takes a sample of milk from the farm’s tank. This milk will be tested for antibiotics at the plant. If the milk tests positive, the entire tanker truck of milk has to be dumped down the drain and the farmer responsible is held financially liable for all that milk (perhaps as much as $8-10,000 of milk). Farmers make sure to keep any cows recovering from an illness separate from the rest of the herd so they don’t have a problem with their milk. Out of nearly 3.2 million samples of milk tanker trucker loads last year, only 445, or 0.014 percent, tested positive for antibiotics. These tankers were dumped down the drain. In the last five years, no pasteurized milk or dairy product has tested positive for antibiotics.

Once the milk is unloaded from the truck, it is pasteurized for safety. Milk that is destined to become cheese, yogurt, ice cream, cottage cheese, or any other dairy product then begins its transformation into that tasty treat.

The gallon of milk you buy at the grocery store (or the convenient milk chug you pick up on-the-go at a convenience store!) arrived on the store’s shelves 48 hours after it left the farm. The milk in your fridge traveled an average of only 100 miles from the cow to your grocery store. Check out to see where exactly your milk came from.

Whether Indiana dairy farms are producing milk for your family or for a Victory Circle celebration on Race Day, milk is one of the safest, most nutrient-rich, fresh, and simple one-ingredient drink money can buy (and at less than 25 cents a glass, it’s a bargain, too!).