Is That Cow Manure I Smell?

The following post is written by Robin Hughes, Dietetic Intern, Ball State University. 

Internships are exciting, yet challenging at the same time.  Challenging, because a ginormous amount of information is thrown at you in just a matter of months.  I am currently in a dietetic internship with Ball State University, which is a non-paid internship that lasts about 8 months.  During this internship, I have about 4 different rotations: food service, medical nutrition therapy (clinical), and two different community businesses.

One of my community business rotations landed me at a small, not-for-profit organization, nestled in a row of offices in north Indianapolis.  There are only 9 employees, in which they consider each other as family; noticeable by the friendly banter, personal hand scrub in the cozy, homelike bathrooms, and the cow-dressed kitchen that reminds you of your grandma’s house out on the farm (good smells and a huge collection of cow paraphernalia).

No day is ever the same, as one day you may be wiping cow manure off your shoes and others you may be scrubbing the grime off life-size crazy looking plastic cows that look way too happy to be holding milkshakes.  This is the American Dairy Association of Indiana.

I knew, sitting in that first Monday morning meeting, that this was an office that genuinely cared about one another and loved their jobs.  Coffee is brewed every morning, usually by the first person who gets to the office, and the refrigerator is stocked with any kind of dairy product you might have a hankering for: cottage cheese, chocolate milk, white milk, cheese sticks, yogurt, and the list could go on.  These ladies not only love their jobs, but love their dairy as well; and rightly so, as dairy (especially milk and yogurt) has lots of that good stuff in it to keep our bodies strong and healthy – protein, calcium, Vitamin D, and B Vitamins.  Plus, some of this dairy may be low-fat and even full fat, but by no means should you dare purchase them fat free dairy – an abomination!  There is misconception that full fat dairy is bad; however, this is not the case.  Research has shown that full fat dairy is not the cause of weight gain in adults and dairy fat, in moderation, can be beneficial.  Therefore, do not torture yourself by drinking skim if you love 2% or whole; just drink the whole milk and maybe skip the dessert later (remember, eating healthy is not deprivation, but a give and take).

Another good thing about dairy is that research has shown chocolate milk to be one of the most beneficial recovery drinks after endurance races.  The carb to protein ratio is pretty much perfect for recovery; therefore, you may find these ladies heaving chocolate milk around at running events in Indiana.  If you happen to run into one of these lovely ladies, smile and say thanks for spreading the dairy message.  You can also chit chat with some of the ladies when you order your grilled cheese and milkshake from the Dairy Bar at the Indiana State Fair in August!

In this four weeks that I have been here, I have learned quite a bit about the dairy industry here in Indiana.  Did you know that Indiana has over 1,000 dairy farms, the majority being family owned and operated?  And did you know that technology has come so far that robotics are milking cows automatically, without the assistance of a human?  Finally, did you know that once a cow is milked, that milk will be on it’s way to the shelf of your grocery store within 48 hours?  The list could go on….

I have also learned that this small office of ladies work very hard to spread knowledge and education on dairy, and how it gets from cow to table.  So wave to the lady driving around in the car wrapped in cow print, and thank your local dairy farmer.  Stop to smell the dairy in the air and don’t be afraid to get a little manure on your shoe, because without it, we wouldn’t have all the delicious dairy products on our grocery shelves (chocolate moose tracks ice cream, my favorite!).

P.S. – Cow manure is picked up and recycled for fertilizer, bedding, electricity, and waste management.  Doesn’t that smell great!


If you would like to gain more knowledge on dairy, here are some links for some of the facts and information listed above: