March is dairy month, and to celebrate, team Project Food Awareness visited McCray's Farm in South Hadley, MA.
Zach St. Laurent and Rachelle Lemieux, juniors at Chicopee Comprehensive High School, got the opportunity to tour McCray's pasteurizing plant, which opened in July 2013. Mike McCray, the operator of the plant, showed off their impressive machinery (including a bottle washer from the 1930's), and explained the production process. First, the milk is separated into skim milk and cream, and then the correct percentage of cream is introduced back into the milk to make 1%, 2%, and whole milk. Then the milk is VAT pasteurized, meaning it is heated at a lower temperature for a longer time than quicker and hotter methods used by large store brands such as Hood. After the milk is pasteurized, it is homogenized, cooled, and then stored until there is enough volume to bottle and refrigerate it. McCray's works with All Star Dairy to distribute their milk to local supermarkets such as Big Y, and local schools such as Chicopee :) If everything in the process runs smoothly, McCray's milk can make it from the cow to the supermarket shelf in 24 hours.
After touring the plant, Mike showed us some of McCray's 55 dairy cows. Unfortunately, they are only milked twice a day at 4am and 4pm, and we weren't able to see the milking in action. Fortunately, however, we got to play with an adorable BABY COW!! (See pics below).
Overall, it was an awesome trip, despite the drizzly weather. If you haven't been to McCray's, you should definitely check it out! Their creamery opens back up this Wednesday, March 30th, and they have delicious homemade ice cream and other goodies. Also, if you're grocery shopping in the area, consider purchasing local and picking up some McCray's milk. Below is a list of local retailers who carry McCray's milk products.
Buy McCray's Here:
- Adam’s in Monson
- Armata’s in Longmeadow
- Arnold’s Meats in Chicopee
- Atkin’s Farm in Amherst
- Big Y in South Hadley and Chicopee
- Fruit Fair in Chicopee
- Valley Farms in Easthampton
McCray's milk is also being featured in Chicopee cafeterias to celebrate Mass Farm to School's Harvest of the Month program, which has designated March as "Dairy Month." Not only has our monthly taste test item (chocolate banana smoothies) used McCray's chocolate milk, but all 15 schools will use McCray's milk to make farm fresh chocolate pudding this thursday, March 30th. You can view our menus here to find out when local options are being served.
The ChicopeeFRESH team is a group of creative individuals who are working to feed Chicopee students healthy, local and FRESH foods each day.