There are dairy farms in all 50 states, but that doesn’t mean the milk in your refrigerator came from anywhere nearby.
Trace your milk with Where is My Milk From?
The website decodes the numbers stamped on your milk packaging and identifies its source based on the FDA system known as FIPS (Federal Information Processing Standards). To find the FIPS number, look for the string of numbers near the sell-by date stamped on your carton or jug. There may be different sequences of numbers depending on the brand, but the part of the sequence you’re looking for has a two-digit number followed by a hyphen and then another number, which could be two to four digits.
The two-digit number before the hyphen identifies the state.
The number after the hyphen identifies the specific processor.
The results can be surprising or even unsettling.
A lot of milk is taking cross-country jaunts—more than ever before. In recent years dairy production has been quietly gravitating to a handful of states that house gigantic factory farms, and they’re driving small, locally-owned dairies out of business. Since 2001, the number of large dairy farms with 2,000 or more cows has more than doubled from 325 to nearly 800, while almost 35,000 small farms (500 or fewer cows) have disappeared. We used to get most of our milk from smaller farms, but not any more. The big dairies tripled their market share in the last decade.
Not just farm to table. Now it’s farm to fridge.
We’re all too familiar with the dark side of factory farming, from the mistreatment of animals to threats to public health. The virtues of local food systems are equally well-documented. Where is My Milk From? is welcomed for the way it sheds light on our notoriously opaque supply chain.