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Know Your Milk

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As I was making my coffee this morning, I decided to find out where my America’s Choice-brand milk was processed.

Getting the answer was quick and easy, thanks to the website whereismymilkfrom.com. I simply looked for a code on the carton, and entered into a field on the site. Viola! I instantly found out the milk came from Farmland Dairies in Wallington, N.J.

I could have received the same information from FDA's Interstate Milk Shippers List, but the whereismymilkfrom site is much more user-friendly. I was so intrigued with what I learned that I quickly cleared out all the dairy products in my fridge — including yogurt and butter — and entered their codes as well. The site also tracks these categories, as well as sour cream, cottage cheese, ice cream and other dairy products.

I’m far from a locavore, but it’s interesting to find out just how far my milk traveled from the cow to my Long Island, N.Y., supermarket’s refrigerated case. Along with the name and location of the dairy, the website provides a regional map showing exactly where the dairy is located, along with other products processed at the plant.

While some retailers take the guesswork out by using shelf tags identifying if a product is “local,” there is no single definition in terms of the geographic distance between production and consumption. That’s why it’s so useful to get the name and exact location of the company. It lets the consumer determine if it meets his/her standards.

The website comes at a time when locally produced foods generated an estimated $7 billion in sales last year, up from $4.8 billion in 2008, according a U.S. Department of Agriculture report. Trevor Fitzgerald of Seattle created whereismymilkfrom.com last year as a then-MBA student at Brigham Young University studying information systems. He reportedly was surprised to learn that different brands of milk often come from the same dairy. In April, Fitzgerald added new features, including detailed dairy profiles, a blog, the latest in health and dairy news and an online store.

He plans to include dairy compliance ratings in the near future.

Lynn Dornblaser, director of innovation and insight at research firm Mintel, mentioned the website at the FMI show in a presentation about new product trends on May 1. She said it’s a hint of what could come as consumers increasingly seek easy ways to eat healthier and help the environment.

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