Our Process

Our organic products are among the most supremely natural and nutritious dairy products on the market. That’s because we believe in doing less—not more—when it comes to our food. Our milk comes from small, sustainable farms with average herds of 35 cows. We process the milk at the lowest temperature possible, allowing us to deliver our products in their most natural state. That means Kalona SuperNatural™ products not only taste fresh, they are fresh.

Our supremely natural process means our products taste different and look different. Because our milk is non-homogenized the cream naturally floats to the top and thickens. This is the true sign of milk in its natural state. The cream naturally separates and rises to the top, allowing customers to skim it off or shake it into our milk, yogurt, cottage cheese, half ‘n half, buttermilk, and more. This cream is rich in vitamins and minerals, and it’s easier on the digestion system.

Grade A

Grade A milk is produced under specific sanitary conditions–on the dairy farm and in the dairy plant–that are established and regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).  All fluid milk sold for human consumption in the U.S. is Grade A.  Grade B milk, which does not meet these standards, is regulated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), and can be used in products such as cheese, butter, and non-fat dry milk.

We use Grade A milk in all Kalona SuperNatural products with the exception of our cheeses.

Non-Homogenized

We do not homogenize Kalona SuperNatural™ milk because we believe that milk should be processed as little as possible, and consumed in the most natural state possible.  Homogenization, which is not necessary for any food safety reason, destroys the sweet, creamy taste of fresh milk and alters its molecular structure.

Perhaps the best way to explain why we do not homogenize milk is to explain what homogenization is.  Homogenization is a mechanical process that transforms the two, separate components of whole fresh milk– cream and low-fat milk–into one smooth beverage.  To accomplish this, fresh milk is heated and pumped through tiny nozzles at high pressure.  The pressure tears the fat globules of the cream into tiny particles, which then disperse evenly throughout the low-fat milk.  These tiny fat particles are extremely susceptible to rancidity, but pasteurization prevents homogenized milk from spoiling.

When homogenized milk was introduced in the early 20th century, consumers did not buy it because it was missing the chief sign of high quality milk: a thick layer of cream on top.  One historian notes that it was not until after World War II, when opaque milk cartons were introduced to the market (and home delivery of glass bottles dwindled) that homogenized milk became the dominant form of milk consumed in the U.S.

Thus, neither consumer demand nor health concerns prompted the shift to homogenized milk.  Instead, economic reasons played the key role.  Prior to homogenization, the cream content in whole milk was random, and varied from 3% to 8% or more.  But homogenization introduced a definition of whole milk that established the minimum cream content (which soon became the standard cream content) at 3.25%.  This allowed milk processors to use the “extra” cream in other products, such as butter.

Because most of us have been raised on homogenized milk, we may not know what to expect when we buy our first bottle of non-homogenized milk.  After it sits for 12-24 hours, fresh non-homogenized milk separates into a layer of light, high-fat cream (sometimes called the “cream top”) and a much larger, more dense layer of low-fat milk. Over time, the cream becomes thicker, and after a few days it may nearly solidify into a cream “plug.”  This is a natural occurrence in non-homogenized milk.  When you shake the bottle the plug will loosen and break up into the milk, although many folks like to spoon it out for their coffee or to eat it on their cereal as a special treat.

Non- homogenized milk also has a naturally sweeter flavor than homogenized milk because whole cream has a silky texture that is lost when the fat globules are broken apart.  It also has a richer flavor, even the 2% and fat free, because our skimming process never removes 100% of the cream.

Professional and amateur chefs recommend non-homogenized dairy products as ingredients to make the best cheese, yogurt, ice cream, whipped cream, or other dairy-based foods at home or in elegant restaurants.

Grass-Fed

Our farmers know that cows do best when they can harvest their own feed from the pastures around them.

Our cows eat a complex diet of native and managed plants and grasses that changes throughout the seasons.  Much of the year, the herds harvest their own feed from the farms’ pastures, choosing different feed depending on the weather, the cow’s health, the land on the farm, how close the cow is to giving birth, and the time of year.

Pastures may contain just one or two, or up to dozens of species of plants and grasses.  Thus, our cows’ diets range from fresh pasture grasses such as indiangrass or switchgrass in early summer, to orchardgrass, ryegrass, or clover in mid-summer.  Most surprising cow food choice in fall?  Turnips!

During the winter months when the ground is frozen solid in the Midwest, our farmers provide their cows with stored forage, typically grown on the farm or purchased from nearby farms.  Depending on the farmer and the situation, winter feed may include one, some, or all of the following organic foods:  roasted soybeans (for protein); corn (for energy); barley, hay, haylage, balealge, silage, or wheat.

Pasteurization

The practice of using heat to extend the life of food dates to the Middle Ages, when wine and beer were heated to prevent them from souring.  Thus, when Louis Pasteur developed the process of pasteurization in 1864, his goal was to lengthen the life of his favorite wine.  Once it was discovered that pasteurizing milk not only lengthened its shelf life, but also destroyed deadly microorganisms that spread diseases, pasteurizing milk became a widespread practice in Europe, and slowly caught on in the U.S.

Reformers pushed for pasteurization in the U.S. in response to a growing public health crisis in the early 20th century: the spread of infectious diseases through unsafe “slop milk” produced in urban dairies that were located next to whiskey distilleries.  In 1908, Chicago was the first city to require that all milk sold within its limits be pasteurized, and in 1924, the U.S. Public Health Service developed the Standard Milk Ordinance to assist states with voluntary pasteurization programs.  By the late 1940s, all milk sold in the U.S. was required by law to be pasteurized.  Historians agree that pasteurizing milk led to a significant decline in the spread of infectious diseases and the infant mortality rate in urban areas.

Different  methods of pasteurization affect the taste and quality of milk in different ways.  At Kalona SuperNatural ™, we use two methods of low temperature pasteurization:

  • Batch pasteurization (also called vat pasteurization).  All milk was initially pasteurized in this manner.  A batch pasteurizer consists of a temperature-controlled, closed vat.  The milk is pumped into the vat, heated slowly to a minimum temperature of 145° Fahrenheit, held at that temperature for a minimum of 30 minutes, cooled, and then pumped out of the vat.  This method is relatively rare today, and is used mainly by local and regional creameries.  The milk in Kalona SuperNatural™ fluid milk, butter, sour cream, and yogurt has been batch pasteurized.
  • High Temperature/Short Time (HTST) pasteurization.  To pasteurize larger quantities of milk in a more efficient manner, creameries began developing new processes as early as 1893.  Today, HTST is the most common form of pasteurization in the milk industry.  In an HTST processor,  the milk flows continuously through a series of thin metal plates that are heated by hot water.  The milk is heated to a minimum of 161° Fahrenheit for at least 15 seconds, and then rapidly cooled.  The milk in Kalona SuperNatural™ cottage cheese, cheese, and Greek yogurt has been HTST pasteurized.

Milk that has been pasteurized at low temperatures differs significantly from milk that has been pasteurized through higher temperature methods, which include Higher Heat Shorter Time (HHST), Ultra Pasteurized (UP), and Ultra High Temperature (UHT).  UP milk, for example, is heated to a minimum of 280° F for a minimum of two seconds, while UHT milk is heated to temperatures between 275° and 300° F, using commercially sterile equipment to produce a shelf stable product that does not require refrigeration until it has been opened.

At Kalona SuperNatural™, we believe that low temperature pasteurization is preferable.

First, low temperature pasteurization destroys dangerous pathogens, but not the helpful bacteria that our bodies need.  Lower temperatures also preserve the fabulous, fresh flavor of milk.  Customers tell us that drinking Kalona SuperNatural™ milk takes them back to their childhood days of drinking fresh milk on the farm.

No Added Hormones

Our milk contains no added hormones and comes from cows that are all vegetarian fed with non-GMO feed. The result of these processes means customers get the freshest and most natural milk that can be sold in a store. It is exactly what natural food consumers and those looking for healthy food choices for their families are hoping to find.

Small Family Farms

All of our products come from small farms in the Midwest. In fact, they largely come from small, Amish / Mennonite family farms where the average daily herd is 35 cows and where most of the work is still done by hand. Many of these farms—most of which are on about 90 tillable acres—have been in the same family for 150 years and have never been touched by chemical herbicides or pesticides.

Kalona SuperNatural™ is committed to helping small farmers make organic farming a viable lifestyle. We strive to keep our products local and to ensure a fair and stable pay price. But our farmers tell us the biggest advantage to working with Kalona SuperNatural™ is that they can focus on working in the fields instead of worrying about sales and marketing. By spending more time in the field, our farmers are able to increase their level of production, which is essential to the success of any small farmer.