We are proud to feature locally raised Mill-King milk as part of our new espresso menu! Now you can wake up to a cappuccino, latte, or whatever you crave, and know that your milk is from happy cows and your brew is Fair Trade. Is there any better way to start the day? To learn more about our beans, check out last week’s in.terview with Texas Coffee Traders.
in: How did Mill-King get its start?
M-K: Our family, the Millers, have owned and operated a dairy since 1941. Today’s operation is owned by Billy Miller (2nd generation) and Craig Miller (3rd generation). In 1941 Arnold and Minnie Miller moved to a new farm in the Crawford area and started milking cows there. They would sell the milk and cream at the farm or at the small general store in Crawford. Their small dairy grew over time…
The economy hit the dairy industry in 2010, and it was apparent that continuing in a conventional manner was not a viable option for the farm. The family started to explore alternative dairy options. Spurred by one family member’s allergy to milk and suggestions from a friend, the family looked into making raw milk cheese and selling raw milk.
During our research we found a need for low temperature pasteurized and non-homogenized dairy products. Our research found that this type of batch pasteurization was legal for transport off the farm for sales to retailers, restaurants, and end consumers. We learned that many people who have intolerances or side effects from “conventional grocery store milk” that is high or super high temp pasteurized, can actually drink this batch-pasteurized milk since it is free from additives, preservatives or chemicals.
From this the family farm began to change. All of our practices changed to promote unadulterated dairy products. We are very strict on what our cows eat, how they are treated, and how the milk is handled in our processing facility. We are passionate about our cows and getting their natural, wholesome milk to consumers.
in: What sets you apart from other dairy farms?
M-K: We are farmstead creamery. We make low temperature pasteurized, non-homogenized milk, cream and cheese. We are different from other dairy farms because we process our own milk. Most farms sell their milk to a co-op that then sells the milk to processors where it is processed then sold to distributors then to stores/restaurants etc. We do most of the process ourselves. We do everything from raising the calves to delivering the milk to distributors.
At one time we actually delivered every gallon we made; however, as we have grown that is one area that we have had to outsource. We needed to spend more time making good milk and not making deliveries. Other areas that make us different from other dairy farmers are that we grass feed our herd the majority of the year, and we grow as much of our feed as possible. We only use non-GMO seeds and feed sources. We also follow organic standards for the treatment of our animals and our land.
in: What is special about your cows?
M-K: We have a mixture of Holstein, Brown Swiss and Jersey cattle. This mix of breeds creates a very smooth tasting milk with high butterfat. Our cows are also grass-fed. This promotes healthier cows. We see less stomach issues, illnesses and feet issues than we did when we fed them a diet rich in corn and soy. Healthier cows make better milk in our experience. However, research has also shown that dairy cattle eating grass rich diets have more Omega-3s and CLAs in their milk, which benefits our diets.
in: Why is it important to do things like you do? Is it more challenging or expensive?
M-K: It’s important to do things as we do, because that is what makes our milk excellent. It is important to treat and feed the cows as we do because it effects our product. It is much harder. Previously we were a dairy farm. Now, in addition to being dairy farmers we are also a fluid processors, cheesemakers and a delivery company. Things are much more complex.
We went into this endeavor trying to make life easier; however, the last few years have been a roller coaster of trying to keep up with demand. It is a toss up whether it is more expensive. We have less costs on the feed aspect because we are growing and harvesting our own; however, we have the labor costs the processing facility and drivers. The up side is that, due to its value, we are able charge more for our product (although dairy farmers today aren’t actually paid what their milk is worth). Our product is a high-end product that does not meet the needs of every consumer.
in: What is the biggest factor drawing coffee makers to your company?
M-K: People are drawn to our product for a variety of reasons. Some people find it because they are looking for product that will not affect their milk allergies and it’s the closest to completely raw that you can get for many in the large cities. Some are looking for humanely treated animals, some for a direct link back to the farm, some are looking for a pure product without all of the artificial stuff, and finally some are looking for a great tasting product. So many coffee roasters and coffee shops minimally source their beans, or take great care with the roasting of those beans, so naturally they want to pair that with an excellent source of milk. When you compare a side-by-side taste of our milk with conventional store milk, there is a distinct difference.
in: Anything else you’d like to say about Mill-King?
M-K: We are very appreciative to all of our customers. We would not be here today without the customers that are passionate about our product. We started out this business with different objectives, but today I feel like we are in it for the consumers. I hate getting a call that a mother is in a grocery store trying to buy our milk for her child that can only drink Mill-King without side effects. We know how important it is for a product such as ours to be available for people. We also want to make sure that the coffee roasters or chefs that are goingthe extra mile for their products have a dairy product that they can trust and that highlights the products they are making.