Glossary of Milk, Cheese and Dairy Terms
- Antibiotic: a medication that kills or
slows the growth of harmful bacteria. When cow's become ill with
a bacterial infection, just like with humans, they are treated
with antibiotics Even organic milk cows may be treated, to
save their lives. In ewither case, cows that are treated with an
antibiotic are milked separately from the healthy herd. and the
milk is not sold until both testing and time have passed to
prove they are clear of illness and antibiotics.
- Artificial Insemination
(AI): An advanced breeding process that involves collecting
sperm from a male, inspecting it for quality and freezing it
until it is ready to be artificially inserted into a female.
Studies show that AI is safer and more efficient than using
natural insemination. In addition, AI is one of many modern
techniques that helps dairy farmers improve the genetics of
- Biodynamic: You'll see this on the
label of milks sourced from farms that use the biodynamic
farming method. Biodynamic farming shares principles with
organic farming (such as requiring that any fertilizers used are
based on biodegradable material of microbial, plant or animal
origin produced from organic practices) but has additional
requirements for enhancing the soil's structure and nutrient
Genetic engineering: A technology based on biology that is used for
agricultural, food science or medicinal purposes. In
agriculture, the process involves creating or modifying DNA to
impart beneficial genetic traits.
- Bovine: Of the biological subfamily Bovinae. This diverse
group features about 24 species of medium sized to large ungulates (animals with
hoofs) such as domestic cattle. Other members include bison,
water buffalo and yak.
- Bulk Tank: A refrigerated,
stainless steel storage tank located at the dairy, designed to
hold milk as soon as it leaves the cow. The milk is cooled
immediately in the bulk tank, usually to 35-39 degrees F.The
milk is then collected by a bulk tank truck and shipped to a
- Bull: An adult male dairy animal. Young
male dairy animals are known as bull calves.
- Butter: Butter
is produced by churning the fat from milk or cream until it
solidifies. The butter mass is washed and sometimes salted to
improve keeping qualities.
- Calf: A young
female dairy animal before she has matured. A young male is
called a bull calf.
- Casein: The dominant protein (80
percent) in cow's milk. Casein is vital to cheese making, and has
a variety of uses in manufacturing as well.
creates a genetic “twin” of another animal. A cloned animal has
the same DNA as its parent, much like identical twins share
the same DNA. Many types of animals have been cloned in the past
20 years. The process involves transferring genetic material
from one animal to the egg of another, then implanting the
embryo in a host female for conventional development and birth.
- Colostrum: The first milk given by a dairy cow following birth
that is rich in fat and protein and has immunity elements.
Colostrum is given to newborn calves in the first 24 hours of
- Cream: Milk is separated by large
machines in bulk. Cream is the high-fat milk product separated
from milk. The cream is processed and used to produce various
products with varying names, such as “heavy cream” or
“whipping cream.” Cream contains at least 18% milk fat. Some
cream is dried and powdered and some is condensed by
evaporation and canned.
- Cud: The partially digested food
that is regurgitated from the first compartment of the cow's
stomach into the mouth to be chewed again. A cow may spend
seven hours a day consuming food and an additional 10 hours a
day chewing her cud.
- Curd: The clumps of protein and other
milk components that are formed during the cheese making
process. Curds are pressed into blocks or barrels for proper
aging and curing of the cheese.
- Dry Cows: A cow that is not producing
milk (lactating). The “dry” period lasts 50-70 days when a cow
is preparing to give birth to a calf, which begins a new
- Factory Farm: A term used
to refer to larger-scale farms. According to USDA, 99% of dairy
farms in the U.S. are family-owned and operated.
Farm: Proprietorships, partnerships or family operations that do
not have hired managers. A recent USDA report shows that 99%
of dairy farms in the U.S. are family-owned and operated.
Forage: Cow feed that is high in fiber and low in digestible
nutrients. Examples include whole plants of corn, small
grains (such as oats, barley, or wheat), legumes and grasses.
- Freestall Barn: A type of facility to house dairy cows that
provides the animals with a clean, dry, comfortable resting
area and easy access to food and water. The cows are not
restrained and are free to enter, lie down, rise and leave
the barn whenever they desire.
- Fresh Cow: A cow that has
recently given birth to a calf.
- Guernsey: A small,
cream-and-brown breed of dairy cattle that produces more milk
per unit of body weight than any other breed. Guernseys are
renowned for the high butterfat content of their milk. The
Guernsey was bred on the British Channel Island of Guernsey and
descended from cattle stock brought from nearby Normandy.
- Hay: Dried feed such as rye, alfalfa, clover, grass
and oats, which is used as a food source for dairy cows. A
hay pasture is mowed and the trimmings dry in the sun for two to
three days. The hay is then gathered by a piece of farm
machinery called a baler that processes it into varying sizes of
bales, which can be rectangular or round.
- Heifer: A
female dairy animal that has yet to give birth to a calf.
Herd: A grouping of cows on a dairy farm. Cows are often placed
into herds with other cows of their age or milking status
such as dry cows and heifers.
- Holstein: A black and white
dairy cow (though there are some “Red Holsteins”) that is the
most predominant breed of dairy cattle worldwide. The
Holstein originated in the province of Friesland, The
Netherlands. They are known for having the highest milk
production of all of the breeds of dairy cattle.
- Homogenized: Refers to milk and dairy that
have been mixed to reduce the fat
globules in size, so they no longer separate and float to the
top. The process prevents the cream from separating out and
gives the milk a more uniform color. Fat floats on top of milk
that has not been homogenized.
- Hormone: A chemical messenger from one cell
(or group of cells) to another. Hormones are naturally
produced by nearly every organ system and tissue type in a human
or animal body. All milk naturally contains hormones.
References to hormones on milk packaging refer to whether the
dairy farmers producing that milk use a supplemental hormone
with their cows.
Jersey: A breed of dairy cattle that is renowned for the high
butterfat content of its milk. Jersey cows are smaller than
other breeds (800 to 1,200 pounds) and are known for their big
eyes, honey-brown color and docile natures.
- Lactation: The secretion of milk from the cow's udder.
- Mastitis: An inflammation of a dairy
cow's milk ducts while she is lactating. Mastitis is usually
caused by bacteria and can be treated with antibiotics.
Methane Digester: Technology that converts cow manure into
methane gas that is burned as fuel to generate electricity.
- Milk fat, this is the fatty portion of milk. Milk and cream are
often sold according to the amount of butterfat they contain.
In the United States, there are federal standards for
butterfat content of dairy products.
- Milking Machines: Machinery used by dairy farmers to extract
milk from cows. Electronic milking machines use a pulsating
vacuum that simulates the effect of a suckling calf. The
machines do not cause any harm or discomfort to the cows and
they keep the milk safe from external contamination.
Milking Parlor: A specialized area on the dairy farm where the
milking process is performed. Cows are brought into the
parlor two or three times a day. Parlors come in many types and
names, including flat barn, herringbone, parallel, swing,
walk-through and rotary.
- Organic milk comes from
organically farmed animals fed a variety of foods natural to
their diet, and allowed free movement and natural light and
ventilation while inside. In ordered to be labeled "organic" it
must meet the USDA's National Organic Program standards. and be certified.
- Pasteurized milk and dairy products have been
briefly heat-treated to kill bugs and
prevent spoilage. It's particularly important that milk produced
on an industrial scale is pasteurized. Collecting and pooling
milk from many different farms increases the risk that a given
batch will be contaminated, and the plumbing and machinery
needed for the various stages of processing also increase
opportunities for contamination. Pasteurization DOES NOT affect
the taste or nutritional value of milk. Pasteurization has been
recognized around the world as an essential tool for protecting
public health. The process was named after its inventor,
French scientist Louis Pasteur.
- Pasture: Land at a dairy
farm that is lush with vegetation cover such as grasses or
legumes and is used for grazing dairy cows.
Any substance created to prevent, destroy or repel pests — such
as insects, plant pathogens, weeds, nematodes and microbes —
that destroy property, spread disease or are a nuisance. The EPA
has strict regulations about farm practices involving the use
of pesticides and the FDA tightly monitors foods for
- Processing Plant: A facility that
pasteurizes, homogenizes and packages milk that comes directly
from dairy farms. Once the milk leaves the processing plant,
it is available to the public through a variety of channels,
including grocery stores, schools and restaurants.
- Raw Milk: Raw milk is milk that has not been
pasteurized. See this page for more information
- rBGH or rbST: bST (bovine
somatotropin) is a protein hormone that occurs naturally in all
dairy cows.Some farmers choose to supplement some of their
cows with rbST, also known as bovine growth hormone (rBGH), to
help increase milk production. The safety of milk from rbST-supplemented cows has been affirmed and reaffirmed since
it was approved for use in the U.S. in the early 1990s.
- Rumen: Cows have one stomach that is divided
into four compartments, the largest being the rumen. The
rumen allows cows to regurgitate forage and re-chew their cud
for further digestion.
- Ruminant: Any hooved animal, such as
a dairy cow, that digests its food by first eating the raw
material and then regurgitating a semi-digested form known as
cud. These animals then eat their cud, a process called
ruminating. Other ruminants include goats, sheep, camels,
llamas, giraffes, bison, buffalo and deer.
- Silage: Fermented, high-moisture forage that is eaten
by grazing animals such as dairy cows. Silage is most often
made from grass crops such as corn or sorghum and retains a
great deal of the nutrients present in the plant.
A storage facility on farms that is designed to store silage.
- Skim Milk: The product left after the cream is removed from
milk is called skim, skimmed or fat-free milk.
Cell Count (SCC): The number of white blood cells per milliliter
of milk or measurement of the number of somatic cells present
in a sample of milk. All milk naturally contains some somatic
cells, which enable cows to fight infection and ensure good
health. Farmers routinely monitor their herds for somatic
cell counts as a general gauge of the cow's well-being.
- Teat: The appendage on a cow's udder through which milk from
the udder flows. Dairy cows commonly have four teats.
TMR (Total Mixed Ration): A nutritionally-balanced blend of
forage and grain ingredients mixed by a machine to specific
rations. This method allows cows to consume the desired
proportion of forages when two or more forages are offered.
- Udder: The encased group of mammary glands on a dairy
- UHT or Long-life milk has been pasteurized using the ultra-high temperature (UHT) method. If
packaged under strictly sterile conditions, it can be stored for
months without refrigeration.
- Wet Solids - Condensed milk, skim milk, or whey may be
referred to as wet solids, to distinguish from dry solids in the form of nonfat
dry milk or dried whey powder..
- Whey: The watery part of milk that separates from the
curds during the cheese-making process. The composition of
whey varies considerably, depending on the milk source and the
manufacturing process involved. Typically, it contains about
93.3 percent water and 6.5 percent lactose, protein, minerals,
enzymes; water-soluble vitamins and 0.2% fat.
- Yogurt is fermented milk, lowfat milk, or
skim milk, sometimes protein- fortified. Fruit, flavors and
sugars may be added. Milk solids content is commonly 15 percent.
Most yogurt is high in protein and low in calories. Sometimes
referred to as refrigerated yogurt to distinguish from frozen
yogurt, an ice cream-like product.
Utah Dairy Council