Real California Milk

The Unique History & Our Sustainable Future

We will always be transparent: this article is not sponsored by Real California Milk.

Happy Holstiens at Point Reyes Farmstead Chees Co.

In the Golden state of California, agriculture is just as important as the movie stars and beautiful beaches. Along with to world-famous wine to fresh produce, California milk is one of the American leaders in milk production that supports the economy — and now the planet.

A History

The history of California milk predates the Declaration of Independence, in the year 1769.

With a steep hispanic history, it is no surprise that the original cheese makers in California were the native Mexican population — particularly at the Spanish missionaries with Franciscan monks like Father Junipero Serra. According to this document from California State Parks Department, “milk was their ‘chief subsistence’ at Mission San Carlos in Carmel, [while] other records show that as early as 1776 women were making cheese and butter at Mission San Gabriel.” The dairy trade later changed when settlers from the east came to the west with their milk-producing cattle.

After the discovery of gold, Americans from the east fled to the coastal states of the west in search of gold and other precious metals. With the miners came their families, as well as their cows to provide sustenance to their children via milk and cheese.

Photo: Real California Milk

As such, cattle rearing was also a very feminine responsibility, since the wives were the ones to care for their animals and their families during the day. But women weren’t limited to just housework. Clara Steele, a pioneer in life and in cheese, is believed to have started the first commercial dairy in California. After making small batches of cheese and selling them in the markets all round the Bay area in the 19th century, Clara and her husband started a cheese-making business in the scenic hills of Point Reyes.

(Check out our last article featuring modern female cheesemakers in Point Reyes: the Giacomini sisters)

FUN FACT: Did you know that Monterey Jack cheese originated in Monterey, California? David Jacks continued the “country cheese” style left by the hispanic missionaries and sold this simple white cheese all over the west coast.


Most Americans have heard that “drinking milk will make you grow strong” since their childhood. But why?

Photo: Dublin Corners Dental

According to this blog post by Dublin Corners Dental, milk provides some of the most beneficial nutrients for your dental health, such as calcium in phosphorus.

“These nutrients are the essential building blocks of bones and teeth, and you need adequate amounts of both in order to maintain healthy bone density and have strong teeth with well-formed enamel,” said the article.

California milk, in particular, surpasses the national FDA nutritional standards for milk by fortifying milk with nonfat milk solids, which improves the flavor and overall health content of a simple glass of milk.

This article states, “From the nutritionist’s standpoint, California’s fluid milk standard is healthier… The national fluid standard for solids-not-fat (SNF) is 8.25 percent by volume, and 3.25 percent fat in whole milk, California requires 8.75 percent SNF by volume, and 3.5 percent fat.”

Photo: The California Dairy Pressroom & Resources

So for those who aren’t lactose intolerant or sensitive, California milk can be a prime nutrient source to support your body — especially as we age and lose density within our bones and teeth. And to ensure you get the best milk possible, look for organic, hormone-free options with the iconic golden seal!

Sustainable Commerce

Sustainability is at the forefront of cultures. With massive floods and detrimental draughts, sudden freezes and extreme heat, we are seeing the disastrous effects of climate change all over the world. One big contributor to this effect is food production — particularly animal husbandry.

Photo: Real California Milk

California Milk seeks to start making changes to the old way of making milk and raising cattle, as the state is one of the biggest producers of dairy in the country. In this Greenbiz article, it is said that California aims to achieve “net-zero carbon emissions by 2050”, with one way being converting the methane produced by dairy cows into renewable energy.

“California dairy farmers’ efforts to both eliminate and capture methane emissions are further reducing the footprint of every glass of milk produced,” stated author John Talbot, CEO of the California Milk Advisory Board. “Through the implementation of digesters and other technologies, California dairy farms will reduce an estimated 2.5 million metric tons of greenhouse gases each year. “

This “cow energy” will not only reduce the amount of greenhouse gases, but also create fuel for freight transportation that will replace traditional diesel fuel used to ship products all over the United States — at 60 million gallons per year, reported by Real California Milk.

But don’t be fooled: improving cattle production is only one piece of the puzzle of climate change. In this piece published by UC Davis, one of the leading agricultural universities in the US, it is stated that cattle is the biggest methane culprit in the entire world: producing 220 pounds of methane per year, per cow. But, according to UC Davis professor Frank Mitloehner in the piece, livestock management has vastly improved from 50 years ago, through avenues such as diet, husbandry, and overall efficiency of raising cattle. Insofar as, dairy and beef cattle currently count for less than 5 percent of gas emissions in the US.

Photo: UC ANR

Another precious resource California Milk works to conserve is water. Being a state with 43 million acres of land and nearly 40 million inhabitants, saving water is of utmost importance to the state that has experienced extreme drought over the past decade. And the dairy industry is doing it’s part to help lighten the load.

According to Real California Milk, water usage within the dairy industry has been reduced by 88 percent since the 1970’s, with this liquid resource being reused “up to four times on the farm”. Some dairies, like Point Reyes Farmstead Cheese Co., are prime examples of reusing water and renewing energy in their daily operations.

Photo: Eat This, Not That!

Milk has been an integral part of the human diet and cows have been an essential domestic powerhouse for millennia. But with our now eco-focused world, we need choose and invest in the options that both benefit us and our planet so that every creature can thrive and survive. Choosing California milk and cheese can be one simple way that we can support an industry that promotes small businesses while practicing sensible and sustainable ethics.

Check back December 12th at 12pm EST to learn more about the sustainable and savory benefits of seaweed! We will discuss different types of seaweed for your culinary needs, and how this “seacrop” can help the planet. In the meantime, follow us on Facebook and Instagram for more fun facts, photos, and tidbits!




Promoting global Food Education, Sustainability, and Traditions for our Modern World. Based in Tokyo, Japan.

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Promoting global Food Education, Sustainability, and Traditions for our Modern World. Based in Tokyo, Japan.

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