The top frequently asked question on the Innovation Center for US Dairy’s website is: “Does chocolate milk come from brown cows?”.
The answer is polite and clear:
“Actually, chocolate milk – or any flavored milk for that matter – is white cow’s milk with added flavoring and sweeteners”.
Yet, a survey by the Center showed that a whopping 7 percent of Americans, or 16.4 million people nationwide, still believe that chocolate milk comes directly out of a brown cow.
What’s more, 48% of respondents admitted they weren’t sure where chocolate milk comes from, which is about 154,272,000 potential voters who are not actually sure that the answer is simply ”cows”!
This is just an example that many Americans are completely uninformed about where their food comes from.
Moreover, a study conducted by the Innovation Center for US Dairy found that 37 percent of people secretly drank milk straight out of the container in the fridge, in extremely poor milk/fridge etiquette, and another 29% use their children as an excuse to buy chocolate milk for themselves.
According to The Washington Post:
“For decades, observers in agriculture, nutrition, and education have griped that many Americans are basically agriculturally illiterate. They don’t know where food is grown, how it gets to stores — or even, in the case of chocolate milk, what’s in it.
One Department of Agriculture study, commissioned in the early ’90s, found that nearly 1 in 5 adults did not know that hamburgers are made from beef. Many more lacked familiarity with basic farming facts, like how big U.S. farms typically are and what food animals eat.
Experts in ag education aren’t convinced that much has changed in the intervening decades.
“At the end of the day, it’s an exposure issue,” said Cecily Upton, co-founder of the nonprofit FoodCorps, which brings agricultural and nutrition education into elementary schools. “Right now, we’re conditioned to think that if you need food, you go to the store. Nothing in our educational framework teaches kids where food comes from before that point.”
“When one team of researchers interviewed fourth-, fifth- and sixth-graders at an urban California school, they found that more than half of them didn’t know pickles were cucumbers, or that onions and lettuce were plants. Four in 10 didn’t know that hamburgers came from cows. And 3 in 10 didn’t know that cheese is made from milk.
“All informants recalled the names of common foods in raw form and most knew foods were grown on farms or in gardens,” the researchers concluded. “They did not, however, possess schema necessary to articulate an understanding of post-production activities nor the agricultural crop origin of common foods.”
The writer and historian Ann Vileisis says:
“Indifference about the origins and production of foods became a norm of urban culture, laying the groundwork for a modern food sensibility that would spread all across America in the decades that followed. Within a relatively brief period, the average distance from farm to kitchen had grown from a short walk down the garden path to a convoluted, 1,500-mile energy-guzzling journey by rail and truck.”