Season 4, Episode 10

A New Moo

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Donna sanders headshot and byline.

Urbansuburban and rural areas are concepts we don’t often think about. But for the sake of humoring me and this article, let’s do think about it — and let’s talk about the differences.

Urban areas are cities and the surrounding areas. They have a greater population density and more people in general, commercial buildings, roads, and bridges – you get the picture.

If you live in the suburbs, you are technically between the city and country. You are living in an area that is less crowded, but still somewhat dense, housing is further apart, and there are minimal commercial areas. Got it?

So, what about rural? Rural areas have less infrastructure and open countryside with a smaller population (amazingly, between 20%-25% of all Americans live in areas designated rural, believe it or not).

Okay, so by now you may be asking yourselves why this is important.

Where The Food Comes From visited M&B Products, a milk bottling plant in Temple Terrace, FL with its farm in Lecanto, FL, May 2. Temple Terrace is considered a suburb of Tampa. So, the question now becomes why is there a milk processing/packing plant in Temple Terrace?

City of Temple Terrace, FL.

Our Day Began With Meeting President & CEO, M&B Products/Dairy Dale McClellan

Dale McClellan by a road sign dedicated to him.

Dale is an amazing man and gave us a brief tour of the office and talked about the bottles, the 90 monitors used to keep an eye at it all, and the history of the farm.

Assortment of empty milk bottles and two cartons with crazy cow sitting on shelf.
Multiple monitors with center monitor showing packing plant.

Unfortunately, we can’t buy M&B’s milk at our local grocery store — yet. But they’ve recently started packing for the grocery store and we’ll be looking for it! Dale, being an advocate for healthy eating and nutrition, supplies dairy products to schools, prisons, and elderly feeding programs. I really like that. So many people go without nutritious food and probably live on soda.

Glass of milk being help between thumb and forefingers.
Small milk cartons on conveyer belt in packing plant.

Time for a science lesson. Did you know there is a difference in milk? Well, there is and it has to do with the genetics of the cows. A1 milk comes from cows with roots in Europe. A2 milk comes from cows with origins in Asia, Spain and Africa.  Depending on where you’re from and your individual genetic makeup, the difference in that A1 or A2 protein might be causing you some tummy trouble — what we call lactose intolerance. Research done at Purdue University and the University of Auckland in 2020 suggests that many people with lactose intolerance are simply drinking the wrong kind of milk!

Off To The Bottling Plant

,As you probably know by now sanitary conditions are very important to me — I was a career nurse and nursing college instructor — and this was no exception. We had to put on hairnets and, in Chip’s case, a beard net, and before we entered the bottling plant, we had to step into a solution made of chlorine. I really do like that.

Chip with beard and hair net standing next to conveyor belt with milk cartons.

Once in the bottling plant the first thing you notice is the noise. Talk about loud! Between the bottling systems and conveyer belts I could not hear myself think! Too many moving parts. Honestly, I got out of there as quick as I could and wound up getting lost in the maze of equipment. By the way 340 cartons of milk are made per minute.

As you can see there is spilled milk on the floor. I guess that is where the phrase, “Don’t cry over spilled milk,” comes from. This is due to the splashing of the milk before the cartons are closed. That makes total sense. But there is someone there to immediately mop it up. Thank God, I have been known to slip in some of the most unusual places (MetLife Stadium, a well-known seafood restaurant chain… there’s a list).

Conveyor belt with milk cartons and milk splashed on red tile floor.
Unknown Lady standing in front of wired gate in milk packing plant.

Back To The Office

Ready for one of my digressions. See the carton of chocolate milk on the table? As you know my last name is Sanders and my family does own a dairy farm in my home state of New Jersey. Curiosity got the better of me and I had to check it out further. I asked Dale to take the carton off the shelf. Imagine my disappointment when I saw the chocolate milk came from Rogersville, TN. How cool it would have been if my family were associated with M&B Dairy.

Close-up image of a vintage carton of chocolate milk.

Up next, an interview with third generation Operations Manager Daniel McClellan and General Manager Andrea McClellan. They discussed the present history of the farm, their backgrounds, how they met, and married. It was one of those rare “true love stories,” with a lot of emotion and maybe some tears. 

Daniel McClellan, Chip, and Andrea McClellan in conference room of M&B sitting at table with three cartons of milk.

Time To Meet The Lovely Ladies Behind All This Goodness

The most important part of M&B Products is located in Lecanto, FL — that’s where the “products” come from! As we were on our way — and in the literal middle of nowhere — Chip noticed he was running extremely low on gas (his defense: “I thought for sure we’d pass a gas station somewhere“). Well Dale to the rescue. He called Vice President of Farm Operations Leon McClellan and told him to bring a can of gas. It was enough to get us easily to a gas station and on our way after the shoot or the McLellans would have had a few overnight guests.

Chip’s next interview took place with Citrus County Schools Director of Food Services Roy R. Pistone II. Chip asked Roy why he does business with M&B Farms. I totally love and agree with the answer. Roy said a school meal may be the only nutritious meal children get. Roy further told us they also have a dinner program in Citrus County as well. Don’t you think it is great how this farm, like so many we have seen, is giving back to the community?

Chip and Roy Pistone in upstairs office at the farm with farm mementos in back ground.
Chip and Dale McClellan in upstairs office at the farm with mementos of farm in back ground.

Chip and Dale (I have been waiting s-o-o-o-o-o-o long to say that!) had the next interview. Unfortunately, I did not hear any of it. While the crew was setting up for this interview I went into the bathroom in the main room where we were filming. Mind you the door was extremely squeaky. Well, by the time I was finished, the interview had started and I was trapped in the very hot bathroom. I didn’t dare leave because the squeaky door would have been picked up by the microphones and this is something that cannot be fixed in post. And of course this was one of Chip’s longest interviews ever.

The farm, as of 2021, is a whopping 325-acres and has 650 head of cattle. Each cow is milked three times a day producing approximately 11 gallons of milk each.

Naturally, I had to be nosey and asked, “If all the cows are heifers where are the bulls that are needed to produce other cattle?” My answer was super fascinating, but without going into all the indelicate details let’s just say they use five to six companies that deal in bull semen. Side note: There is such a thing as sexed semen, approximately 36% – 38% is semen to produce females and they have a 95% success rate. Guess they have the science down.

M&B Dairy cows feeding.

Chip’s final interview took place with Leon. I missed this entire one as well. I was too busy watching the cows being fed, the barn being flushed, and the cows being milked. But of course, as always, you’ll see it all in the show.

One of the great joys of working on this TV show are the people — and especially the families — we get to meet. The McClellans rank right up there with the best. When you see the show, I know you’ll agree.

Leon McClellan and Chip in between two rows of cows in the barn.