Scottie Mayfield, president emeritus of Mayfield Dairy Farms, visited Woodland Elementary School in April after hearing from 40 third-graders who conducted a blind taste test of milk stored in two different containers—wax-cardboard cafeteria containers and plastic yellow Mayfield jugs, like those used for store-bought milk—and determined they preferred milk stored in plastic.
In the blind taste test, about 94 percent of the students preferred the milk that had been stored in plastic jugs, Woodland teacher Linda Young said. The persuasive opinion writing students, who are in the third-grade classes of Young and Inger Scudder, sent letters to Mayfield Dairy Farms suggesting that cafeteria milk be stored in plastic bottles like those used in grocery stores, Young said.
Impressed by the letters and responding to consumer concerns, Mayfield visited the school and met with the students on Friday, April 15.
He said the students were right.
“I appreciate your work,” Mayfield told the third-graders. “It appears to be accurate.”
Children drink more milk when it is stored in plastic containers, Mayfield said. But the companies that submit bids to supply milk to schools have to strike a balance between superior packaging and competitive bids. To win bids, they have to provide the lowest cost, and wax-cardboard containers are less expensive, Young said.
Mayfield said plastic containers, which have previously been used for cafeteria milk, once cost about a nickel more each, although children drink more milk from those bottles.
The worst thing for food services is for food to end up in the trash, Mayfield said. He said Mayfield Dairy, which is owned by Dean Foods, may be able to produce a plastic-coated paper milk carton, possibly by adding a layer of plastic inside the container. The idea would be to satisfy tastes and meet bid specifications.
The students asked the dairy executive several questions and learned about the history of Mayfield Dairy. Mayfield’s grandfather, T.B. Mayfield, started the company in 1910 with 45 Jersey cows, and he started making homemade ice cream on July 4, 1923.
But with many companies buying ice cream-making equipment after World War II, T.B. Mayfield convinced the family to invest in milk. The company built the cleanest, most modern milk plant in the Southeast, Mayfield said.
“All of a sudden, our milk business really, really grew,” he told the Woodland third-graders.
Among other things, Mayfield, who ran for Congress in 2012, also talked about types of cows, fielded a question on why Mayfield Dairy doesn’t make cheese, and explained the differences between various types of milk (skim, 2 percent, whole, chocolate). Two percent milk is the top seller and whole milk is second, but schools only sell skim milk today (even chocolate milk now uses skim milk in cafeterias), Mayfield said.
He said he was impressed by the scientific and opinion writing work of the Woodland third-graders.
“Those students were good,” Mayfield said.
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