Food & Nutrition

How to Crack the Secret Code on Your Gallon of Milk

The code on your milk carton means something udderly unexpected.

How to Crack the Secret Code on Your Gallon of MilkAHPhotosWPG/Shutterstock

Ever wonder how the 2% at your supermarket made its way to you? It’s likely from cows grazing hundreds of miles over yonder. That’s a long way to moo-ove! Speaking of a long walk, this is why your grocery store puts milk at the back.

The reason milk has to travel is that most dairy farmers don’t usually bottle and sell directly to grocery stores. They work with regional dairy plants who act as middlemen. For example, Billy Bishoff, a dairy farmer in Garrett County, Maryland, says he sells to a bottler nearby in Pennsylvania.

You can actually see what dairy your milk was bottled at. Just grab a gallon and look at the code! Plus, learn why you may not want to buy your milk from Costco.

How It Works

The code on your milk is way more impressive than the “crummy commercial” that Ralphie decodes in A Christmas Story. Here’s what to do:

  • Find the secret code—usually located near the expiration date. It looks like: 01-12345 or 01-02
  • Pull up Where Is My Milk From and type in the code
  • See where your milk was bottled

We tested this ourselves with some milk from Taste of Home‘s Prep Kitchen fridge. Dean’s Whole Milk had the code 55-08, and was bottled at Morning Glory Dairy in De Pere, Wisconsin, roughly 120 miles away from Taste of Home‘s office. We also had a gallon of Roundy’s 2% with the code 55-1500, which means it’s from Kemp’s Dairy in Cedarburg, only 20 miles away. (Twenty miles from moo to market? We’re very lucky to be in America’s Dairyland!) Did you know some Europeans don’t refrigerate milk? Here’s why.

You can also look for the code on other dairy products, like whipping cream, ice cream and cottage cheese. We’d say that’s a legen-dairy discovery. Next, learn what the secret code on your egg carton means, too.

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