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Company & Philosophy
When and why was Maple Hill Creamery founded?
Maple Hill Creamery was founded in 2009 with the simple desire to make the healthiest yogurt we could for our kids, using certified organic milk from our own 100% grass-fed family cows.
Over the past few years, we’ve grown from a completely family-run operation to a thriving small manufacturer of whole milk dairy products. Although we’ve brought on production, sales, and marketing staff, everyone in the family still pitches in on a daily basis, and are key to decisions big and small.
Running a 100% grass-fed dairy production company means that we’re not solely focused on the bottom line—or having the most shelf space in the yogurt aisle. To us, business “success” is also defined by a company’s values and production practices. We believe that when we use milk from only certified organic, 100% grass-fed cows to make our products, we are supporting and growing a food system that is most beneficial to the land, the animals, and the farmers—and that it makes for the most delicious products around!
Where is Maple Hill Creamery located?
Our creamery is located in Stuyvesant, New York, about 25 miles south of Albany, and on the east side of the Hudson River. We’ve been making yogurt at this location since early 2013.
100% Grass-Fed Dairy
What are 100% grass-fed cows?
Cows that are 100% grass-fed graze when the grasses and other native plants grow, and eat hay (stored grass) or haylage (stored, fermented grass) in the winter months—most times harvested from same pastures they graze on.
Unlike most dairy cows in the United States, 100% grass-fed cows aren’t fed corn, grain, soy, alfalfa pellets, corn silage, or manufacturing by-products. They aren’t kept exclusively in barns or crowded feedlots, with little to no access to pasture. We believe that 100% grass-fed dairy cows have a distinctly better quality of life and longer lifespan than most dairy cows. A very small percentage of the dairy cows in the US enjoy the 100% grass-fed lifestyle.
What are "Grass Farmers"?
We call often call our dairy farmers “grass farmers” because they essentially harvest grass—with their cows! Every single one of our farms practices “managed grazing,” which means that the farmer plans, times, and moves their cows through many paddocks to where grass is lushest and most optimal for milk production.
Each paddock is about an acre and a half, with grass ranging from 12 to 20 inches in height, and the cows are moved to fresh paddocks two to four times per day, depending on growing conditions—sometimes they are moved every hour! The cows have lots of room to wander around, looking for the best plants to munch, and they always have a fluffy grass meadow bed to lay down on to chew their cud at midday, or to sleep on at night—because they don’t stay long enough to eat the grass down to the dirt—and the manure is always gone before they are back to that paddock. The grass farmer is acutely aware of the condition of his land and cows, and works in a holistic manner to keep both healthy.
What are the main differences between feeding cows a mixed ration of grain-based feed, and 100% grass-feeding?
Simply put, when dairy farmers choose to raise cows with managed grazing techniques, and when cows are fed the diet they evolved to eat, the end result is healthier animals, healthier farms, and healthier dairy products.
Let’s start with the cows, which are by definition ruminants. They have a four-chambered stomach called the rumen, which is designed to digest fibrous grasses and other plants. When grain and corn (quickly-digested carbohydrates with much less fiber) is fed to cows, it immediately changes the pH of the rumen, making it more acidic. This can result in higher risk for infections, systematic inflammation, bloat, decreased immunity, and a host of other health issues. Grain-fed cows on large, conventional dairies are sometimes given preventative antibiotics.
Next is the farm operation itself. Managed grazing requires less fossil fuels, because feed is not continuously grown, processed, and shipped to the farm—their food is already there, growing, and eaten by the cows in a rotation that keeps the pastures fertile, healthy and growing. Growing corn and grain specifically for cattle feed uses huge amounts of resources, and often chemical fertilizers and pesticides. On a 100% grass-fed operation manure is spread over the pastures by roaming cows, replacing nutrients lost by the growing plants, rather than forming in feedlot pools and causing detrimental runoff. 100% grass-fed dairy farming works best with small herds, which supports both local economies and family farms, who in turn are able to claim the highest premium price for their milk.
And finally, the milk. Milk produced from 100% grass-fed dairy operations is free of pesticide residue and GMOs prevalent in conventional cattle feed. It is also free of growth hormones.
Milk from grass-fed cows has a more favorable fatty acid profile than milk from conventionally-fed cows—it is higher in omega-3 fatty acids and lower in omega-6 fatty acids. Grass-fed cow’s milk has higher concentrations of the omega-3 fatty acids alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), ecosapentaenoic acid (EPA), and docosapentaenoic acid (DPA). In addition, grass-fed cow’s milk is higher in conjugated linoleic acid (CLA).
According to research published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (AJCN 2000; 7f1(1):179S-88S), the recommended ratio of n-6:n-3 fatty acids in the diet is 2.3:1. Because the cow’s diet influences the nutritional profile of its milk, there is a substantial difference in the n-6:n-3 fatty acid ratios of grass-fed and conventional milk. Milk from grass-fed cows has a n-6:n-3 ratio of approximately 2.3:1—the recommended optimal ratio—compared to a ratio of 5.8:1 for milk from conventionally-fed cows
In short, 100% grass-fed organically produced dairy is an outlier to the industrial food system, focusing on holistic care of both the animals and land, rather than an end goal of highest production and maximizing the bottom line at the cost of animal welfare and environmental concerns.
Wait a second. What do 100% grass cows eat in the winter?
During the winter, our 100% grass-fed cows eat hay and / or hay silage, which is fermented, high-moisture grass, stored either in a silo or in large, plastic-covered bales in the fields. Sometimes our farmers supplement with molasses or apple cider vinegar in the wintertime to maintain rumen health and provide extra minerals and nutrients for the cows. Our farms do not supplement with grain, corn, soy, or other foods etc in the wintertime.
Why do most dairy farmers choose to feed their cows a non-grass-based diet?
Corn, grain, silage, and even manufacturing by-products are fed to cows for one reason only: the bottom line. It’s cheaper and easier to feed larger amounts of cows with grain-based feeding, rather than manage the animals on grasslands. Some dairy farmers also believe that a grain-based diet increases milk production of the cows, but our cows do just fine on a diet of 100% grass.
Dairy farmers began feeding their cows more grain after WWII. The now defunct munitions industry’s surplus of nitrogen—once used to create bombs—found a new home as the main ingredient for crop fertilizer. Grain and corn supplies soared, and coupled with new federal farm subsidies, resulted in incredibly low prices for grain and corn grown for cattle feed. A grain-based diet for dairy cows became the norm, and the prevailing opinion—for quite some time—has been that any dairy farmer who attempted to raise their dairy cows on grass only was crazy—it couldn’t be done, and that “you can’t make milk with just grass”.
Well, we may be a little nutty at Maple Hill, but this opinion couldn’t be further from our truth. We’re adding 100% grass-fed dairy farms to our group of farms every few months, supporting and growing a farming system that keeps long-term wellness of the animals and land at the forefront.
When did farmers start feeding grain to an animal that was really built for grass? And why?
As in most things, one thing always leads to another. And “the thing” that probably put American agriculture on the path to feeding grain to ruminants had nothing to do with agriculture, but more to do with war, specifically WWII.
Prior to WWII, most US farms were small and diversified. Cattle were put out to pasture and supplemented with very little if any grain or corn, as their natural place in a diversified farm was to consume grass. WWII expansion of munitions manufacturing, which included the explosive component of nitrogen. When peacetime arrived, there were many products and technologies from the war effort “looking for a home.” Nitrogen found its home in agriculture, setting off the first “green revolution”--that was not so green in the end. With cheap and available nitrogen (one of the three synthetic fertilizers that for the N-P-K triad we still see on lawn fertilizers today) farmers could grow grain and corn crops much more quickly, and the American farmer could now “feed the world” – as well as its cows. The focus and the race towards higher yield and ever increasing crop production began, and feeding cows this now inexpensive grain and corn did as well. A grain-based diet for dairy cows became the norm, and the prevailing opinion—for quite some time—has been that any dairy farmer who attempted to raise their dairy cows on grass only was crazy—it couldn’t be done, and that “you can’t make milk with just grass”.
Well, we may be a little nutty at Maple Hill, but this opinion couldn’t be further from the truth. We’re adding more 100% grass-fed dairy NY state farms every few months, and making a little bit more yogurt each step of the way, and supporting a farming system that keeps long-term wellness of the animals and land at the forefront.
How do I know if I am getting 100% grass fed dairy products?
Until recently, there was no provision or certification system for grass-fed dairy labeling in the United States. While there are guidelines for 100% grass-fed beef via the USDA, dairy production lies under the auspices of the FDA, which has no guidelines for 100% grass-fed dairy (or any grass-fed label claims). As the popularity of grass-fed animal products grows, more and more dairy companies are listing “pastured” or “grass-fed” on their packaging, despite the lack of oversight or definition of these terms actually mean. Simply put, a food producer can currently claim that their dairy products are “grass-fed, “pastured”, even if the cows are fed a diet of 90% grain and getting some grass, hay, or silage.
However, Pennsylvania Certified Organic (PCO), a USDA-accredited organic certifying agency, has developed the 100% Grassfed certification for meat and dairy producers, as well as food manufacturers. Through third-party certification, the 100% Grassfed certification offers a PCO 100% Grassfed seal to be used on all qualifying products, consumer communications, and marketing materials. We are proud to be the first dairy brand to bear this stringent certification.
The certification program is open to currently certified organic producers and handlers who are utilizing 100% grass-fed management practices, as well as those interested in transitioning to 100% grass-fed management. PCO designed the certification program to include a comprehensive training and transition program to educate potential producers on the key components of successful managed grazing.
Why do we need this? We believe in label transparency. Consumers deserve to know what they are paying for. The PCO 100% Grassfed Certification provides validation of grassfed package claims, keeping the integrity of 100% grass-fed cattle intact. It also prevents the general term “grass-fed” from becoming another unfounded packaging claim or marketing lingo.
Is ALL the milk used to make Maple Hill Creamery yogurt from 100% grass-fed cows?
Yes, every drop of milk used to make our products is from 100% grass-fed cows. Our farms pledge to keep their cows on pasture only in the grazing season, and fed only hay and some minerals in the winter.
Animals & Farms
What are A1 and A2 cows? And which type live on your farms?
A1 and A2 refers to the type of beta-casein—one type of protein found in cows’ milk (the other is whey). Most cows produce a combination of these two proteins. Some scientists and health practitioners believe that cows milk with a dominant or singular A2 protein type produce an easier-to-digest milk.
There is a significant amount of science that suggests that after cows were domesticated, a natural genetic mutation changed the amino acids from proline to histidine based, and created a different beta-casein protein, now referred to as A1. A1-dominant cows are usually the larger European breeds such as Holsteins and Friesian, which are most common in the US dairy industry.
We have not invested in any testing to determine if our cows are primarily A1 or A2 cows, or carry any percentage of A1 genes, although some of our farms are independently researching these options as they plan to breed to reach A2 genetics.
For more information on A1 and A2 cows, please start here on Keith Woodford’s website. Woodford is considered the leader in the A1 / A2 school of thought.
What farms does your milk come from?
As of the autumn season of 2013, we have seven family farms, all within 75 miles from our manufacturing facility in Stuyvesant, New York. About half of our farms are Amish farms. Please visit Our Farms if you're interested in learning more about these dedicated grass farmers, their families, and their amazing cows.
Products & Process
Why don't you make low-fat or non-fat products? Isn't fat bad for you?
The lipid profile in 100% grass-fed cows’ milk is very different from the fat from cows fed corn and grain. Some recent science shows that it has a balanced omega 3 to omega 6 ratio. Milk from cows fed a traditional ration of hay, corn, and grain have a ratio of Omega 6 to Omega 3 of up to 5:1 (5 parts Omega 6 to 1 part Omega 3). This imbalance and higher level of Omega 6 fats has been conclusively linked to a number of inflammatory and chronic diseases in humans. Feeding cows their diet of grass, and nothing but grass, the ratio returns to closer to 2.3:1, which happens to be the ratio that is also optimal for health in humans.
This leads us to what we call our "Salmon Analogy". Wild salmon is a fish rich with naturally-occurring heart-healthy Omega- 3 fats. If it were possible to produce or create “low fat” or “skim” salmon, it would probably taste bad, but more importantly “skim salmon” would have a large portion of the food value removed, as the majority of the benefits would be removed along with the fat. Would you eat "Skim Salmon"?
Avoiding full-fat dairy products has long been lauded as a "healthy" lifestyle choice. However, reduced-fat and non-fat dairy products often contain thickeners, excessive sugar and flavors, and other ingredients that are added to make them taste better. The long-followed advice of eating a low-fat diet for health is beginning to unravel in the reality of the obesity epidemic.
In short, we believe in eating the whole food, especially when it's been produced in a way that sidesteps many of the problems inherent in the production model of the industrial food system.
What is the creamline in your yogurt? Why is it there?
This “cream on top” of our yogurt is a layer of milk fat that rises as the yogurt cools and settles during the culturing process. This occurs naturally when milk is homogenized, a cosmetic step in dairy processing that we choose to skip. The old saying “the cream rises to the top” has special meaning for us at Maple Hill. We consider our creamline to be the hallmark of an artisanal-quality, less processed dairy product. And our fans agree!
Is your milk pasteurized?
Yes, our milk is pasteurized via HTST (High Temperature Short Time) method (180 degrees / 30 seconds). In fact, true yogurt can only be made with milk that has been heated to a high temperature, by breaking down proteins and then "reassembling" into the semi-solid product we call yogurt.
However, we support the right of consumers to purchase and consume raw dairy products. Our friends at the Weston A. Price foundation have great resources and information about the benefits of raw milk.
Are there any allergens in your yogurt or manufactured in your facility?
Our manufacturing plan is a dedicated dairy processing facility and is free of the following common food allergens: soy, nuts, tree nuts, peanuts, gluten, shellfish, and eggs.
Are you Kosher?
Yes, our yogurt is certified OU Kosher.
How do you flavor the non-plain yogurt varieties?
We flavor our Vanilla, Lemon, and Orange Crème varieties with real, organic extracts (rather than “natural” flavors that are often made with chemicals to cheaply replicate the real thing). We use only real organic, real maple syrup in our Maple flavor, and wild blueberries (from Maine and Quebec) in our Wild Blueberry variety.
Our flavor motto is “yogurt first, flavor second”. We think that any added flavor should play second fiddle to the yogurt itself, not the other way around, so that you can fully enjoy the true essence of our zingy, fresh yogurt.
Your yogurt isn't very sweet! Is it low sugar?
We don’t add much sugar to our yogurt, because think any sweetener or flavor should subtly enhance the zingy, fresh flavor of Maple Hill, not mask it. We also believe in transparency in food labeling, so here’s a helpful breakdown for added sugar:
In each six-ounce serving of Maple Hill, 8 grams of the carbohydrate content come from the naturally occurring lactose in the milk. The remaining grams of carbohydrate content come from added organic sugar, pure maple syrup, fruit puree, or combination thereof.
We add the equivalent of 1.75 teaspoons (7 grams) of sugar to our Lemon and Orange Crème flavors (each totals 14 and 15 grams of carbohydrates).
We add the equivalent of 1.75 teaspoons (7 grams) of pure maple syrup to our Maple flavor (15 grams of carbohydrates total). We use only maple syrup to sweeten this variety, along with some vanilla extract to enrich the overall taste.
We add the equivalent of 1.75 teaspoons (7 grams) of organic sugar to our Vanilla flavor (15 grams of carbohydrate total).
We add the equivalent of 1.50 (6 grams) of organic sugar to our Wild Blueberry flavor, with 1 gram of carbohydrates coming from the berry puree (15 grams of carbohydrate total).
By comparison, most other “natural” and organic yogurts on the market have an average of 3.0 – 5.0 teaspoons of added sugar per six-ounce serving. Highly-processed, conventional brands can be even higher.
Why is your yogurt so tangy / earthy tasting?
Maple Hill is a “yogurt eater’s yogurt”: zingy, tart, and a distinctly stronger flavor than most yogurt sold in the U.S. because of our milk and our culture process.
100% grass-fed, non-homogenized milk is a seasonal food. Unlike the milk from conventional cows, grass-fed milk changes throughout the year, and the flavor of the milk is more noticeable. When cows eat a variety of grass and other plants, instead of grain or corn, there is a marked difference in the flavor and even odor of the milk. So, in essence, what you are tasting is the grass that the cows munched on. In the summer the flavor is often more “earthy”, and in the winter months, the creamline layer is thicker.
We also favor a longer, slower culturing process than most yogurt brands, allowing the flavor and texture to develop to our trademark velvety-light smoothness. You can’t rush yogurt this good!
Do you add any thickeners or stabilizers to your yogurt?
Nope. We don’t add guar gum, milk protein powder, pectin, carrageenan, or other commonly used yogurt additives to change the consistency of our creamline yogurt. Maple Hill’s luxuriously creamy texture is the result of our slow culture process and our high-quality, full-fat milk.
Do you add any preservatives to your yogurt?
No, we never add any preservatives to our yogurt.
What cultures are added to your yogurt?
We use the following cultures: Bifidobacterium lactis, lactobacillus acidophilus, lactobacillus delbrueckii subsp., Bulgaricus and streptococcus thermophilus.
What is the difference between your regular yogurt and drinkable yogurt?
The yogurt inside our 6-ounce cups and our 12-ounce drinkable is exactly the same product, except that we culture the drinkable for a bit less time, to allow for a more pourable texture. We offer the 12-ounce drinkable for convenience, portability, and sharing. Shake well and enjoy!
Is your yogurt GMO-free?
Yes, our yogurt is free from GMOs. Most organic dairy processors can circumvent GMOs by obtaining milk from farmers who purchase and feed their cows only organic grains (in addition to the 30% grazing requirement for certified organic dairy).
In contrast, we are free from GMOs simply because our farms' cows just eat the dozens grasses and plants found in our farms pastures, and from what we've heard, Monsanto isn't interested in modifying Meadow Timothy or White Sweetclover as of yet.
Where can I buy Maple Hill?
We’re pleased to say that we're quickly increasing our distribution throughout the US!
Check out our Store Locator to find a retailer near you.
What is the shelf life of your yogurt?
The shelf life is 80 days from manufacture date, which is printed across the foil lid on our 6 oz. cup, on the upper side quarts, or on a date printed near the top of our 12 oz. drinkables.
How can I get Maple Hill in my store?
Maple Hill Creamery products can be ordered through several national and numerous regional distributors. Please send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.