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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 central 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. 

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 spacious paddocks where the grass is lushest and most optimal for milk production. Rather than ranging at their leisure over hundreds or acres, the cows are constantly moved to their next meal / paddock—think of it as an all-you-can-eat grass buffet! 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 changes the pH of the rumen. This can result in infection, inflammation, bloat, decreased immunity, an increase in the deadly e.coli 0157:H7, 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 continually 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, as often as pesticides and chemical fertilizers. On a grass-fed operation, the cow manure, as it is spread over the pastures, helps replace nutrients lost by the growing plants, rather than forming in feedlot pools and causing runoff that can be detrimental to the local water supply. Farms with managed grazing have less manure runoff, because there is no feedlot setup, and because the cows' hoofprints help the land hold water when it rains. 100% grass-fed dairy farms work 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 itself. Milk produced from 100% grass-fed organic dairy operations is free of pesticide residue and GMOs prevalent in conventional cattle feed. It is also free of growth hormones and antibiotic residue. 

 

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 cows' 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 cows' milk is higher in conjugated linoleic acid (CLA). 

 

According to the research published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, (AJCN 2000; 71 (1): 179S-88S), the recommended ration of n-6:n-3 fatty acids in the diet is 2.3:1. Because a cow's diet influences the nutritional profile of its milk, there is a substantial difference in the n-6:n-3 fatty acid ratios in grass-fed and conventional milk. Milk from grass-fed cows has a ratio of n-6:n-3 of 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 the land, rather on a end goal of maximizing production at the expense of animal welfare and environmental considerations. 100% grass-fed dairy products are higher in certain nutrients than conventional or even organic dairy. 

Wait a second. What do 100% grass cows eat in the winter?

During the winter, 100% grass-fed cows eat hay, or sometimes 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. 

Why do most dairy farmers choose to feed their cows a non-grass-based diet?

Corn, grain, and even manufacturing by-products are fed to cows for on reason only: the bottom line. Conventional wisdom has long held that feeding cows corn and grain equates in higher milk production. This might have been the the case 50 – 60 years ago, but unfortunately for most farmers this no longer appears to be true.  Many family farms (both conventional and certified organic) are stuck on a treadmill—feeding high priced grain and corn to their cows while trying to produce more milk, to cover ever higher rising bills, with an ever-shrinking milk check. 


Dairy farmers began feeding their cows more grain after WWII. The now-defunct munitions industry's suplus 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 farm subsidies, resulted in incredibly low prices for grain and corn 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 on grass only was crazy—it couldn't be done, and that cows couldn'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 experience. We're adding 100% grass-fed dairy farms to our group every few months, supporting and growing a farm 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 US. 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.


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.

 

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.

 

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.

 

While these A1-dominant breeds are not found on our farms, 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.

 

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.

Are your products organic?

Yes, our products are certified USDA and PCO organic. 

Why don't you make low-fat or non-fat products? Isn't fat bad for you?

The milk fat from 100% grass-fed cows is very different from the fat from cows fed corn and grain. 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 1:1, which happens to be the ratio that is optimal for health in humans.

In addition to a healthy Omega 3-6 balance, the milk from 100% grass-fed cows has higher levels of Vitamin E and Beta-Carotene (Vitamin A), as well as markedly higher levels of conjugated linoleic acid (CLA)—a good fatty acid that has been linked to many health benefits.

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 are highly processed, and the long-followed advice of eating a low-fat diet for health is beginning to unravel in the reality of the obesity epidemic. Moreover, the fat found in 100% grass fed milk is beneficial to health. So, we don't have to take anything out of our milk to make it "healthier".

In short, we believe in eating the whole food, in its most natural form, especially when it's been produced in a way that sidesteps the "advances" of the industrial food system.   

What is the creamline in your yogurt? Why is it there?

The “cream on top” of our yogurt is a layer of milk fat that rises as the yogurt cools and settles during our slow culturing process. This occurs naturally when milk is unhomogenized. Sometimes the cream on top of your cup may be broken instead of smooth, due to jostling or slight temperature changes during shipping. It's still perfectly fine to eat—just stir it in and enjoy.  
 
If you're enjoy Maple Hill year-round, you'll notice that the creamline's appearance changes with the seasons. In the summer, it's thinner and golden-hued (due to the higher Vitamin A content); in the winter it's thicker and lighter in color. The cows' diets change throughout the year, from spring grass to lush summer pasture to organic hay in the winter, and these changes are reflected in the milk they produce. 100% grass-fed dairy is a seasonal food! 


Our
 creamline is the hallmark of a minimally processed, artisanal, European style-yogurt. 

Is your milk pasteurized?

Yes, our milk is pasteurized via HTST 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 the proteins and then "reassembling" them into the the semi-solid product we call yogurt. 

 

What farms does your milk come from?

As of the summer season 2014, we have twelve 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.

Are there any allergens in your yogurt or manufactured in your facility?

Our manufacturing plant is a dedicated dairy processing facility and is free of the following common food allergens: soy, nuts, tree nuts, peanuts, gluten, and shellfish.

We are in the process of obtaining our Certified Gluten Free certification.
 

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 in a lab to cheaply replicate the real thing). We use only real organic, real maple syrup in our Maple flavor, and wild Maine blueberries 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 actual flavor of our zingy, fresh yogurt.

 

Your yogurt isn't very sweet! Is it low sugar?

We don't add much sugar to our yogurt, as we believe 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 our yogurt: 

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 Vanilla and Wild Blueberry flavors (each totals 15 grams of carbohydrates).

We add the equivalent of 1.75 teaspoons of pure maple syrup to our Maple flavor (15 grams of carbohydrates total). We use only organic maple syrup to sweeten this variety. 

We add the equivalent of 1.50 teaspoons (6 grams) of sugar to our Lemon and Orange Creme flavors, (each totals 15 grams of carbohydrate). 

By comparison, most other natural and organic yogurts on the market have an average of 14 to 22 grams of (3.50 – 5.50 teaspoons) of added sugar per six-ounce serving. Highly-processed, conventional brands are even higher. 

Why is your yogurt so tangy / earthy tasting?

Maple Hill is a “yogurt eater’s yogurt”: fresh, 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 milk is a seasonal food. Unlike the milk from conventional cows, grass-fed milk changes throughout the year, and the flavor of the milk, as well as the fat content and composition. When cows eat a variety of grass and other plants, instead of grain or corn, there is a marked difference in the flavor of the milk.

So, in essence, what you’re 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 and the flavor sweeter.
 We also favor a longer, slower cup-set, culturing process than most yogurt brands, allowing the flavor to develop more before cooling. 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 that 95% of US yogurt manufacturers add to their products. Maple Hill’s luxuriously creamy texture is the result of our slow culture process and our high-quality, full-fat, 100% grass-fed 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 container is exactly the same. 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 also because our farms' cows just eat the native grasses and plants found in NY state, 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.  

How can I get Maple Hill in my store?

Maple Hill Creamery products can be ordered through several national as well as numerous regional distributors. Please send us an email at sales@maplehillcreamery.com for more information. 

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