UConn’s Dairy Bar and its ever-growing list of tantalizing frozen concoctions is about as secret as a National Championship. Students, staff and visitors alike flock year-round to the little brick creamery located on the hilly outskirts of the Storrs campus to grab their favorites.
A Dairy Bar patron always leaves happy, but additionally, thanks to some measures Assistant Manager Jackie Patry instituted when she took over day-to-day operations in 2006, any customer can leave having learned a little something.
Patry, having studied agriculture and animal sciences at UConn as an undergraduate, started a tradition with her employees that prepares them for any inquiry a curious cone drone might pose. The answers to, ‘Where does the milk for the ice cream come from?’ and ‘How often are UConn cows milked?’ are at any Dairy Bar staffer’s disposal. As part of their training, they must visit the Kellogg Dairy Center, where the dairy herd dwells, and try their hand at milking a cow.
“We say here that our ice cream goes from cow to cone,” Patry said. “One of the frequently asked questions from customers is, ‘do you really use your own milk for all your products?, and the answer is ‘yes’. I figure by having [employees] go up there and actually milk a cow, they’ll never forget the answer to that question.”
Up close with bovines
And really, how could they? The ritual begins with a walk-through of the Kellogg facilities where rookie scoopers learn the basics. Two kinds of bovines provide the milk. There are Holsteins – the traditional black and white spotted breed familiar to most New Englanders – and Jerseys, which are smaller, brown in color and generally more mischievous – the troublesome teenagers of the bunch as any Ag worker will attest.
Armed with rubber gloves, boots and an outfit to which they aren’t too attached (a restroom is always at a cow’s immediate disposal), employees make their way onto a platform that puts them at eye-level with a set of udders. After treating each teat with an iodine solution to disinfect and stimulate the animals, they’re ready to attach a four-prong suctioning device that pumps the milk through a maze of tubes and tanks en route to a larger holding vessel for pasteurization.
A square device above each cow gives a digital read-out of its output that is tracked constantly. A bar code scanning system makes data on each animal readily available. After about an hour-and-a-half, Patry’s kids are stinky and quite possibly splattered, but also enlightened.
So the next time you drop in for some frosty goodness, test the person who takes your order. You’ll find that everybody at the Dairy Bar is udder-ly attached to their work.