Stanislaus County’s Freshest Bottle of Milk
By Jacqui D. Sinarle
You could say that milk is in Rick Nutcher’s blood.
Nutcher grew up working in the family dairy, milking cows in the morning before going to school and raising dairy cattle in the local 4-H club. So although he left the industry for a time to grow cattle feed, it was probably inevitable that he would return to the dairy business and wind up producing what he’s proud to call “Stanislaus County’s freshest bottle of milk.”
Nutcher started Nutcher Farms Dairy in November, 2000, with just about 160 cows. The Modesto dairy has more than quadrupled in size to house about 800 cows today.
And, since June, Nutcher now sells milk under his own brand – the Nutcher Milk Company.
“We’ve got the freshest milk from the cow to the bottle, because I can have it bottle
d in a cold room in just a few hours after milking the cows,” Nutcher said. “We control the product — from field, to cow, to our plant that’s 12 feet away. When people buy my milk they know where it comes from; it’s all from my dairy and not mixed with milk from other sources. That’s the biggest difference.”
In addition to being local, Nutcher Milk is a true family business. Nutcher’s wife, daughters, and sons-in-law are also involved and working late to make it successful.
“We’re enjoying it and having a good time, and I’m enjoying their ideas,” Nutcher says.
Nutcher had sold his milk to the Hilmar Cheese Company for years, before starting his own milk brand. The roller-coaster ride of fluctuating milk prices initially motivated Nutcher to look for new ways to add value to his dairy, and bottling and selling his own milk seemed like a natural solution.
“I made the decision to start packaging milk three years ago, put together a team to build a plant, and got financing and county approval,” Nutcher says. “I started out by traveling to Missouri and Pennsylvania and looking at bottling plants in Amish country where they used glass bottles. My research indicated that the glass bottle was a unique and nostalgic way that we could package milk.”
Nutcher also researched how to get milk as fresh as possible and keep it that way until it reaches the consumer. By bottling on site, right away, from a single source, quality remains high and the milk tastes better, Nutcher says.
As a premium item, Nutcher milk costs less than organic milk but more than non-organic brands you’d find in a plastic jug. There’s also a $2 deposit per bottle, which is refunded when customers return their bottles to the store.
Like all milk in California, Nutcher milk is antibiotic free. Nutcher milk is pasteurized and homogenized at the bottling plant. But it’s not organic for a good reason, Nutcher says: To remain “organic,” he he cannot treat his cows as well as he would like.
“If I have a cow who gets an infection I want to be able to care for her properly,” Nutcher said. “My philosophy is that while she’s at my dairy I’m going to treat her like a queen. My team is gentle and cares about animals; that’s our mindset.”
Nutcher proudly participates in Dairy Cares, a voluntary California program that promotes environmental stewardship, responsible animal care, and family and community values. He notes that the tender loving care his team gives to their cows is well worth it.
“Cows don’t talk, but they do respond,” Nutcher said. “Cows that are comfortable produce more milk.”
While the containers that Nutcher uses to bottle his milk help the product stand out from others in the refrigerator case, that’s not the only difference that glass bottles make.
“Flavor is the biggest thing,” Nutcher said. “You don’t get any flavor residue from a glass bottle like you might from other packaging. Also, glass is a better insulator than other containers. Another nice thing about the glass bottle is that it’s a true reusable product, not recycled, and it does not get disposed of in a landfill.”
But selling milk in clear glass means it has to be perfect, Nutcher adds, whether it’s whole milk or his chocolate, strawberry, orange cream, or root beer-flavored milk.
“My name is on the container and you can see through it,” Nutcher said.
“I did this because I want to make milk fun, make milk taste good, and control the quality of the milk I sell, from the cow to the bottle,” Nutcher said. “So far, I’m happy with how it’s turned out.”
For More Information, or to Find a Store that Sells Nutcher Milk, visit nutchermilk.com or facebook.com/nutchermilk.