Elmhurst Dairy has been pasteurizing, homogenizing, and packaging milk at our plant in Jamaica, Queens since the 1940s and is New York City’s last remaining dairy facility.
Although by New York City standards our 15 acre dairy is large, space is a premium and we do not have large warehouses to store our milk. Therefore, Elmhurst Milk is usually pasteurized, homogenized, packaged and delivered to your local grocery as fast as possible, giving New Yorkers the freshest milk in the City.
The process of bringing New Yorkers fresh, local milk begins on the upstate family farms who milk their cows an average of three times a day. They briefly store the milk in small tanks or silos on their farms before an independent milk hauling company picks it up. This process occurs each and every day!
The trucks are sanitary food grade stainless steel tankers which hold up to 70,000 lbs of milk. Milk tanker drivers are licensed milk receivers and are qualified to evaluate the milk before collection. They make their way to New York City and arrive at the back of the Elmhurst Dairy plant in the offloading bay. Elmhurst Dairy receives 25 to 30 tanker trucks of raw milk per day.
The first part of the process at the plant is to test the raw milk for antibiotics, bacteria, and proper temperature immediately upon arrival and before entering the processing area. All tests are performed by Certified Analysts licensed by New York State in our on-site laboratory. If the milk does not meet quality standards, the entire tanker is rejected.
Accepted raw milk is pumped through sanitary pumps and lines to stainless steel silos. Then the creation of skim, one, and two percent milk begins. First, we pass the raw milk through a separator. The separator uses a high-speed centrifuge which causes the cream to rise. It is pumped into a separate tank from the skim milk remaining at the bottom which is pumped into a silo. Some of that skim milk is packaged as fat-free milk, but some of it is kept to be blended with the heavy cream.
We use a computerized system that blends the skim with heavy cream and calculates the exact milkfat percentage, creating 1, 2, and 3.25 percent milk. The milk is then stored in separate stainless steel food grade tanks or silos based on the milk fat percentage: skim (fat-free), one percent (low-fat), two percent (reduced fat) and whole (3.25%).
Our milk is pasteurized and homogenized on a “first-in, first-out” basis to ensure the milk is as fresh as possible. The milk is pasteurized at 171 degrees Fahrenheit for 27 seconds, a process known as HTST – “high temperature, short time” – pasteurization. This process is regulated by the FDA and the State of New York and involves pumping the milk through pipes heated on the outside by water, after which it is immediately cooled back down. During pasteurization, the milk is also homogenized to distribute the milkfat evenly throughout the liquid by pumping it through plates under high pressure. This breaks up the fat globules into such a small size that they remain suspended evenly in the milk instead of rising to the top.
Finally, the product is pumped to milk fillers to be filled in ½ pint, quart, ½ gallon, and gallon containers as well as 6 gallon bags and boxes. Packaging machines for each size or style of product fill the containers, and a computer system directs the products through a network of valves and stainless steel pipes so that each product gets to the proper filler at the right time.
Additionally, another building is used for the creation of plastic gallon and half gallon jugs. Three specialty silos on the property hold the plastic pellets that become your milk jug through the use of an extrusion blow mold machine. Blow molding is a manufacturing process invented in the 1930s to create bottles out of plastic, similar to the way glass bottles are created via glassblowing.
The blow molding process begins with melting down the plastic and forming it into a tube-like piece of plastic with a hole in one end in which compressed air can pass through. This is then clamped into a mold and air is pumped into it. The air pressure pushes the plastic out to match the mold. Once the plastic has cooled and hardened the mold opens up and the part is ejected. Then a test is performed by blowing more air into the jug to ensure the container has no holes or leaks before labels are applied and it is sent via conveyer into the milk filling room.
Once the milk is in its assigned bottle and sealed, the finished product is stored in temperature-controlled coolers. Refrigerated milk delivery trucks back up to the coolers to be loaded for individual route orders. Elmhurst Dairy trucks deliver the milk to stores throughout New York City, where you can find it in the dairy case.
Quality testing is conducted every step of the way through the processing and packaging areas. Elmhurst Dairy is Safe Quality Food certified at the highest 2000 level, as well as Kosher certified. At the end of the day, another shift of workers begins cleaning the entire facility–including the inside of the milk silos–so that by morning when the milk tankers begin arriving the plant is ready to begin the process all over again! This means Elmhurst Dairy is open and operating 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.