Recently, a group of former Olympic athletes from Norwich, VT gathered at the local Norwich Farm Creamery to learn about the health and nutritional benefits of milk. They came because milk is an official sponsor of the United States Olympic Committee and the hundreds of American athletes competing for Team USA in the Winter Olympic Games in South Korea. With the recent publication of Norwich: One Tiny Vermont Town's Secret to Happiness and Excellence, which highlights athletes from the town, it seemed an appropriate time to celebrate athletic excellence and nutritional gold.
Jeff Hastings, a ski jumper who competed in Sarajevo in 1984; Mike Holland, also a ski jumper who went to Sarajevo in 1984 and Calgary in 1988; and Joe Holland, who went to Calgary in 1988 and to Albertville in 1992 as a member of the nordic combined team, joined cheese maker Chris Gray in the new state-of-the-art creamery to taste creamline milk, chocolate milk, ricotta cheese, and yogurt.
Chris Gray talks about milk with Mike Holland
Gray, who has been operating out of the creamery for over a year, has more than a decade of experience in the value-added dairy field. Throughout the tasting, the Olympians peppered Gray with questions about dairy equipment, the cheese making process, and the different kinds of milk on the market today. Gray explained the pasteurization process required to meet state and federal food safety regulations and detailed the milk he uses in Norwich Farm Creamery products, which comes from Jersey cows fed a specialized grass-based diet.
The three former Olympians were particularly impressed with two pieces of information that Gray shared. First, he explained the nutritional differences between grass-based milk offered by NFC and corn-based milk offered by commodity systems. Topics in this broad discussion ranged from the grazing habits of cows to protein and butterfat content to omega-3 fatty acids. Second, the former Olympians were surprised to learn that, according to a recent study, milk has 35-50% more hydrating power than highly engineered energy drinks or even regular water.
Joe Holland, Jeff Hastings, and Chris Gray talking shop
“As usual, Mother Nature seems to be at her best when we let her do things naturally,” said Mike and Joe Holland. “It was great to learn about the health benefits of real milk, and about how many different ways it helps people, from hydration to nutrition and bone building.”
Hastings said, “I always knew milk was an important nutritional building block, but I was impressed to learn so much about how our bodies have evolved to use the various nutrients in milk to our advantage. It makes sense that so many Olympic athletes make milk a part of their training regimen.”
Gray said, “I am very thankful that these remarkable local athletes came to the creamery to learn about the work we are doing to make high-quality, healthy dairy more available to Upper Valley families. I was honored to be able to share some of our products with these local heroes and to tell them why milk truly is the original sports drink. Go milk! Go team USA!”