There is one thing I can’t bear to drink: milk. Growing up, my parents used to make me drink three cups of warm milk a day so that I would “grow tall” (I’m a whopping 5’2”), and I resented every sip.
Moving to Beijing just as the melamine scandal was blowing up made me even warier of this lurid childhood beverage. But Beijing has the beginnings of an organic dairy movement, so I set out to see if these healthy cows could sway my opinion.
Green Yard is China’s first organic dairy farm, and the best option for those looking for certified organic milk and yogurt that’s produced locally. Green Yard is located in the Kangxi prairies of west Yanqing County by the Badaling section of the Great Wall. Environment is key here. The farm lies 500 meters higher than Beijing, with the best air quality out of 18 districts and counties and a low population density, all of which factors into raising their cattle, sales manager Joan Wang tells me. Bovine diets consist of mainly organic corn, hay and grass, their feces is processed through a gasoline fuel system to protect the land they live on, and illnesses are treated with traditional Chinese medicine.
You can find Green Yard’s milk and even Greek-style yogurt at Western grocery stores like Jenny Lou’s and April Gourmet, and Green Yard will deliver to your home with a minimum purchase of ¥500. They’re also opening up their own supermarket and café later this summer on the east side of Chaoyang Park. The venue, called U Food Organic, will sell local organically produced fruit, vegetables, meat and eggs, as well as organic dairy products.
Shunyi’s Green Cow Organic Farm is run by owners of Mrs. Shanen’s Lejen and Shan En. Their main focus isn’t solely dairy, but they do have four milking cows that provide organic milk for their members and bagel café. “If we have extra we will sell it from the café or make ice cream, yogurt, butter and other dairy products,” says Lejen. “This means on a regular basis our yogurt, hot chocolate and cappuccinos are all made with our organic clean milk.” She says that sourcing good feed for the cows and other livestock at Green Cow can be a challenge, so they try to grow as much as possible by themselves, and work with trusted farmers. They also stay away from antibiotics or growth hormones, and choose not to homogenize the milk.
Though there are some budding establishments that offer safe and healthy organic milk in Beijing, I’ll stick to just drinking it with my coffee and wait for organic cheese to hit the shelves.