To close off the series on our recent visit to Ronnybrook Farm Dairy, I wanted to include a snippet of some of the dialogue between Ronny Osofsky, owner of Ronnybrook Dairy, and Amanda Trzcinski, the operations management intern.
The preceding articles in our Ronnybrook series have incorporated the three hour conversation and tour. Now, I am highlighting specific questions (that you may have yourselves) and their answers.
Q: Where do you get your fruit [for your yogurts]?
Ronnybrook Farm Dairy (Ronny Osofsky and Amanda Trzcinski):
Fruit Crown, out of Long Island. It’s fresh fruit, just pureed; it’s not canned or frozen. A lot of people will pick up one of our drinkable yogurts or cup yogurts and not buy it because it has a lot of sugar. [What they don’t realize is] that’s not processed sugar; it’s natural sugar from the fruit. Sometimes there is a misconception like “oh I can’t give this to my kid; it has 27 grams of sugar in it”. Well if you eat a peach, what’s the sugar content of that peach?
Q: How does the fruit get to Ronnybrook?
RFD: The fruit comes weekly. Our drivers pick up the fruit on the way back on Fridays to decrease shipping costs. We try to make it that our trucks are always coming back with something on them, be it bottle returns or fruit or boxes or plastic bottles. We get a pallet or two of fruit a week, depending on the season. In the summer we do more.
Q: What’s your most popular of the drinkable yogurts?
A.T.: As far as sales go, blackberry, peach, mango are tied for top, with strawberry following.
R.O.: Those were the first ones we made [blackberry, peach, and mango]. A lot of stores don’t have shelf room and don’t order the other flavors [blueberry pomegranate, banana, honey vanilla, plain, low fat flavors].
A.T. For cup yogurt, we sell more plain than anything else.
R.O. We haven’t phased out any of the flavors. I just think we have to give them time. We don’t do the coffee milk in quarts/pints anymore. Now [we only sell them] in plastic—people love it but not enough people buy it.
Q: Do you have the same schedule every day?
RFD: We do chocolate milk at the end of the day—because of pipes, the chocolate powder gets everywhere. We bottle milk 2 days a week; we bottle yogurt 3 days a week; we use Tuesday for maintenance/inventory.
Q: How do you determine when you’re done bottling for the day?
RFD: When we’ve met our production for the day: we have a certain number of cases and gallons we have to do based on customer order. The Greenmarket is always an estimate, but we have a good estimate depending on the weather. Snow doesn’t effect [our estimate], but rain does.
Q: Distribution must take a ton of work!
RFD: [Distribution is] A huge part of the operation. A lot of people don’t do their own distribution, but we do. We do have some distributors, but we do a huge bulk of it on our own.
We deliver to New York City almost every day, with two big deliveries a week that are just milk. We deliver two days at the Greenmarkets, [then there are] local deliveries and distributors on one day. Our trucks are on the road pretty much every day.
Q: If you do your major deliveries twice a week to New York City, how do you store for the Greenmarket?
RFD: Everything is stored at the Chelsea Market store; [the products are] picked up at Chelsea and then delivered from there. Our biggest markets are Union Square and the U.N., so we send separate trucks for those.
Q: What is the percentage of bottles returned?
RFD: About 50%; at the Greenmarkets [the percentage is] more. Some people still don’t know to return the bottles and so they pay the fee. Also, a lot of the retailers don’t mention the bottle returning.
Q: Are there customers who don’t buy your milk because it’s in glass?
RFD: Many reasons: sometimes they don’t want the hassle of bringing the bottle back; its weight, [it comes in] smaller quantities. Also, certain stores won’t take our milk because they don’t want to deal with returns, store the empty bottles, or pay deposits back to people.
Q: Tell me more about the mattresses the cows sleep on.
RFD: The mattresses are made of recycled rubber, which is very common. We were one of the first dairies to market them, but a lot of the farms use mattresses. Ours are made out of recycled tires; some farms even have waterbeds!
Q: When do the calves get names?
RFD: [When they’re first born], they have their mother’s name put on. Then they are named when they come into the barn. They’re in cow families. Once you have 80 cows, it’s hard to come up with names, especially when you have 40 ‘Barbies’: Barbie [the cow] had 40 offspring. We ran out of ‘B’s!
Q: What is the difference between unhomogenized and homogenized milk?
RFD: It’s healthier not to homogenize and it tastes different. We have lots of people who drink our milk, thinking they’re lactose intolerant but they’re not. Often it’s the processing that makes them allergic. When it’s homogenized, it goes directly into your blood stream. When it’s unhomogenized, the milk fat is naturally larger globules. [These] get absorbed later into your small and large intestine, which is where it’s supposed to be digested. It’s then digested more slowly and you don’t get that flush of milk fat that immediately needs to be digested [from homogenized milk].
Q: Do your customers get homogenization and pasteurization confused?
RFD: A lot of the stores were thinking their milk was going bad because all of the cream was rising to the top. I can explain if people ask, but some people just stop buying. [The milk] can last quite some time as long as it’s cold.