Kiwi kids don't buy into brown cow theory about chocolate milk

Cali Langley, 8, knows exactly where milk comes from.
ANDY JACKSON/Fairfax NZ

Cali Langley, 8, knows exactly where milk comes from.

Millions of American adults believe chocolate milk comes from brown cows, but Kiwi kids know better - in fact, only one food caused confusion for a group of New Plymouth primary school children. 

"It's normal milk with chocolate flavouring in it," 8-year-old Cali Langley said

A recent survey commissioned by the Innovation Center of US Dairy found 16.4 million Americans put the chocolate flavour down to the cow's appearance, rather than additives, The Washington Post reported.

Seven per cent of American adults think chocolate milk comes from brown cows but the children at Central School in New ...
ANDY JACKSON/Fairfax NZ

Seven per cent of American adults think chocolate milk comes from brown cows but the children at Central School in New Plymouth know better. Back, left to right, Cali Langley, Cohen Fabish. Front, left to right, Mahina Fore, Faith Hodgkinson, Poppy Darvill-Jackson, Charlotte Yates.

However, when the question was put to a children from Central School in New Plymouth, the chocolate hit was unanimously attributed to flavouring, either by powder or syrup.

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Similarly, there was no confusion about where meat patties came from, with all of the children answering 'beef' or 'cow'.

The origin of hamburgers had stumped nearly a fifth of American adults in a Department of Agriculture study conducted in the early '90s and experts weren't convinced much had changed.

"At the end of the day, it's an exposure issue," Cecily Upton, co-founder of the nonprofit FoodCorps, which brings agricultural and nutrition education into elementary schools, told The Washington Post.

"Right now, we're conditioned to think that if you need food, you go to the store. Nothing in our educational framework teaches kids where food comes from before that point."

That was not the case in New Zealand, where food origins, processing and how to make healthy choices were taught in class, Central School's associate principal Maxine Luff said. 

"We teach them where their food comes from and how it's changed by processing," she said.

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"They're also about to go on the [Life Education Trust] truck and they'll learn about reading labels at the supermarket and how to choose what's good for them."

As well as what they picked up at school, five of the six Taranaki children had friends or relatives living or working on farms, a figure which surprised Taranaki Federated Farmers chairman Donald McIntyre.

"I would've said that so many of them knowing where the chocolate milk came from was down to it being a good provincial school but it's a bit unexpected for an urban school," he said.

"But it's good news.  There's a real shift from rural to urban, that's becoming more obvious, so to hear that so many have rural links is definitely positive."

Initiatives like Fonterra's Milk for Schools programme, which supplied milk to 70 per cent of the country's primary schools, was likely to have boosted students' knowledge of where milk came from, McIntyre said.

"Fonterra also have liaison people to link up with schools for things like tanker visits to the school and school trips to farms and things like that will help as well."

As well as correctly identifying the origins of their milk and meat patties, the New Plymouth group also knew chips were made from potatoes and bread from wheat and other grains.  

Bacon was the only food to cause any kind of confusion, with three of the six children believing it was pig skin 'because it's chewy and flat'.

 - Stuff

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