A dairy is a business enterprise established for the harvesting or processing (or both) of animal milk – mostly from cows or goats, but also from buffaloes, sheep, horses, or camels – for human consumption. A dairy is typically located on a dedicated dairy farm or in a section of a multi-purpose farm (mixed farm) that is concerned with the harvesting of milk.
Terminology differs between countries. For example, in the United States, the entire dairy farm is commonly called a “dairy.” The building or farm area where milk is harvested from the cow is often called a “milking parlor” or “parlor.” The farm area where milk is stored in bulk tanks is known as the farm’s “milk house.” Milk is then hauled (usually by truck) to a “dairy plant,” also referred to as a “dairy”, where raw milk is further processed and prepared for commercial sale of dairy products. In New Zealand, farm areas for milk harvesting are also called “milking parlours”, and are historically known as “milking sheds.” As in the United States, sometimes milking sheds are referred to by their type, such as “herring bone shed” or “pit parlour”. Parlour design has evolved from simple barns or sheds to large rotary structures in which the workflow (throughput of cows) is very efficiently handled. In some countries, especially those with small numbers of animals being milked, the farm may perform the functions of a dairy plant, processing their own milk into salable dairy products, such as butter, cheese, or yogurt. This on-site processing is a traditional method of producing specialist milk products, common in Europe.
In the United States a dairy can also be a place that processes, distributes and sells dairy products, or a room, building or establishment where milk is stored and processed into milk products, such as butter or cheese. In New Zealand English the singular use of the word dairy almost exclusively refers to a corner shop, or superette. This usage is historical as such shops were a common place for the public to buy milk products.
As an attributive, the word dairy refers to milk-based products, derivatives and processes, and the animals and workers involved in their production: for example dairy cattle, dairy goat. A dairy farm produces milk and a dairy factory processes it into a variety of dairy products. These establishments constitute the global dairy industry, a component of the food industry.
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