27 Feb 2010

The milk stores are back: milk is cheaper, tastier and good for the environment.

Eco-Tuscany: Fresh milk from the cow to your table

I grew up in a small village in Tuscany with corner stores and family-run grocery stores. My grandfather was a farmer, and my father has always helped out in the countryside, even though, until recently, that was not his real job. When I am in Civitella I know where my food comes from. I know where the meat sold at the butcher’s is produced and butchered. I know the person who makes the bread and the person who makes the flour. I know the people who provide vegetables and fruit to the greengrocer’s shop. My father has hens and chickens, lots of fruit trees, a large vegetable garden, vineyards and olive trees, so I know where our meat, eggs, fruit and vegetables, wine and olive oil come from. We really buy very little.

When we are in Pisa, on the other hand, we buy meat at the supermarket, and I am never very impressed. I still remember the first time I bought chicken… I was 19 and with one bite I was left with a bare bone in my hand. I promise real chicken is not supposed to be like that. And it definitely doesn’t taste like that. I am always shocked when chicken meat or pork releases water when you put it in the pan… That tells me that those animals were fed very unhealthy stuff, and now we are eating it.

I think more and more people are starting to notice these things are becoming more and more aware of what they eat. I have recently come across a “new old habit“: “la latteria“, the milk shop.

Up to the late ’80s, the village had a milk shop. A lady would sell you fresh milk delivered to the shop that very morning by local producers. You had to bring your own bottle. Over time, the milk shops closed, fresh milk was sold in milk cartons, and long-life milk became more and more popular. I always use it, but it’s nothing like the milk I used to drink when I was a kid.

The good news is that the “latteria is coming back, even though it has a much more “industrial” face. Milk producers throughout Italy have created an association which has opened shops throughout the country where you can go with your own glass bottle and get your raw milk from large taps. From the cow to the table, they say. This is known as “filiera corta”, literally the “short spinneret”, or as prodotti a km 0, literally products that are produced less than 1km away, all catch phrases for local products, what was once known as dal produttore al consumatore (from producer to consumer). You might find this phrase in restaurant menus more and more often.

Here is the website where you can find the closest latteria: buy milk from the producer in Italy.

The advantages? Well, the milk is 40% cheaper (you can save 40 to 60 cents per liter) and it’s fresh. The milk that is not sold on the day it is delivered goes back to the dairy and is used to make ricotta and other types of cheese. The milk is not treated, so it contains more vitamins and proteins than pasteurized milk, and it tastes better.You know who the producer is, and if you want, you can go check how the cows are kept, what they eat, how they live, etc.

The disadvantages? The milk is raw, and even if it is scrupulously controlled to ensure that it’s healthy and that none of the major pathogens are present, it might still be more difficult to digest than pasteurized milk for some people. What’s more, it has a very short life: it should not be kept for more than 24 hours, unless you boil it of course.

Another huge advantage of bringing latterie back to life is that buying milk directly from the producer with your own glass bottle is an environmentally wise choice. Every family uses an average of 365 milk cartons or plastic bottles per year. By using your own glass bottle, you have a double advantage: you help your wallet and the environment.


  1. That is so fun that the milk shop is coming back. I haven’t seen one here in Catanzaro yet, but a supermarket was advertising “fresh milk shop” milk a few weeks ago. They sold out before we could get there!

  2. Hi Cherrye,

    I know! The first “shops” were actually kiosks with automatic machines!!! But I think now they’re having more and more success and opening larger stores.


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