Once upon a time, in a state about half a country away I decided to fulfill a life long dream and visit the Blue Bell Ice Cream Factory. It was only a short drive from Austin and I took three ice cream lovers with me to round out the experience.
It was a beautiful day. We were very excited to take a free factory tour and sample to our hearts’ delight.
I cannot say anything bad about the experience. Our tiny, young tour guide obviously thought we were silly (sort-of) grownups but gave as good of a tour (if not better) than you can expect from someone who can’t drink legally. The ice cream samples were plentiful and the giant scoop I enjoyed as part of my tour left me more than fulfilled afterwards.
The tour did; however, completely change the way I approach ice cream now. Our tour guide enthusiastically showed us a room where milk (or cream?) was shooting through pipes and getting prepared for deliciousness when she mentioned the number of cows needed for to make their cold sweet treats each day. In my memory she said 100,000 cows were milked within 200 miles of Brenham, Texas and shipped to the factory. The Internet tells it’s more like 60,000. Either way it’s a lot. All I could think when she said that was, “That’s a lot of cows. Probably not a lot of happy cows.”
Let me be clear. I have absolutely no way in knowing how Blue Bell’s dairies/dairy partners treat their cows…but the realization of how many animals have to be involved to make Blue Bell or any large ice cream producer really bothered me. For an ice cream addict like myself, it also really affected the way I shop. Now I deliberately seek out small batch and/or organic ice cream. This may seem like an obvious choice to some wise shoppers but my love of ice cream had always outweighed my ability to shop environmentally.
In Wilmington I have access to a couple good options. Front Porch Carolina Churned Ice Cream is sold at my local Harris Teeter (although I wish they had more flavors there!) and for a scoop on the town I can stop by Tar Heel Creamery. A pint of the strawberry is in my fridge now and I tasted the apple pie flavor. Both delish. I definitely wish there were more options (mainly because I specifically NEED Peanut Butter Chocolate ice cream almost daily) but beggars shouldn’t be choosers when they’re still eating tasty cold treats all the dang time.