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National Ice Cream Month: Celebrating this favorite summer treat

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When thinking of what to enjoy as a dessert on a hot sunny day, ice cream might be the go-to. In fact, the average American eats 20 pounds of ice cream each year, which equates to about 4 gallons, according to the International Dairy Foods Association. At that’s at the forefront of our mind for National Ice Cream Month!

The honor dates to 1984 when President Ronald Reagan designated July as the perfect time to celebrate this frozen treat with friends and family.

“Ice cream is a nutritious and wholesome food, enjoyed by over ninety percent of the people in the United States,” the proclamation read. It continued, “And I call upon the people of the United States to observe these events with appropriate ceremonies and activities.”

The partnership with the American Dairy Association and Walter Dee Huddleston, a senator from Kentucky, began the tradition to celebrate during peak temperatures.

» Related: For the love of butter: The story of the oldest family-owned creamery

Roughly 95 percent of dairy farms are family owned. The same is to be true on the processing side of dairy milk to make ice cream. According to an IDFA survey, most ice cream companies are family owned and have been in operation for more than 50 years.

It takes a lot of milk to make ice cream. In fact, it uses 12 pounds of milk from dairy farms to produce 1 gallon of ice cream!

making-ice-cream-kitchen
Image by RossHelen, Shutterstock

While this dessert comes in hundreds of flavors (some are pretty outrageous, like Cheetos Flamin’ Hot Ice Cream or Extra Virgin Olive Oil Ice Cream), the simple and basic flavor default is vanilla. While vanilla is the starting point for flavor, it’s another ingredient to be used, such as by adding a vanilla extract.

When vanilla extract is not used, a classic treat long before vanilla became popular has been Sweet Cream Ice Cream. It’s exactly as it states — it’s creamy. Even so, the best way is using fresh and high butterfat jersey cream. Using cream, milk, sugar, and a pinch of salt is the way to create this treat.

Beyond vanilla, a study in which the IDFA partnered with Research America said America’s top 10 favorite ice cream flavors were chocolate, cookies n’ cream, strawberry, chocolate chip, cookie dough, buttered pecan, French vanilla, chocolate chip cookie dough, and caramel/salted caramel.

Ice cream is a nostalgia food item. Think food trucks from the past, crying over a movie, or even helping to treat a sore throat.

Ice cream uses a base of milk, cream, sugar, and sometimes egg yolks — and there are certainly differences between this an other frozen desserts. According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, to be called ice cream, it must contain at least 10 percent milk fat.

italian-gelato-array
Image by Riderfoot, Shutterstock

So, what makes some of the other similar desserts stand out from good ol’ fashioned ice cream?

  • One related frozen treat is gelato, which means ice cream in Italian. But it’s not the same. While it’s made with a base of milk, cream, and sugar, the difference is the concentration level of having more milk and less cream compared to ice cream. The dessert is also typically softer and denser due to incorporating less milk fat and being air churned during freezing.
  • Meanwhile, most people are also familiar with Culver’s delicious custard, another dessert similar to ice cream? The main difference here is using eggs in the base with cream and milk. The FDA said the dessert must contain at least 1.4 percent pasteurized egg yolk in the final product. The egg yolk makes custard as it achieves a creamier texture with a slightly higher fat content.
  • Another member of the family is sorbet, which is an option for lactose intolerance customers as the product almost always lacks dairy and egg products. It can include things like fruit and chocolate and usually results in a more smooth texture.

There are many ways to keep cool this summer alongside family, especially during National Ice Cream Month. Ice cream is so popular it has a website at icecream.com! Celebrating this day only takes one bite, literally.


Michelle Miller, the Farm Babe, is a farmer, public speaker and writer who has worked for years with row crops, beef cattle, and sheep. She believes education is key in bridging the gap between farmers and consumers.

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