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St Patrick's Day 2017: New York dairy company produces green milk

By Chris McCullough

A dairy company in New York is getting in the mood for St Patrick’s Day by producing its very own green milk.

Byrne Dairy is bottling up its popular milk with an added twist of mint and some green dye once more, as it has done since 1976, to ensure the shelves are fully stocked of the green milk ahead of the big day. 

The Byrne family that run the dairy traces its roots back five generations in Ireland, hence the strong affiliation with St Patrick’s Day.

Speaking to the Belfast Telegraph from New York, Ryan Elliott, an attorney with Byrne Dairy and a fourth generation Byrne family member through his mother Johanna Byrne Elliott, said: “We are one of very few dairies in the world that does this sort of thing. It is outside the norm but is also fun.

“It was my grandfather Vincent Byrne, or Vinny as he was better known as, and his brothers Bill and Jack, who were third generation Irish men that started this unique idea off.

“At the time, I’m sure they never imagined that it would be as popular as it is today. In their mind, the product offering now known as Irish mint milk was really more a reflection of their pride in being Irish immigrants. They also viewed it as a fun way to give back to the local community.

“As the story goes, my grandfather once remarked that the Irish mint milk was a gift to the local Irish community.

“Together with his brothers Bill and Jack they ran the dairy after it was passed down by their father Matt who founded the business in 1933.

“Matt’s father was Larry Byrne and his family can be traced back to Ireland and how they were forced to leave home and travel to the United States following the Great Famine over there in Ireland.

“We produce about 8,500 to 10,000 gallons of this special Irish milk each year which is sold in and around the Syracuse area of New York where we are based.

“Each year, we produce slightly more than the preceding year, as the Irish mint milk continues to grow in popularity. It is also sold in 60 convenience stores that are also owned by our company,” he said.

Byrne Dairy started this year’s production of the green milk on February 20 and it ran until March 14 to satisfy customer demand. 

Ryan said: “We started to receive calls as soon as January asking us when the green milk is going to come out. From the beginning of March it’s a product that many stores have trouble keeping in stock.”

But the dairy is not stopping there as new products are in the making including more milk themes for various holiday periods, a vision of Byrne Dairy’s new CEO Fred Sadeghi who is also a former Starbucks Coca-Cola engineering director.

The milk used in the green milk produced by Byrne Dairy comes from cows on 150 independent local farms with a 35 mile radius of the plant and who only supply Byrne Dairies. There are a further 100 dairy farms that are contracted into local co-ops that supply the company too.

In order to produce the milk the dairy adds sugar, mint flavouring and some dye to give it that special bright Irish green colour.

It is only sold in half gallon bottles for US$3.89 each or £3.15 for 2.27 litres in UK terms, and is very popular with the strong Irish community in Syracuse.

Ryan said: “There is a strong Irish community in Syracuse who buy the green milk but we also have a lot of New Yorkers who enjoy it too.

“In the Syracuse area there are a number of celebrations planned for St Patrick’s Day. Most years I participate in the Tipperary Hill Shamrock run, which takes place less than a mile from my home, as well as the local parade,” he said.

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