The first time I ever heard the term “raw milk” I immediately pictured some big, nasty piece of rotten, raw meat. I have no idea why this picture popped into my head. I think in our modern society, the word “raw” conjures a negative connotation. Raw meat – yuck. Raw skin – ouch. Raw emotions – boohoo. Raw vegetables – are you kidding? Raw, to most means uncooked and not ready to eat. It brings with it the thought of something that needs to be heated up to be safe to consume. For me, a big glass of raw chicken. Yum.
As I grew more and more crunchy, the topic of raw milk came up again and again. Let me just tell you, my family is a bunch of milk-drinkin’ fools. So the idea of milk in its purest form was always intriguing. On a low week, we’ll go through 4-5 gallons, easy. As a toddler, little Hailey would suck down cup after cup like nobody’s business. I thought I was doing something good by having her drink commercial milk. After all, why would all those celebrities get some questionable looking milk moustache painted on their upper lip and tout the glories of milk unless it was truly good for us?
The funniest part is that I actually drank raw milk for a portion of my childhood because we had our own Jersey cow named Baby who I milked every morning myself. I guess we were simpletons ‘cause we just called it “MILK”. Imagine that. Why was I so turned off by the idea of raw milk? The simple answer is that I had been brainwashed and indoctrinated by the government, mainstream and conventional medical sources and of course, the American Dairy Association with their genius celebrity ad propaganda. I’ll stop there. I don’t want to scare you away before I have a chance to lure you to the dark side of dairy…
In the early to mid-1800s, the world was experiencing unprecedented growth in every way. As the population steadily grew, there was a demand for enough food and industry to effectively support all these people. On the cusp of the industrial revolution, growth in machinery and fuel sources was making it possible for farmers of all kinds to raise and produce more animals and animal products than ever before. To keep up with demand, they would shove more and more animals into smaller spaces to get higher yields from increasingly tinier spaces.
As you can imagine, this led to all sorts of problems with sanitation and disease. Dirty facilities, cramped quarters and diseased animals led to inferior (and often dangerous) food. Enter milk. In this type of industrial setting, where the “germ theory” was just being introduced, along with inadequate refrigeration and no real understanding of sanitation – you had a cesspool of germs and bacteria just waiting for a healthy host to infect. People were dying left and right from all sorts of diseases and illnesses from all this.
Louis Pasteur – Friend or Foe?
In the late 1860s, Louis Pasteur was a prominent French chemist studying the germ theory. (Ok, so can you imagine a time where there was no knowledge of germs or bacteria? It blows my mind. No Purell toting moms on the playground and no one to push antibacterial soap. Woo!) Pasteur found that the growth of micro-organisms was responsible for spoiling wine, beer and milk. With this knowledge, he developed a process in which he heated the liquids in order to kill the bacteria and mold already present. This process soon came to be called Pasteurization.
Now I’m sure at that time, pasteurization was a great benefit to all those people who didn’t die from rampant bacteria in milk because of sub-par production practices and poor animal husbandry. But in our day, with the knowledge of proper animal husbandry, medical and scientific progress, sanitation and refrigeration, it seems like over-kill to me. Especially when you understand the trade-off.
Most people know and understand that heat causes deterioration. (ever leave something out in the sun a long time or leave a piece of chocolate in your car?) Many years of research later, we’ve found that Pasteurization causes the loss and degradation of many minerals, vitamins, beneficial microorganisms and enzymes in the milk. These enzymes are necessary for proper digestion of the milk and assimilation of the vitamins it offers. Add in the fact that modern, commercial milk is highly processed and laden with additives and there’s no wonder so many people can’t digest it.
I know there are a lot of you out there who say that cow milk = food for a baby cow and that no other mammals drink milk past infancy…yada, yada, yada. The fact is that man has been drinking mammalian milk ever since he could figure out how to get the cow (or camel or donkey or goat) to stand still long enough to squeeze the teat and if available has always been a traditional dietary staple. It is a nutrient dense food and in its pure form – raw and unadulterated is perfectly healthy and digestible by most people. Milk from grass-fed, healthy cows and a good, conscientious farmer is some of the safest and best nutrition you’ll ever find. And Holy Cow does it taste good! (couldn’t resist)
Commercial Milk – Colored poison water pretending to be milk
Just so you understand what all is done to your grocery store milk before you unwittingly drink it down or give it to your toddler, I’ve compiled this handy list.
- Cows in commercial milk production dairies are often stressed, sickly and fed diets nowhere near their natural norm. They are treated with prophylactic antibiotics to over-come any issues arising from sub-par conditions and given growth hormones for faster growth and higher yields of milk. This obviously greatly diminishes the quality of the milk and has long term negative effects on the humans drinking the milk.
- Pasteurization of milk destroys and adversely changes nutrients and immune-enhancing properties by exposure to heat. It does not sterilize milk, so residual bacterial contamination can still cause illness and problems. Pasteurization can cover up contamination and encourage less than acceptable animal husbandry and production practices. ( sick animals with dirty, puss and blood filled milk)
- To standardize milk and make sure you get exactly the fat content you want, (1%, 2%, etc.) milk is separated (skim milk/cream) and then put back together in in ratios depending on what type of milk it is. Because we’ve now farted around with the milk so much, additives for taste and consistency are also added to mask the damage that has been done.
- At some point in history, milk producers didn’t want consumers to know how fat (cream) was in their milk, so they began homogenizing it. Homogenization is a fancy and scientific process by which milk fat globules are torn apart to make it all one, nice consistency. No cream rises to the top and no one will see how little fat there is or isn’t in their milk. This process causes these torn apart globules to absorb proteins – mostly casein which causes a higher allergenicity of homogenized milk. It also causes fat oxidation which produces some really nasty off-flavors. But that’s okay because they’ll just use some chemical to take care of that.
- Think your milk is 100% milk? Think again. Commercial milk has all sorts of additives – flavor and consistency enhancers, synthetic vitamins, vegetable oils and powdered skim milk as a whitener. (this powdered skim milk also contains dangerous oxidized cholesterol – yummy!) More recently, milk producers are fighting to be able to add artificial sweeteners to milk without having to label it. I’m not kidding! Milk and milk products have a US Agricultural Department “Standard of Identity” which in lay terms means they can put whatever crap they want in your milk as long as they heat it and they don’t have to include the additives on the label.
When I found out that we live only 20 miles from a raw milk dairy who uses only 100% grass-fed Jersey cows, I was sold. In Texas, it’s legal to sell raw milk as long as it’s sold directly from the farm. Each week I trek those 20 miles with my cooler and pick up our milk for the week. Clifford, the dairy owner is usually out taking care of the cows and will come over to help me carry my milk. The refrigerator I get the milk from is in the milking parlor and if I arrive when they’re milking, I can actually see the milk being pumped into the tank and then watch the happy cows mosey back out to their pasture.
If you’re in our neck of the woods, check them out. http://www.diamondbcattle.com/
There’s something comforting about knowing where your food comes from and having a personal relationship with the farmer who provides it. It feels lovely and civically responsible to support a local farmer and my local economy, all while providing something that’s healthy and nutritionally superior for my family.
We’ve been immensely enjoying raw milk for over three years now and have never regretted it for a second. I have drank it through two pregnancies and fed it to my babies (after weaning from breastfeeding) and toddlers and have never worried for a second about their safety or health.
If you are lactose or casein intolerant or just don’t handle milk well for any reason, I encourage you to do a little research and see if you can’t track down raw milk in your area. You might find that you can tolerate raw milk with no problems (many intolerant folks do) and you might discover how glorious and wonderful raw milk is! Heck, you might even want to buy your own cow…
Do you drink raw milk? Is it legal in your state? Comment below and let us know what you drink, where you get it and how much it is.
Images courtesy of Sommai, antpkr, Simon Howden/freedigitalphotos.net