One of my best friends recently told me to read The Untold Story of Milk by Ron Schmid (#13,355 on Amazon) and see if I could get my hands on some raw milk. Shes the only person in the world who drinks and loves whole milk as much as I do (pretty much our favorite part of college was the all-you-can-drink milk spigot in the dining hall), so I got the book and started looking for some milk to taste. She lives in California where its legal to buy and sell, but I live in Brooklyn (where its not) so I drove to the closest place to legally get it (Walter Stewarts Market in New Canaan, Connecticut) and bought two half gallons. They both cost around five dollars one from Deerfield Farm, and the other from Sankow's Beaver Brook Farm.
Ive always wondered why I like milk so much and lately my brother mentioned a theory that people crave what their bodies are allergic to. This made some sense to me because I have psoriasis, but to give up milk (which all psoriasis diets demand) is unfathomable. Milk makes me feel full and satisfied the way nothing else can. Ive also heard anecdotal stories, like the lead of this Salon story about raw milk, about how it can solve skin issues and jump start your immune system into working the way it was meant to.
Theres a chapter in Schmids book (hes a naturopathic physician) about something called "the milk cure" which uses raw milk medicinally, and about how what pasteurized milk exacerbates, raw milk heals. There was a big fuss at the turn of the 20th century over the pasteurized versus raw milk debate. Physicians who prescribed milk therapeutically were horrified at the idea of raw milk not being available anymore and so they formed an organization of doctors who pushed for what they called "Certified Milk." But ultimately because big business was behind pasteurization, they lost. For the best explanation of the traditional versus industrialized milk story read this essay by Lori Lipinski. The bottom line is that pasteurization (a process of heat treating milk to kill bacteria developed by Louis Pasteur for preserving beer and wine, not milk) not only kills friendly bacteria but also destroys the nutrient content of the milk. From Lipinski: Pasteurized milk has up to a 66 percent loss of vitamins A, D and E. Vitamin C loss usually exceeds 50 percent. Heat affects water soluble vitamins and can make them 38 percent to 80 percent less effective. Vitamins B6 and B12 are completely destroyed during pasteurization. Pasteurization also destroys beneficial enzymes, antibodies and hormones. Pasteurization destroys lipase (an enzyme that breaks down fat), which impairs fat metabolism and the ability to properly absorb fat soluble vitamins A and D. (The dairy industry is aware of the diminished vitamin D content in commercial milk, so they fortify it with a form of this vitamin.)
So, how does it taste? Very, very good. I was hooked from the first sip. The taste is not hugely different from high-quality organic milk (where cows are grass fed and allowed outdoors), but it has a lot more cream, and there's a lot more body. The full effect I crave is completely magnified with raw, maybe because the calcium is more bio-available and there are more vitamins, enzymes and fat. Of the two kinds I tried I preferred the Deerfield Farm milk, which is made from Jersey cows (they produce milk with a higher fat content). You can taste the cream in the milk because it hasn't been homogenized.
Coincidentally, there was a story on the radio about raw milk from Marketplace on the drive home. It touched on E. coli, which is usually behind everyones first question when you mention raw milk: is it safe? Well, provided it comes from a reputable farm and has been processed clean, it should arrive with a fairly low bacterial count (all milk, even pasteurized, has some kind of bacterial count). What has been shown with raw milk is that if you introduce pathogens (i.e., bad bacteria) into it, they die off. They think it's because the "good" bacteria (i.e., natural probiotics) that are in the milk naturally kill the bad bacteria -- just the way good bacteria in our intestinal tract kill off bad bacteria (which is why people take acidopholus).
(The other thing to remember is that even if the milk started souring, it would not harm you. It would mean it is starting to turn into whey, a naturally fermented milk product that was consumed for millennia and is still consumed in traditional societies around the globe. My mother talks about really liking a cold glass of milk when she got to this country because she grew up drinking the luke warm milk from her cow in Ireland.)
If the cows are healthy, and it's been handled properly (i.e., no one with diptheria touching it or coughing into it), the milk comes out of the cow naturally filled with "good" bacteria -- the kind that eat bad bacteria (similar to why human breastmilk clear's up baby's cradle cap -- the natural antibodies in the milk literally eats the fungus). Anyway, if that's the kind of healthy milk you have, with robust flora, pathogens can't grow in it. They die off. People (Little Miss Muffet anyway) used to drink soured milk, or whey -- which you make by letting the milk sit out at room temperature for three or four days.
In New York State there are 7 dairies licensed to sell raw milk, but on the farm only -- sales in retail stores is forbidden. Ive found a way around driving to farms upstate once a week, but part of their contract prevents me from writing about them without their permission, which Im hoping to get so that I can follow up soon with some more details. To find sources of raw milk in your state check out the list on the Real Milk website.
Organic Pastures in Fresno, Califonia will deliver raw milk anywhere in the country overnight, but it gets pricey and is an environmental strain. The milk from their cows never even touches human skin because they invented a mobile dairy barn in which a milking machine is attached to the cow out in the pasture. The milk goes straight into containers where its kept chilled within 15 seconds of leaving the cows udder. They even post their bacterial count daily on their website its often less than what shows up in pasteurized milk (after pasteurization, which gives you a sense of how dirty pre-pasteurized milk is).
I will definitely be giving my older daughters raw milk. Once I became hip to the fact that milk allergies are fairly common with pasteurized milk and quite uncommon with raw milk, I stopped worrying about it. Everything you hear about asthma, allergies and indigestion is a result of changing the chemical make-up of the milk during pasteurization. The new "ultra-pasteurized" milk (see the fine print on your milk carton) we're seeing on the shelves now is milk that has been heated to 282 degrees. It's been so sterilized that it can last for six months out on the shelf. The only reason they stock it in the refrigerator case is because they know the public would balk at milk that doesn't need to be refrigerated. So they stock it in the cold case so it appears more like "real" milk.
Im pretty excited about raw milk so Ill probably be posting more about my adventures. In the meantime, here is some great reading about raw milk:
* Nina Planck - raw milk champion and author of Real Food: What to Eat and Why
* Weston Price Foundation - NYC chapter
* Weston Price Foundation - national site
* Keeping a Family Cow by Joann Grohman
* The Untold Story of Milk by Ron Schmid
Learn more about The Health Benefits of a Raw Food Diet
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