Sunday, August 28, 2011

Real, Raw Milk

As you may know from my previous post, we drink raw milk in our home.

"Euw...." some of you may be muttering in your brains.

Don't worry, I get it. When you hear the word "raw" you think, uncooked, unhealthy, dirty, germy, unsafe, etc. You imagine a muddy cow being milked into a dirty tin can, poured into a glass, and gulped. (I'm thinking Napolean Dynamite style.)

But I am here to tell you why we drink raw milk. So before you write me off as overly crunchy, just hear me out. :)

If you ask my family, they'll tell you I'm the kind of person who sniffs everything before eating it. Spaghetti sauce, milk, cheese, vegetables, sour cream - oh trust me, the sour cream gets at least 3 sniffs. If food smells bad, I toss it. And I don't enjoy wasting anything, but food that has gone bad does not belong in our tummies.

Needless to say, I'm pretty careful about what I eat.

Buying raw milk was not originally my idea. My mom began bringing home raw milk from a friend's farm when I was a young kid. I tried to like it, but it was very "cowy" smelling and I couldn't get it past my nose. My delicious GrapeNuts suffered each morning. I preferred the milk from the store. It was thin, it was white, it didn't smell, and it didn't taste weird. It didn't taste like much, actually. And that was the point! (At the time.) Maybe it was part stubbornness or truly a sense aversion, but eventually the whole family went back to buying milk from the store again.

Years passed and she began supporting a local farmer by purchasing raw milk and organic eggs. The milk was better, I'll admit that. But a part of me was still very reserved about the whole idea. Raw milk...really?

It was only after I got married and read a book, "The Untold Story of Milk" that the reasons behind raw milk made sense to me. A lot of sense. Learning the truths about "store bought milk" turned my stomach more than the cowy smell ever did. My cousin and homeopath both told me about another farmer who sold grass-fed milk, and after tasting it, I was seriously shocked at how delicious it was.

No weird smells either! I'm serious. Even my Mom admits it's the best she's ever tasted.

The Untold Story of Milk: Green Pastures, Contented Cows and Raw Dairy ProductsThe cows feed on grass - which is exactly what cows are intended to eat. The milk is unpasteurized and contains no growth hormones. It's full of vitamins and nutrients. I'm doing some reading on the topic of milk and continue to be shocked at the current state of "modern milk." Just a few stats (all from the book to the right): 40% of cows that provide the milk we buy from the store are infected with mastitis; the average life span of the cow on a pasture is 12-15 years, but in confinement (where store-bought milk comes from), the cows live only an average of 42 months; confinement cows (due to high-tech breeding and feeding schedules) produce 20 times more milk than is needed to feed a calf, and this means a dilution of vitamin and nutrient content; most cows in confinement develop lameness and infections in their legs due to standing on concrete all the time, because cows are supposed to be in the pasture, on soft ground. 

Cows were meant to primarily eat grass - but in confinement they are given growth hormones and fed a corn mixture - because it's cheap, abundant, and convenient - not because it's healthy. Cows are not intended to live off of such a diet, and they are usually sick because of it. Yet people continue to think milk from these animals is great - just because it has been pasteurized. 

Another thing to know about store-bought milk is the ridiculous process of homogenization. This is when the fat particles in the milk are broken down to such microscopic sizes to prevent the separation of the heavy cream and the milk. Once the fat particles have been broken down, they can easily slip into our bloodstream. Milk that has been left in its "original" form is meant to be processed and broken down naturally by our bodies, and the fat particles stay out of our blood. Whole milk bought from the store is dangerous - not because it contains the most fat, but because so much of the fat enters places in our bodies that it was never meant to.

Another tidbit is that some people who are lactose intolerant might be able to drink raw milk because it has not been altered; our digestive systems know how to handle the right kind of milk. 

That being said, it took me many years to warm up to the idea of raw milk...but as long as we can afford it, we're never going back. If you're going to make any health choices, look into raw milk!

There's a great website out there,, that quickly sums up the benefits of drinking raw. There are many, many health benefits to drinking raw. There are also people who believe that it is so full of nutrients that you could literally live off of raw milk alone. (I'd miss my eggs and donuts, but if I had to...) 

If you want something more in depth, I recommend the book in the picture. (It actually takes you right to where you can buy it. Or see if your library has it. It's such a detailed, solid, good read.) 

Here are some great videos about the whole topic too!
1. History of milk
2. Pasturization
3. Homogenization

If you're going to buy raw milk, ask around your trusted friends and family circles. Always know your source and make sure you can talk to the farmers, get to know them personally, and see the animals. Make sure they are being taken care of and are fed well. Ask about their methods of milking and storing. Try to buy your milk the same day it has been milked from the cow. Support local farms and ask if they have other products you can buy. We always talk about bringing back the farms and making better food choices. Trust me, this is a great way to start putting it into practice!


Amanda said...

Two weeks ago we bought into yet another share of milk from the co-op since we were going through it so fast. I shuddered whenever we were out and I had to run to the store for milk. The girls love it and actually turn up their noses to the store bought milk! Since they're 3 and 1 1/2 and don't know any better, I'd say that's pretty awesome!

Natalie said...

Thanks for compiling all this info... I'm sharing this! :)

I wish we had a source for raw milk up here - almost all the cows are free-range grass-fed cattle and I'm sure their milk is fantastic. The big dairy farm we went to visit a few weeks ago (birthday party for some twins whose mom works with Tim) had all 1200 cows inside all day long, fed them fermented silage (smells worse than manure), and they were all sitting/standing in their own crap. It was completely obvious that there is no way you could safely drink raw milk from those cows... but most of the cows around here are so well-cared-for and clean b/c they are allowed to graze all day long - and well into the night, too! Their milk must be great. :) Unfortunately, no one will sell it b/c it's too expensive for them to get licensed (or however NYS does it) and they are only allowed to give it to people for dog/cat consumption. :(

MommaGina3335 said...

Thanks for sharing your info on raw milk. We have been exclusively eating and drinking raw dairy products since January of this year. My son's eczema completely disappeared after 3 weeks of a raw dairy diet. We will never go back to pasteurized dairy!