i drink raw milk

Mmmmm. Milk. When I think of milk, I think of white mustaches and dunked cookies, of the comfort of hot chocolate and the “Got Milk?” ad campaign that was everywhere when I was growing up. I remember replacing cow milk with soy milk when I decide to eat vegetarian, and, of course, when I continued on into veganism. Then one day my face swelled up in big red blotches, and bam just like that I was allergic to soy and out my main protein source. I started dreaming about cheese, and soon returned to vegetarian shores. Re-enter milk, stage left.

I hadn’t become vegetarian (or vegan) because I found the consumption of animal products to be inherently wrong, but because I found the animal product foods industry to be inherently wrong. Workers are treated poorly and the animals even more so. We’ve all seen the PETA pictures of the factory farms. It’s not a pretty sight, and all the “supermarket pastoral” pictures of cows grazing in bright green fields under an open sky on the supermarket milk packages couldn’t make me forget it. So when I started drinking milk again, I knew I wanted it to be from a small local farm, and I knew I wanted it to be raw, that is to say, unpasteurized, unprocessed, unmolested.

My reasoning had to do with what I had been reading about whole foods, particularly raw milk. I read stories about people whose doctors had pronounced them lactose intolerant who could drink raw milk with no problem. I read stories and studies about the way children grew faster when drinking it and about it curing everything from asthma to digestive disorders. And all this because during pasteurization the good bacteria are killed along with the bad and during homogenization many of the milk’s nutrients are destroyed. As a French-born cheese shop owner in Berlin told one journalist, eating pasteurized cheese “…is like being at a funeral. The bacteria are dead, the cheese is dead, it can’t develop any further. It only tastes like water and fat.”

Unfortunately, raw milk is something that government food regulators are fond of banning. Here in Germany, it is only technically illegal—that is, it’s illegal to sell for consumption the way supermarket milk is, but can be sold if labeled otherwise (Vorzugsmilch or Ab-Hof-Abgabe). Which means that here in Germany I can read the government warnings, but am ultimately left free to make my own decision. In the United States the FDA conducts undercover sting operations on Amish farmers who presume to sell unpasteurized milk products to people who have consciously decided it’s raw dairy or nothing, people who are willing to sneak around the law to get it, people who are willing to fight for their right to whole foods. A friend of mine had her buyer’s club shut down by just such an operation in May. (You can read about it here.)

The FDA is convinced that raw milk is bad for you, but, unfortunately, they have done an incredibly poor job proving it: their studies are biased, their statistics faulty, and many of the illnesses that they have linked with raw milk consumption involved no tests on any of the raw milk in question (raw milk advocates have put together a report that refutes the FDA’s evidence against raw milk point for point, and you can download it by clicking here). Even according to their own statistics there are more food-related illnesses caused by deli meats and pasteurized milk than there are by raw milk. The thing is that there is a risk involved in any kind of food, and you can get sick from pasteurized dairy just as you can from unpasteurized dairy.

The beauty of the raw milk most food enthusiasts are drinking, that I am drinking—and when I say “raw milk” I mean unpasteurized, unprocessed milk from grass-fed cows, not unpasteurized mass-produced grain-fed industry cow milk—is knowing exactly where your milk came from and who farmed it. The farmers’ names and address are printed right on the label, and often it is one of those farmers who, every Saturday, hands me fresh bottles of milk and wraps my cheese in white paper before telling me to have a great weekend. Can you say that about any mass-produced milk? Even the crunchy organic stuff? I trust people I know more than I trust a faceless, nameless factory farm, more than I trust the FDA and their statistics. For more information about raw milk, click here.

And what about you? Do you drink raw milk?

This post was a part of Kelly the Kitchen Kop’s Real Food Wednesdays.

0 Comments on “i drink raw milk

  1. Yay! Thanks for the shout out! But am I just a “friend” now? Have you finally disavowed the Stewarts?

    Also can I share with our facebook group?

  2. Thanks so much for sharing this. I think you just managed to say concisely what I’ve never been able to – “in Germany I can read the government warnings, but am ultimately left free to make my own decision.” THAT is how I think the government should function.

    I mean, does the US government also want to legislate how long I can keep leftovers in my fridge? No, we’re left to our own judgment on that stuff.

    I’ve never had raw milk, not a huge milk fan, but do prefer the stuff in the glass jars with the cream on top that comes from the local farmers. I would try raw milk if I had the chance.

  3. Sidenote: heard something on NPR a few weeks back that there was an issue with contaminated raw cheese from some US producer. The reporter was interviewing boutique cheese producers who were concerned that it would prompt legislation making raw cheeses illegal. If that happens, I’ve got to leave the country.

  4. Of all the things I have read concerning raw milk, this has got to be one of the best pro-milk presentations I have come across! Nicely written!

    After 8 years of veganism, I have slowly been adding a few consciously-chosen animal products back into my diet, as well. I tried some raw goats milk from a local farmer (found it somewhat bitter) and raw cows milk from a mennonite farm (liked it much more than I expected). Bought ground buffalo meat from the farmer’s market but haven’t been able to bring myself to do anything with it yet. Hm…

  5. Interestingly, the farm where we’ll be getting a half of a pastured hog this fall (along with ten pastured chickens and a pastured turkey) are looking into developing a dairy CSA, whereby you purchase a share in a cow, and then are entitled to her ‘proceeds’; they are still working out the distribution though, because they are a bit far to be driving to every week. At any rate, I’ve told her we’re interested once she gets it going. I’ve read some of the same things about raw milk, and since my husband has some metabolism issues, we’re hoping he can handle the raw milk better. Pasteurized milk whacks out his blood sugar; he can’t even have a couple of tablespoons with his morning coffee, so he has soy milk. On the weekends, he has real milk, because the usual anger triggers (work) are not part of the day.

    I’ve felt for a long time that the FDA and USDA are not working in the interests of the consumer, but are working for the large corporations and agribusinesses, and the sooner I can get us away from commercial food, the happier I’ll be. All I can say it, I’m working on it!

  6. I am trying to cut back on my dairy consumption and I face the same challenge you do: soy allergy. It’s hard to be a vegetarian with a soy allergy. I wonder how you cope. Do you cook for yourself or do you eat with a group of people? The biggest challenge for me is eating when someone else is cooking.

  7. Fishie: Have you gone mad? “Only” friend? Don’t be frickin’ ridiculous. I dare say any relationship term actively chosen is more meaningful than one, happy about it as I am, that I was coincidentally born into. 🙂 Already posted this to the Grass Fed facebook, but I’m more than happy if you do it again or share it where ever it suits you. Hey! It’s Monday so you’re getting ready for the rally tonight! Good luck!

    Jane: I’ve heard ridiculous stuff about the FDA fantasizing about legislation that would require breast milk be pasteurized. Can you even fucking imagine?!? Not that it would be possible to enforce, and I have no source that they ever really did toss around this idea besides word of mouth, but considering how moronic the FDA usually is, it really wouldn’t surprise me.

    I always feel incredibly offended by laws filed under “protection” that prevent me from making my own intelligent decisions about what I eat. I’m not a fucking moron, and if I was, then let me get food poisoning and learn the damn lesson myself. Anyway, glad you enjoyed the post.

    Mark: Wow, thanks! Blush. Glad you liked it. Good luck figuring out how you want your diet to look.

    Paula: I volley back and forth on my feelings about the USDA and FDA. Sometimes I get to imagining that they are working for big business, and sometimes I imagine that they are just incredibly fucking stupid (and arrogant, and misguided). But in the end it’s probably a little bit of both. Or a lot of both. Sigh. Your farm-share plans sound awesome. This group that got shut down was a CSA-style buying club just like you described. Doing it club style should have gotten them around the no-raw-milk laws, but, well, it didn’t. Fingers crossed for them, eh.

    Ellen: It was a little weird at first, getting used to the no-soy thing. But so far it has been easier than I expected. A lot of the vegans and vegetarians that I know tend to be very soy-centric cooks, and sometimes I find it difficult to eat at vegetarian restaurants. But otherwise, it’s been a pretty smooth transition as one of the overarching values in our community is that no one should be excluded when we do something together, especially when it comes to eating, so I’ve never gone hungry when eating with friends. And the Beard, gem that he is, has completely stopped cooking with soy.

    I also have to admit, I had been toying with the idea of cutting back on/giving up on eating soy before the allergy hit, so now I have a physical reason to do what I was intellectually considering anyway. There is a lot of information out there about soy that made me question how much of it I should be consuming, plus it’s more important to me to eat locally than strictly vegetarian, and all the soy I was eating was being flown in from god knows which clear-cut rain forest.

  8. Wow wish I would’ve read this post earlier – that’s exactly the type of veganism I subscribe to – it’s not that I think animal products should never ever be consumed, it’s that factory farming disgusts me.

    How much soy makes you have the reaction? I don’t eat a lot either, except a bit of soymilk as creamer in my coffee and edamame occasionally… but now Jane appears to have eczema so I’m hoping she’s not sensitive to it.

    Funny enough the #1 thing they tell breastfeeding mothers to give up if baby is having any kind of reaction is dairy. #2 is soy.

  9. Oh by the way did I mention PETA showed up to our rally? To protest us protesting, of course. Though I don’t know how anyone who had actually been to the farm and seen how god damn happy those cows are could protest. I mean, what are we supposed to do? If someone were to take down the fences around the cows, do you know what they would do? Probably just keep standing there, eating grass. And cows that don’t get milked are pretty damn unhappy. Anyway I just thought it was funny. They brought someone dressed up as a cow.

    I will hold to my statement that veganism makes sense as a response to industrial food production, but no sense in regards to small, appropriately scaled farms.

  10. FVM: Well, with the biggest soy reaction I’ve had, I’m not sure of the exact amount of soy milk I ingested as it was in a potato soup—maybe a quarter cup?? It doesn’t take much. Just a dab of soy cream in my coffee gives me hives immediately (soy creams and milks are the worst offenders). With tofu it takes a week of eating it repeatedly before I end up with hives. But fermented soy, such as tempeh, is fine. And soy sauce too.

    Fishie: Oh my.

  11. Reading your milk story, reminds me of my 12yo daughter which is lactose intolerant. And, not liking soy. We turned to Almond Milk. MMmm good stuff. 50% more calcium them regular milk and all natural. It also comes in chocolate.

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