Sunday, August 14, 2011

Raw Milk: What is it and Why is it So Taboo?

Oh darling, are you still feeding your children pasteurized milk? How passé…

For the past few years, it seems like there has been a growing movement to overhaul our foods. “The food system is corrupt; it’s causing cancer, we’re genetically modifying, caging, and injecting our foods with steroids and antibiotics, and it’s making us sick!” Meanwhile, lately I can’t avoid seeing a commercial, funded by a large corporation, showing me rows of happy cows frolicking in the grass under the Californian sun and farmers in overalls on tracker beams telling me that this is where our food is coming from.

The days of spending hours in the grocery store eyeing each label dubiously and checking for red dye #40, MSG, and hydrogenated oils almost seem like simpler times. Now, the cows are unhappy, the chickens are from concentration camps, the meat’s pumped up with more drugs than Amy Winehouse, and the soy beans are going to make your son develop ovaries—and the corn—don’t even get me started on the corn!

Now the tides have turned to raw milk: the new wonder food that’s being touted to cure everything from autism to cancer.

So what is raw milk and why is it so amazing…or dangerous?

Raw milk is milk that has not been pasteurized. Pasteurization is the method we use of heating food to a certain point where the microbials are destroyed and the shelf life is extended. Here in the US, by law, we pasteurize: dairy, nuts, canned foods, juices, eggs, etc.

According to the FDA:  Raw milk is milk from cows, sheep, or goats that has not been pasteurized to kill harmful bacteria. This unpasteurized milk can carry dangerous bacteria such as Salmonella, E. coli, and Listeria, which are responsible for causing numerous food borne illnesses.[1] According to the FDA, “more than 800 people in the United States have gotten sick from drinking raw milk or eating cheese made from raw milk since 1998.”[2] That sounds…like an underwhelming number.

Indeed, drinking unpasteurized milk from our “happy cows” would likely send you straight to the hospital…or the bathroom. The milk we buy in the grocery store with the photo of that cow on the green grass is a giant ruse. Our cows are raised on feed lots and are fed grain, not grass—because it’s cheaper. Since cows haven’t evolved to consume grains, their health is highly unstable, warranting an influx of hormones, steroids, and antibiotics to keep them alive. Any byproduct of such a cow can NOT be safe to drink without pasteurization.

According to raw milk enthusiasts: the process of pasteurization steals a huge chunk of the health benefits by destroying the enzymes and necessary microbes, fats and proteins—fat rich in vitamin A and D needed to absorb that Calcium.

Unpasteurized milk products purchased from a trustworthy source come from cows farmed in the traditional manner: raised out in the fields, fed a diet of grass, and are free of hormones and antibiotics.

Can the lactose intolerant tolerate it? Yes…but, that has little to do with whether it is pasteurized or not and has everything to do with the actual makeup of proteins in the milk.

The grocery store milk comes from a breed of cow (fat, white, and black spotted) called the Holstein cow. The Holstein, a cow specifically bred to overproduce milk,[3] is the source of woe for the lactose intolerant. Raw milk alone will not be drinkable; it’s the type of cow that matters. The Jersey cow is the breed of cow farmed in Amish country, among other places. Its milk can be consumed because of the makeup of proteins in their milk, raw or pasteurized.

Can it cure cancer? Autism? There’s research suggesting that a diet rich in polyunsaturated fatty acids and vitamin D can reduce the risks on certain cancers.[4] And there’s a lot of people claiming that they’ve seen raw milk make a difference in their autistic children—and many parents with kids with ADD swear by it. [5]

I’m not saying that raw milk can really cure all these ailments but if you’re a parent with a child with autism or ADD, I think it’s definitely worth looking into.

Speaking of cancer, here’s a pretty interesting excerpt from an article in Men’s Health:

Milk contains hormones that may cause cancer: In 1970, a typical dairy cow could produce about 10,000 pounds of milk per year. Today, that same cow produces roughly 20,000 pounds. So did cows change? Nope. It’s their feed that’s different. Today’s cows are routinely fed a hormone called recombinant bovine somatotropin, or rBST. Studies have linked rBST to a multitude of cancers, including those of the prostate, breast, and colon. Milk from rBST-treated cows is ubiquitous in America’s supermarkets, but fortunately some of the biggest players are getting wise. Stores like Whole Foods, Wal-Mart, and Kroger now carry only rBST-free dairy. [6]

What does raw milk taste like? How much does it cost? How long does it keep and is it safe?
Speaking from experience—I started buying raw milk over a month ago after tasting it for the first time in Switzerland—I found that the only unsavory thing about it was THE PRICE. Florida law allows selling of raw milk but ONLY FOR PET CONSUMPTION. Through word of mouth, I found a little organic store selling raw milk for $10/gallon—not including a $25 membership(lifetime) fee. I thought that was outrageous until I learned of a co-op farm in Miami selling raw milk at $16/gallon.

Obviously this isn’t going to fly with everyone. To add another layer of difficulty, depending on which state you live in, raw milk varies in degrees of illegality; I had to sign a waiver form for them to keep on file. No, I am not exaggerating. And with the government cracking down on vendors, more and more people are keeping mum about their sources.
Chatting with the owner of the store, I learned that the little shop has been subject to constant fines and searches from the FDA, while other stores have been shut down with SWAT raids. Yes, we’re still talking about milk, people, not cocaine.

Once you get over the taboo feeling of buying drugs and the price, I think you’ll be impressed with the taste. It’s definitely creamier than pasteurized milk and the taste reminds me of coffee creamer. It’s not as thick as outright cream, but it will thicken with days of constantly taking it out of the refrigerator. Some say it’s sweeter than store bought milk; I don’t think it’s necessarily sweeter but it definitely tastes richer and creamier.

Find out when your dealer gets its weekly supply of fresh milk, and get it on THAT DAY.  Unpasteurized milk has a shelf life of 2 weeks, but in my house it only lasts exactly a week before I see changes. The milk BEGINS to thicken and separate from the liquid in a week. Is it spoilt? No, it smells and tastes just fine. I’m just not comfortably drinking it after that point. Keep in mind that this milk is living. It’s constantly in a state of change the minute it leaves the cow’s teat. At that point, technically I can make yogurt out of it or get fancy and make cheese. (By the way, you’ve never had cheese until you’ve tried unpasteurized cheese!)

So…should consumers run out there to clandestinely buy from covert and likely illegal vendors? I did, and I recommend that everyone try it—and the cheese, good lord, the cheese is amazing! Pick up a block of unpasteurized cheddar while you’re at it.

Don’t be daunted by the 800 people reportedly sick from it in 13 years (That's an absurdly small amount for such a huge span of time), or the fact that it’s hard to find. Browse the internet, and, if need be, interrogate the hell out of your supplier. If you need to see photo evidence of these green field frolicking cows, then ask for it. If you need the number or website for the supplying farm to contact them yourself, then demand it! If you have a cop face, then don’t do any of the above, you won’t get drop of info.

This is your drug pusher talking: Try it, you’ll like it!

If not for the taste alone, do it for the thrill of sticking it to the man!

If you live in South Florida, I’d be delighted to share my source with you for raw milk… for pet consumption. J

[1] FDA: The Dangers of Raw Milk: Unpasteurized Milk Can Pose a Serious Health Risk;
[2] FDA: The Dangers of Raw Milk: Unpasteurized Milk Can Pose a Serious Health Risk;
[4] PDazzler, “Raw Milk Cancer Cure?”:
[5] Body Ecology: “Autism and ADD”
[6] Goulding, Matt and Zinczenko, David; “9 Scariest Food Facts”, Men’s Health Blogs:


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