November 5, 2011

How Raw Milk is Like Marriage

If "Are Local Foods Worth the Cost" was the first in a series on raw milk, this, I suppose, would be Part 3.  If you have no interest in raw milk, feel free to skip it, but be forewarned, they'll be at least a couple more posts before this series is over. 


I've been thinking a lot about food and politics lately.  Frankly, it’s overwhelming.  Well, not necessarily overwhelming, but at least frustrating.  So many people spend their whole lives eating whatever they eat without thinking about it, and I feel obsessive about it.  It's not like, “Is this gonna make me gain weight?” Though I do sometimes have that thought; it's more like, “Is this an ethical food choice?”  Kind of a heavy question to have weighing in your mind. 

The more I shop at farmer's markets, the more I dislike supermarkets, and yet I still spend money there.  I’ve chosen to vote with my dollars by taking some of them away from supermarket chains and “Big Ag” to farmers and local businesses.  Shopping at the farmer’s market was never a big deal to me.  I mean, it’s something I feel passionate about and truly enjoy, but it’s never felt like a sacrifice.  Now we’re stepping it up a notch by choosing to buy local, raw milk directly from a farmer.  Somehow this decision seems almost as intense as marriage. I know, that’s a little dramatic.  But bear with me:  

  • It’s a sacrifice.  We’ll be spending considerably more money on milk, and therefore less money on other foods or other things.  

  • It’s kind of a life-or-death issue, or at least the FDA wants us all to believe that it is one.  They--and Big Ag (the two are well-connected)--put a lot of money into telling us that unpasteurized milk is unsafe.  On the flipside, natural food enthusiasts, who’ve been drinking this milk for years, say that it’s somewhat of a superfood, that it’s enzymes and micronutrients are left intact, while those in pasteurized milk are destroyed; that the probiotics (“good bacteria”) in raw milk are beneficial--no, “essential"--to digestive health and many other aspects of health, relieving symptoms of allergies, asthma and eczema among other things.  These enthusiasts deny the low-fat trend of the 90s and say that the nutrients in raw milk are in the fat, and so raw milk should be enjoyed whole, or even in some cases, fortified with extra cream.  They say that it’s not saturated fats that are making Americans overweight and sick, but vegetable oils.  This is such a shift in dietary advice that it seems life-changing to me.  Kinda like marriage. 
We are going to start with two gallons of raw milk a week.  Because of the special the farmer had though, I bought an extra share of milk and a share of cream.  I don’t have to buy either one on a weekly basis, but I've purchased the additional herdshares, so that option is available to me. Cream is $10 per pint and milk is $7 per gallon.  

  • I just wonder, once we try it, and we get accustomed our two gallons a week, are we going to experience and believe those things that the natural food "fanatics" believe and experience?  Will Gracie’s itchy skin and asthma be somewhat relieved?  And as we become more educated about the benefits of raw milk will we want to stop buying commercial cheese?  Will we see the connection between what we eat and our health more clearly, so that we buy less junk food?  Will we start buying only raw milk cheese?  Will we start making our own cheese and yogurt?  (I made my own yogurt during summer a year and a half ago, but as the weather got cooler the temperature was not ideal for yogurt culturing, so I got out of the habit.  We’ve been eating a lot of Mountain High Plain yogurt since then, which is not raw or organic, but it is from cows not treated with rBST and it contains no fillers or sweeteners...  See?!  Every food choice is analyzed in my mind.)  If we do start making our own cheese and yogurt, that’s more money spent on milk and cream and more time in the kitchen.  It’s kind of a lifestyle change.  I mean, I’ve always had some weird, hippie, “natural” leanings (some more obvious than others), but making your own cheese seems kind of like a lifestyle change,  doesn’t it?  Am I destined for a life without junk food, without any refined grains at all, without hair products, wearing clothing made only of organic, sustainable hemp fibers?  
See what I mean?

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