Monday, April 20, 2009

Milk in the Raw

There was a story in our newspaper on Friday about the return of the milkman. I, for one, am excited about the possibility of having my milk delivered like when I was a kid. But it got me to thinking about milk. I’m as confused as anybody about whether it’s the basis of a healthy diet or the root of all evil. Two of my kids don’t drink much milk, but the third loves milk and drinks several glasses a day. We go through 2 and ½ gallons a week. Other than cereal, we use it to make yogurt and pudding, but not for much else. When I was first diving in to this organic, healthier lifestyle, I read a lot about milk. I was particularly interested in “raw milk”. The milk industry and the media in general give it a very bad rap, so that immediately peaks my interest. I can always smell a conspiracy (even if there’s none). Other than the internet, which we all know can be very self-serving; much of my information comes from the book Nourishing Traditions. Sally Fallon is an excellent writer, making even the most complex and bland subjects fascinating. She is also an amazing researcher and sites study upon study to back up her words.

The first issue that always comes up when you mention raw milk is its safety. When I was using raw milk, my friends pointedly requested that I not give it to their children. They were concerned about the safety of raw milk. For anyone not familiar – raw milk is milk that is not pasteurized, homogenized or frozen. It has not been altered with chemicals, additives, or light. It’s milk the way our great-grandparents drank it – straight from the cow. Modern milking machines and stainless steel tanks, efficient packaging and distribution, plus strict guidelines for all of this make pasteurization unnecessary for sanitation. Besides pasteurization does not guarantee your safety. All outbreaks of salmonella from contaminated milk in recent years have happened in pasteurized milk. There are many states that won’t allow the sale of raw milk; Pennsylvania is not one of them.

What’s so great about raw milk? Lots of things. But before I tell you them, I want to point out that while modernization of food production has helped us in many ways, it may be harming us in even more ways yet unknown. Our society continues to experience an increase in chronic illnesses. While, I’m no scientist, I have to note that the way we feed ourselves has changed drastically in the past 60 or so years. It’s easy to point the finger at the environment and genetics. They are big and vague and certainly responsible in part for some of the increase. But I am more inclined to search for the real problem and I can’t help but wonder if it doesn’t have something to do with what we are putting in to our bodies. Were we designed to process such complicated, fortified, chemically altered food? Any machine not given the appropriate fuel will break down and the more bad fuel you give it the worse the problem and the quicker the break down. Just saying.

Pasteurization of milk destroys good bacteria, along with any bad. This includes lactic-acid-producing bacteria that protect against pathogens. To quote Fallon: “Heat alters milk’s amino acids lysine and tyrosine, making the whole complex of proteins less available; it promotes rancidity of unsaturated fatty acids and destruction of vitamins. Vitamin C loss in pasteurization usually exceeds 50 %; loss of other water-soluble vitamins can run as high as 80%; vitamin B is totally destroyed. Pasteurization reduces the availability of milk’s mineral components (she lists them here – there are lots). There is some evidence that pasteurization alters lactose, making it more readily absorbable. This, and the fact that pasteurized milk puts an unnecessary strain on the pancreas to produce digestive enzymes, may explain why milk consumption in civilized societies has been linked with diabetes. Pasteurization destroys all the enzymes in milk. These enzymes help the body assimilate all bodybuilding factors, including calcium. That is why those who drink pasteurized milk may suffer from osteoporosis.”

Yes, you’re right milk companies do add back some of these vitamins that have been destroyed by pasteurization, but Fallon writes, “synthetic vitamin D2 or D3 is added – the former is toxic and has been linked to heart disease while the latter is difficult to absorb.” If you want the whole scoop, read if for yourself. The book is a wealth of eye-opening information about what modernization of food production is doing to our health. And like I said, it’s very readable. Plus it contains not just what we’re doing wrong, but how to do it right and gobs of recipes.

After saying all that, you’d probably deduce that we’re a raw milk drinking family. We’re not. We did try though. Raw milk is not homogenized, so that means it seperates and your milk can be very clumpy. You have to shake it before you drink it. But even with shaking there is still some separation. My kids could not get past the clumps. And I could not die on that hill (parents must pick their battles). So I buy grass fed, locally grown, and minimally processed and stored milk. But I haven’t given up my belief in raw milk. If you can’t handle the actual milk, you may still love raw milk cheese.

Raw milk cheese is sold all over the country and many, if not most, of the international cheese you buy is made from raw milk. Not only does it have much of the benefits of raw milk, it also tastes amazing. You can buy it in all the popular forms (except the individually wrapped “cheese food” version that kids seem to love). We love the raw milk Colby cheese or just the plain cheddar. Several farms nearby produce raw milk cheese and, while it may cost a little more, it’s worth it. My kids eat it on nachos and I cook with it exclusively. For a list of raw milk and milk products check out

I hesitated to write this post because milk can be very controversial for many people, and that includes soy milk which has received its share of bad press. But I suppose this invites the discussion. So if you have something to say about milk – raw, pasteurized, soy, or otherwise, I’d love to hear it.

Note to anyone living in Southern York County: The farm that has begun milk delivery, Apple Valley Creamery, does not deliver this far south. They would consider adding a route if there was enough interest down here. If you’d like to become a delivery customer for their grass-fed, no hormone added milk products (they’ve got lots of other local products available for delivery too including raw milk cheese), give them a call or an e-mail: 717-528-4520 or They have a store in East Berlin. I’m thinking of making a road trip out there – I’d love company!

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