Friday, March 21, 2008

Raw Milk

Raw milk sounds like a disease waiting to happen right? When I tell people that I drink raw milk, I might as well have told them that I'm a Christian, or that I voted for George W. Bush...twice. It's the gateway to becoming a social pariah, a little like admitting to leprosy. Am I a bit dramatic? Perhaps, but perhaps not. The reactions I receive when people hear that I drive 40 miles once a month to purchase unpasteurized, unhomogenized milk for $8.50 a gallon are about the same as admitting to any of the above statements. Most people, I find, are uneducated about both the benefits and safety of raw milk, and the alternative toxicity of pasteurized milk, as I was. Of course I'm a huge believer in raw milk, but more than anything, I'm a believer in knowledge, and empowering people with the ability to make a choice, rather than blindly doing what "the man" has steered them into believing is correct. My goal is simply to dispel some myths about raw milk, and perhaps shed some light on Big Dairy's dirty little secrets...

The Real Milk website does a great job of expounding on all my ideas (or rather I do an OK job of summarizing theirs =), so I strongly recommend visiting it. The site has a list of raw milk dealers in all states, as well as ways to get involved in changing legislation to make raw milk legal. I recently read an article that deals with the politics of raw milk. It goes into some of the Big Dairy issues too.

Aren't all milks created equal?
Perhaps not. We're beginning to see pasteurized milk as a factor in or cause of many contemporary diseases - from Irritable Bowel and Crohn's disease, to allergies, heart disease, and cancer. Milk is heated to a high temperature to kill all of the harmful bacteria such that all of the enzymes, nutrients and helpful bacteria are killed off as well. So, they add back in the vitamins, but we're receiving synthetic versions of those vitamins, namely vitamin D3, which is considered toxic and linked to heart disease! Baby calves that are fed pasteurized milk fare poorly and often die! Raw milk, on the other hand, is more easily digested, contains lactic-acid producing bacteria that protects against pathogens, and has a full array of in-tact amino acids and proteins.

Now, I agree that back in Louis's day, when people moved in droves to the cities and we couldn't keep the milk clean due to over-population and lack of technology, pasteurization may have been a necessary evil. But today, we have the ability to keep the milk sources clean and free of harmful bacteria, and that is exactly what Terri Lawton of Oake Knoll Ayrshires in Foxborough, MA does. She is visited by government regulated dairy inspectors regularly, and her milk has been found to have no traces of harmful bacteria. She posts their results, so customers can feel safe and confident about her milk. Interestingly enough, farms that pasteurize their milk have far dirtier milk than raw milk dealers, "knowing" that there is room for error because of the heating process. However, that's not always the case. Just last year, four MA residents died of listeriosis from drinking PASTEURIZED milk. There are many cases where this has happened. Do some research and you'll be surprised!

Certainly Terri is not the only conscientious dairy farmer, so if raw milk interests you, I encourage you to find a local farm! Supporting small farms is about sustainability, accountability, and community. For me, it's been worth the money, and the effort. When it seems crazy, I like to remember that much of the rest of the world does NOT pasteurize their milk. And as for some fear tactics that the media or even friend try to impose, I think--far more people have died in the Iraqi conflict than from drinking raw milk...

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