Do you make sure your children drink a glass or two of milk every day? Like me, you probably picked up somewhere along the way that all of us, but particularly growing children, need the calcium and protein from cow’s milk on a daily basis for proper growth and development. More recently, we’ve also heard that adding more dairy to our diet could help us lose weight. This has me wondering how the milk knows that when it is in a child’s body it should help it grow, but if in a weight-conscious adult, it should switch gears and helps the body shrink… but that is an aside. This information comes to us from the dairy industry, a large, influential force that has moved away from the family farm and today more closely resembles a factory.
Did you grow up drinking supermarket milk or straight from the cow? How about your parents? Their parents? My guess is, you don’t have to go back very far to find your relatives who were raised on raw milk. When that knowledge is so close and goes back thousands of years and around the globe, it surprises me that we have moved so far away from it to the point of being highly skeptical and outright scared of the real milk, that which comes from the cow as nature created it.
My family stopped consuming dairy during the second half of my childhood, and I raised my children on a vegan diet for a while as well. The ecological, animal welfare, public and personal health reasons to avoid conventional supermarket milk are plentiful. The strong interest in organic dairy (significantly higher than in any other grocery department) points to consumers’ growing awareness and concern about the many issues surrounding conventional milk. Organic milk is certainly an improvement over standard milk, but I still don’t like the huge scale of modern dairies and processing plants, or the medication, pasteurization, homogenization, transportation, de-fatting and plastic bottling.
Four years ago, when we moved to Vermont, near the top of my “to do” list was find a small, local, pastured, organic dairy farm where I could buy high quality raw milk directly from the farm. It was surprisingly difficult, mostly due to the raw milk laws of the time, but within several months, I met Lindsay Harris, a delightful young woman who was milking Polly, her one cow, by hand and had some milk to spare. I was thrilled!
Jump ahead just a few years, and Lindsay and her partner now run Family Cow Farmstand, Vermont’s first state certified raw milk dairy. Thanks to the hard work of Rural Vermont among others, the Vermont state laws around selling raw milk have recently been relaxed now making it possible for farmers like Lindsay to run a business and consumers like me to buy the kind of milk I want.
I understand there is still a lot of conflicting information about milk, particularly as it pertains to the safety of raw versus pasteurized milk. Last week Lindsay was invited to debate a University of Vermont (UVM) microbiologist on the health merits of raw milk at The Vermont Dietetics Annual Conference. As part of her talk, she prepared a power point presentation, which she has posted on her website. Whether you are curious or concerned about raw milk, let me recommend her presentation for some not commonly known information about milk. Follow the link below.
Family Cow Farmstand in Hinesburg, Vermont.
And while you read, keep in mind one of Michael Pollan’s sage food rules: “Don’t eat anything your (great-) grandmother wouldn’t recognize as food.”