This post was shared at Fat Tuesday on the Real Food Forager.
For a long, long time I believed that milk from cows was not fit for human consumption. I had a couple of solid reasons backing me up, but the key consideration was the fact that my body just didn't like it. After puberty, that glass of milk I'd enjoyed as a child only served to bloat me like a hot air balloon.
Growing up my brother were given milk to drink alongside our glass of orange juice for breakfast. Milk was freely available and the drinking of it was encouraged, despite the fact that my mother herself never drank it. It was what kids drank, and it still is.
But not for my kids.
My first two kids were all breastfed past the age of two. Once weaned they drank water and the occasional amount of juice. But milk to me, in the conventional format, has always reeked of dairy board collusion and the way it's hawked to us all through intensive and ongoing advertising campaigns is really tantamount to the drug pushing of Big Pharma, is it not? How many times has the fact that my kids don't drink milk been met with looks of horror because I'm allowing their bones to turn to rubber? The general public has bought into the idea, hook line and sinker, that without 2 - 4 servings of milk a day, all of us will end up with osteoporosis by the age of 50.
What is conventional milk? Conventional milk is a very highly processed industrial food product. Yes, it is. VERY highly processed. In fact, it's so processed that many of the nutrients we are supposed to be deriving from it NATURALLY have had to be added back in, including vitamins A and D. Not only does the high heat pasteurization process destroy these naturally occuring nutrients, but if you remove the fat from milk, you also remove the fat soluble vitamins. That's not so hard to figure out.
Have you ever picked up one of those little milk packets at the café and actually read the label? The "milk" in these containers has been modified to such an extent that it cannot actually be called milk. Instead you'll see them labelled "Dairy Milkers".
So past the factory like conditions in which dairy cows are enslaved (perhaps not so much here in Canada where laws are much stricter, but for sure in the US where demand for milk is ENORMOUS), we've got the pasteurization process and the homogenization process. For an in depth look at the evolution of the modern dairy industry and an explanation of how these process came into being, I'd suggest you pick up a copy of The Untold Story of Milk. It's a rather disturbing read and I've once again been made aware of how lucky I am to be living in Canada where demand for product is much lower than in the US.
In theory, these two processes are designed to both save us from certain death (they don't) and to allow milk a weeks' long shelf life (they do), but what they also do is impact greatly on our health.
Now, here's where my non-scientific self comes in. There are TONS of studies out there both on the positive and negative impacts of drinking processed milk. I'm not going to list them for you because they are easy enough to find through a Google search, so you do the leg work if you need convincing. I don't. I'm convinced. But THIS article was very very timely and backs up my feelings exactly, so I will share it with you. And I quote:
"Farm milk consumption has been identified as an exposure that might contribute to the protective effect of farm life on childhood asthma and allergies. The mechanism of action and the role of particular constituents of farm milk, however, are not yet clear."
(Source:The protective effect of farm milk consumption on childhood asthma and atopy: The GABRIELA study)
So for those of us, once again, who buy into the theories of the Weston A. Price Foundation, this is a kind of pointless study. We know already, both from reading the works of Dr. Price and from the tons of anecdotes on the tons of Real Food blogs, that drinking milk straight from the cow is a health promoting practice. After all, it IS breastmilk, and look what that has done for our babies. Granted, we're not cow babies, but we're also not strictly reliant on cow milk for our survival. We do eat food.
Upon having started reading all the literature in depth when I rediscovered my love for the Real Food movement, it quickly became apparent that while I am very fortunate in many areas (local egg lady, farm fresh CSA produce, freshly slaughtered quarter beef bit for my freezer), I am SEVERELY and perhaps permanently deprived in the raw milk department unless I a) can make really really good friends with a small scale dairy farmer, or b) buy my own cow and find someone to board it for me.
Oh, Québec. You bring me $7/day daycare and you expose me to a beautiful and very challenging culture but you don't allow me to CHOOSE to drink my milk unpasteurized.
I will tell you, I have yet to encounter a problem to which I cannot find a workaround, and I am communing with the universe to connect my path with that of a dairy farmer or a lonely cow, so I may yet be able to add the consumption of raw milk to my bucket list.
In the meantime, however, I feel very fortunate to be able to purchase low temperature pasteurized and unhomogenized milk at my local organic green grocer. That's a step in the right direction, even if it does come in squishy plastic bottles.
This stuff still hurts my stomach. It still gives my kids diarrhea when I attempt to increase their daily consumption. But the cream rises to the top and it is not fat reduced, so that's a start. And on Wednesdays when I pick it up I stick one bottle in the fridge and make the other into a deliciously tart, fully fermented living yogourt that my body does appreciate.
Milk may just do a body good after all, but not YOUR kind of milk. Consider yourself warned.