Friday, June 12, 2009

Real Milk?

For the past year or so, I have been driving about 30 minutes each week out to a farm to get fresh milk. Our family loves the fresh milk and drinks it by the gallons. But I have many a friend that is perhaps like you--a little skeptical or even grossed out by the idea of drinking milk straight from a cow. I'd like to share with you my journey to drinking unpasteurized, or "raw" milk, and then share some information that you might find useful as you weigh the benefits of "real" milk.

I'll have to admit...when I first heard that some of my friends drank milk that came from the farm, I was a bit hesitant. The idea of drinking farm fresh milk evoked feelings of down home goodness, but it also reminded me of all the stories my grandmother told about having to drink warm, thick milk. But after my friends talked to me more about the merits of raw milk over store-bought ultra pasteurized milk, I decided to give it a try. When I got home with that first gallon of raw milk, I sat there and stared at it. It was thick and creamy when I poured it out--not at all like the kind from WalMart. And it was kind of yellow--not the grayish white from the store, either. It took me some time to muster the guts to take that first sip. I was expecting something gross, I guess. But to my delight, the milk was creamy and sweet and very fresh. What had I been missing out on this whole time?! When my husband got home from work that night, I served him up a big glass of the fresh milk. He stared at it just as I had that morning. He, too, had to be brave to take that first swallow. But the taste and texture was surprisingly delightful to him as well, and we haven't gone back to the ultra pasteurized milk (except for a couple of times I couldn't make it out to the farm) since then.

As you read this, you might be thinking, "So tastes good, but isn't raw milk dangerous?" I grew up thinking it was dangerous, and honestly, that's the first question I get asked by a lot of my friends when they hear we drink raw milk. I get looks of horror as if I am abusing my children by allowing them to drink something that is not FDA approved. I was there once myself. And it didn't take friends to help me get over my fear of raw milk. Educating myself helped me get over that fear. Inquiring minds want to know, and I wanted to know what the fuss was about.

If you are a skeptic, I encourage you to go these resources listed below. There is a lot of good information--more than I can possibly post in one article. But there are a few things I'd like to highlight.

There are many sites and books out there. But these two sites were particularly helpful for me in my journey:

The safety of drinking raw milk lies solely on the farmer. It depends on his farming practices--how and what he feeds the cows, where the cows are kept, how much medical care the cows receive, and how clean the milking equipment is kept. If you want to start drinking raw milk, don't just go any old farm down the street. Check them out. Take a look around, and if possible talk to the farmer. You'll be able to tell a lot by looking at the cows and the land. The farm we use has huge green pastures and wooded land for the cows to roam. Aside from the calves, I never see the cows in the pen. They're always out in the woods. That's so healthy for them to get to eat bugs and grass instead of soy feed like commercial cows. And it results in a very high quality, high vitamin milk. Also, the cows are beautiful. They look healthy and clean. Their eyes are bright and they are gentle. They are not sick looking or mangy.

Also, drinking raw milk or not drinking raw milk is a personal choice. You can't let someone pressure you either way. You might be saying, "Beth, I don't have anyone pressuring me to drink raw milk." My point is exactly that. You do have the government and doctors and other "experts" pressuring you to drink only ultra-pasteurized skim milk. I hear it all the time. I just heard it last month when I took my 2 year old to the pediatrician. The doctor told me that it was time to get my daughter on skim milk. Of course, I didn't feel like a lecture, so I didn't mention that the cows on the farm don't produce skim milk. So, my point is to examine the facts of both sides, and to remember that the "health officials" are often getting their information from the very people who make money off of pasteurizing milk. Do a lot of research and come to your own conclusions.

Do you drink raw milk? If so, why did you make the choice to "defy" the experts and switch? If you don't drink raw milk currently, what have you heard about it? I'd love to hear!!