Friday, March 13, 2009

Where to Start Looking for Real Milk?

The next step in my quest for eating real food will be the exploration of milk. As I've mentioned before, my son isn't drinking a whole lot of milk, but he does drink some, and he eats quite a bit of homemade yogurt. Because this is an important part of his diet, I'd like to give it a little more thought than I have in the past.

Based on my prior research, I know that I'd like to find milk from cows that are pastured, or 100% grass fed. A cow is a ruminant; grass is the food source to which they are adapted, and I subscribe to the belief that milk and meat from cows/cattle that have eaten their natural diet is far more nutritious than that from cows that are fed otherwise. Also, cows that are pastured live in their natural habitat, which is the least we can do in exchange for what they're doing for us.

So what are my choices?

My investigations in this area so far have led to more questions than answers - specifically one major question, why is milk pasteurized and is it safe to drink raw (or unpasteurized) milk?

Why do I ask this, you might wonder? Because raw milk shares (I'll explain this later) are becoming increasingly common in my area, and in my search for pastured milk, raw milk dairies seem to follow pasturing practices more strictly. So the question of whether or not to drink raw milk has been on my mind for quite some time.

When my son was younger, I simply wasn't comfortable experimenting with this topic. I'll confess that I didn't research it much. While I do believe that it is important not to over-sterilize a baby's environment because they need to build their immune system, I was reluctant to go against a century of common acceptance of the pasteurization process and potentially introduce a foodborne illness to my son.

So until now, we've been getting milk delivered from an all natural, but non-organic, local dairy. I decided that a compromise of getting fresh milk from a local, all natural source, with zero waste due to the use of glass bottles, was preferable to buying organic milk from a large company at the local health food store.

Now that my son is almost two, it's time to reconsider this decision. But first I need to answer the question of whether or not I'm comfortable giving him raw milk.

I found a few commonly cited sources in favor of drinking raw milk:

  • William Campbell Douglass II, MD. wrote a well known book called The Milk Book: The Milk of Human Kindness is Not Pasteurized. After quite a bit of surfing, I've noticed a few things - first, this book is commonly cited as the sole source of evidence in favor of drinking raw milk. Second - Dr. Douglass has written a lot of literature, including a book touting the health benefits of tobacco. Hmmm, I'm open minded, but perhaps not that open minded. Maybe I'll keep looking for sources.
  • The Weston A. Price Foundation runs an interesting website devoted to raw milk. "The Foundation is dedicated to restoring nutrient-dense foods to the human diet through education, research and activism. It supports a number of movements that contribute to this objective including accurate nutrition instruction, organic and biodynamic farming, pasture-feeding of livestock, community-supported farms, honest and informative labeling, prepared parenting and nurturing therapies." This mission describes a number of my beliefs and passions perfectly. Their website contains a number of interesting articles challenging FDA publications promoting pasteurized milk. They also publish their board of directors, which looks like a reasonably qualified group. So... this looks like a good place to start reading.
Against drinking raw milk, I found quite a bit of information on the FDA website, for instance Got Milk? Make Sure It's Pasteurized.

When I began putting this post together, I planned on doing only a single entry on milk. But I've been doing research for two nights now and come up with a wealth of interesting information. So I had a think... if I was reading someone else's blog, would I want to read a list of sources followed by the writer's ultimate conclusion, or would I want to read a more detailed analysis of the two sides? Given that I couldn't find any blogs or articles that I felt compared both sides objectively, I'd like to do that here (I'll try to be objective!). Which means that one post isn't enough. (You might have guessed that after reading my egg posts.)

So stay tuned for the rest of my milk posts - in the next one, I'll try to outline the major arguments for and against raw milk, primarily using sources from the FDA and the Weston A. Price Foundation.

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