Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Changing Your Diet Series: Raw Milk

I have a friend that can't drink pasteurized milk - it gives her an allergic reaction.  She hadn't had any in years until she tried some of my raw milk - and had no issues.  The pasteurization and homogenization processes seem to create problems in our digestion, part of the reason many people buy it directly from the farm.

There's an underground movement that moves an enormous amount of raw milk around north Texas every day. Since most of the dairies are outside the DFW area, groups purchase milk and carry it back. Texas law requires that raw milk be sold to the consumer on the farm. No farmers markets, no delivery, no store sales - just straight from the farmer to the buyer. And while it would be nice to get my raw milk from the store, I've learned so much from having to head to the farm every few weeks.  I have a better understanding of what it takes to get food from the farm to my refrigerator.

I think the FDA likes to think that raw milk drinkers are free spirits who live in communes and are out of touch with the real world.  Read: fringe.  Not mainstream.  It couldn't be farther from the truth. The members of my group are lawyers, health care professionals, and entrepreneurs concerned about the food they eat.

All of us have arrived at this place in our raw milk journey from a different starting point.  Personally, I have an issue with joint pain. For a time, I was very concerned about arthritis, although that doesn't really seem to be my issue. Raw milk contains something called the Wulzen Factor, which is an enzyme that appears to help combat inflammation and the type of joint pain I have. That sold me - my doctor told me to take an NSAID - but I'd much rather eat a food that did the job.  In case you're wondering why I can't get this from pasteurized milk, the Wulzen Factor is inactivated by pasteurization. Does it work? My joints are better. Not perfect, but I don't need a painkiller and I've actually been able to start running again.

The web has tons of information about the benefits of raw milk, but you need to come to your own conclusion as to the benefit to your family.  Friends tell me organic milk is too expensive - I agree.  $6 for a gallon of UHT, homogenized liquid is way too much.  I actually pay more than that for the milk I get from the farm, but I know I'm getting my money's worth.  Another option is locally-sourced low-temp pasteurized non-homogenized milk, which you can find if you look for it.  Here's a local option available in some stores in the DFW area.

So...how do you find raw milk?  How do you find a farmer?  The place to start is www.realmilk.com.  Do your homework and call several of the farms listed in your area - and visit them as well.  You'll get a feeling for what you're looking at, even if you're not familiar with it.  If the farms don't like visitors, cross them off your list, no exceptions.  A good farm will offer references and walk you through their process, and maybe even provide access to a rideshare contact that will let you join a group.

The farm that's been feeding my family for the past few years is about 45 minutes north of me.  It has about ten cows, a few hogs, chickens, and a grass-fed steer once or twice a year.  They also market lamb from another small farm, which I've purchased several times and been very satisfied.  Traci, my farmer, makes it so easy.  Everything is on the honor system; order a few days ahead - if she doesn't call you back, come get it.  And leave a check in the cooler.  Sadly, Traci and her husband are closing their farm down in June and selling.  We are heartbroken, not only at the loss of access to the wonderful food they provide, but at the loss of our farmers who have become friends over the past several years.

I wanted this raw milk post to be about how, not why, since the why is is pretty clear if you read any of the real food blogs online.  If you're not ready for raw milk, that's okay.  Finding a farmer isn't just about milk. It's about access to real food.

Some things to think about:

...raw milk is a real food and changes with the seasons, unlike store bought milk.  Right now in the spring it's a gorgeous light yellow from all the new grass the cows are eating, and the taste is amazing.

...sometimes things happen and you don't get your milk. I've driven two hours to the farm, only to find them sold out. When farmers lose cattle their milk production can drop drastically to where they can't keep up with demand.

...sometimes people scheduled to pick up milk just don't feel like it that day, and the farmer has to feed the milk to their hogs.  You can't have a grocery store mentality if you choose to support a farmer this way - because that's exactly what you're doing - supporting a farmer.

...farmers deserve to make a living wage.  A dairy farmer milks twice a day, seven days a week, with no time off for good behavior.  All so that I can have fresh, nutritious milk on my table.

I got milk from the farm today.  And I'm going to shake it up and have a glass right now!

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