As I mentioned in this post, we get a pretty decent amount of our calories from fat. Good fats, that is. And raw whole milk and cream fall right into that category for us. Fresh, raw cream makes the absolute best homemade butter, whipped cream, panna cotta, sour cream, and ice cream. We switched to raw milk back in January and have not looked back.
DTG was not thrilled at the thought of it–drinking whole milk straight from the cow, gross! And won’t it make us sick?! He thought it would taste weird, too. Truth is, he always thought milk tasted kind of weird, and he was very often grossed out by the smell of milk well before its expiration date. He is pretty surprised that not once since we switched has he had an aversion to our raw milk. I order it weekly from a local dairy farmer and I know exactly what date it was bottled on…and the milk probably came from the cow the day before. When the gallon sits in the fridge, the cream rises to the top as it should…the thicker the cream line, the better! It’s the sign of a healthy cow, just like a mother’s breastmilk. I remember once in a while having watery-looking breastmilk with a thin cream line and I knew I wasn’t eating/drinking adequately. If I knew what I know today, boy would my milk have been hearty!
Our milk comes from 100% grass-fed Jersey cows just southwest of San Antonio. I love that I can drive to the farm and see the cows out basking in the sun eating grass. When you pull up, there’s a sign that says “Milk Here”. You walk into a little trailer and grab as much as you want, leave your name and money in an envelope, and go on your way. I love that some of us can still work on this honor system.
It’s such a shame that dairy cows nowadays are trapped indoors on revolving merry-go-round looking things, eating GMO corn and who knows what else. Cows evolved to have these amazing digestive systems (called a rumen) that can turn simple grass into amazing protein in the form of beef. But now they’re forced to eat grain that they have no business eating, causing them major infections and resulting in milk that is much less than ideal. Not only is the original product not ideal, but the heating and processing it goes through afterward does a serious number on that milk.
That is why we switched to local raw milk. For the most part, I believe in eating foods whole–the way they’re intended. The cream has all the nutrients. When you skim off the fat, you’re basically drinking sugar water. When you heat it up to be pasteurized, you denature the enzymes and kill off a lot of the nutrients (anything that is ultra-pasteurized (UHT) is the worst). Enzymes are needed for most chemical/metabolic reactions, but they are heat-sensitive. Heat denatures the proteins/enzymes, making it difficult to digest and metabolize. This may be why people have developed lactose intolerance, yet those same people are able to drink raw dairy with absolutely no problem.
Sure, there is a higher chance of getting sick from raw dairy because all the bacteria are still alive, but if you’re buying from a reputable farmer using sanitary practices, you should have no issue. Bacteria is not a bad thing. We have trillions of beneficial bacteria in our guts that are essential to our health. From sourdough, to yogurt, to kefir, to ginger bug and fermented vegetables, we actually eat quite a bit of bacteria in this house, and no one’s falling sick. I don’t have any numbers on this, but I’m pretty sure it’s much more common to get food poisoning from a dingy restaurant serving cooked food than it is to get sick from raw dairy. The number of actual reported cases to the CDC of illness due to raw milk is negligent based on the number of gallons sold/consumed. The percentage is much higher than illness due to pasteurized milk, but it is still not very likely. Of course any business not using the most sanitary practices could get their customers sick, that’s why it’s important to know where your food is coming from.
Lots of people (i.e. Paleo eaters) stay away from dairy because of the casein, and I don’t disagree with that. But it’s important to understand there’s a difference in the milk of an A2 cow like a Jersey and an A1 cow like the black and white ones you typically think of. A1 cows produce more milk and that’s why they’re used in the commercial dairy industry, but they also have a mutated beta-casein protein in their milk which causes a fragment to break off called BCM-7 (has been linked to numerous health issues). A2 cows, on the other hand, have the unmutated gene that maintains strong bonds between the amino acids in the beta-casein chain, so BCM-7 doesn’t disassociate and therefore you do not absorb it.
Other people say, “There is no reason to drink milk. Humans are the only species that drink milk past their infancy, especially the milk of another species.” I don’t disagree with that either and I totally see the logic in it. However, this comes down to your basic fundamental beliefs. Anyone could argue you don’t need to eat MANY things, but we do. Many vegans will argue to the death that we don’t need any animal products in our bodies EVER, and if we eat them we will develop degenerative diseases that will ultimately lead to premature death. Yet there are billions of people around the world who eat animal products and live long, prosperous lives. You have to stick with what you believe and what works for your body.
Personally, I think whole milk from grass-fed cows has a lot of valuable nutrients that most people on the Standard American Diet do not get enough of, including CLA and Vitamins A, D, and K2. I, for whatever reason, prefer the naturally-occurring vitamins and minerals, not the synthetic ones they fortify conventional milk with.
I’ll try to keep the Vitamin D story simple. Basically, Vitamin D triggers calcium absorption from your small intestine (from your diet). You can supplement with all the calcium in the world, but if your body is not actually absorbing it due to a lack of Vitamin D then it’s useless. Instead, your body will just take calcium out of your bones to maintain its blood calcium levels. Less calcium in your bones = decreased bone density = osteopenia and ultimately osteoporosis. No bueno! This is also where healthy kidneys come in, because the kidneys are the final activators of Vitamin D3. The more crappy food we eat and toxins we ingest, the more we’re abusing our kidneys as they filter everything to excrete the toxins.
So that’s how I justify our $8-gallon of milk (we go through 3 gallons every week!) and $12-quart of cream. Buying organic almond milk or grass-fed dairy milk at the grocery store could be $4-5 for a half gallon, so I really don’t think it’s a bad price. We love it, my kids love it, and no one has gotten sick. But most importantly, I feel good giving it to my kids and I truly believe it is more beneficial for their health in the long run, and that’s all that counts!