Sunday, January 9, 2011

My Little Raw Dairy Experiment

http://www.freefoto.com/preview/806-11-7732?ffid=806-11-7732
My last post made an impression on my boyfriend, Seth.  He was reminded that raw dairy might be an option for us, and decided he wanted to start drinking milk again, damn it.  I haven't had milk/cheese/butter/yogurt in about 2 years, and he stopped consuming it about a year ago.  Both of us had heinous reactions to pasteurized and homogenized dairy digestively and otherwise, so we fired it from our diets.  We LOVE dairy, though.  Who doesn't?  So since raw dairy (not pasteurized or homogenized) is generally tolerated much better by people, we decided we'd give it a try.        

We called up a raw dairy farm in Erie, CO called Lafferty Farm and they invited us over to check the place out and sign up for a share.  A share?  Well, it's illegal in every state but California to sell raw dairy in grocery stores, so in order to get around that, you have to own a share of the cows you're getting your dairy from.

The Cost
You pay some money to buy into the board and feed for the cows (in this case $30 total) and sign a contract saying that you're part owner of the cows, and then Lafferty Farm (and many other raw dairies) can sell you their milk.  A full share, meaning one gallon of milk per week, is $30/mo.  A half share, which would be enough for my boyfriend, roommate and me, is $15/mo.  Prices around this area vary.  Here's where you can find out where to buy your own.

The Cows
I don't know what this says about me, but apparently cows are really attracted to Seth.  When Keith Lafferty of Lafferty Farm led us out into the pasture where his cows spend their days, he was surprised by the way we were bombarded by them.  Well, Seth was bombarded by them.  We pet them and Nora and Gretchen (yes, these cows have names) nudged us for more pets.  Nora licked my hand with her gigantic cat-like tongue and we were sold.  There were about 6 cows, all of whom looked happy and healthy.  Right now they eat mostly grass and alfalfa hay from a neighboring farm and a mineral pellet and protein pellet in the winter (which is unfortunately made partly of soy).  In the summer they graze on grass on the Lafferty property.  They have babies and take turns resting their udders for a couple of months out of the year.  They are loved.  These cows have been bred to produce a surplus of milk, so even when they are providing milk for their babies, they produce 2-4 gallons of extra milk per day just for you and me. 

The Big Controversy (It's Actually Not That Big...)
But as my dad just said, "Neely, you're supposed to be Paleo girl.  Why would you drink milk?"  While I can come off as a highly opinionated, dogmatic bitch, I can actually be sort of flexible sometimes.  A strict Paleo diet doesn't include milk because during the Paleolithic era there weren't domesticated animals to milk.  However, in Weston A. Price's travels around the world, he found a number of tribal groups for whom raw milk products were staple foods.  And by his measures those tribes were incredibly healthy.  Here's his book if you'd like to read it.  There's a lot of research about milk that pretty much proves it's not fit to consume.  It's associated with skin problems and digestive issues, sinus infections and autism, and worse.  But that research is done on pasteurized and homogenized milk products.  Those milk products and raw milk products may as well have come from two different animals - one is a dead food and one is alive and full of nutrients.  Unless you have a casein (one of milk's proteins) allergy, you should be able to imbibe raw milk.  Here's some more info on raw milk

I've been literally afraid of milk products for the past 2 years because of the havoc they wreaked on my body for so long.  Once I figured out that it was milk products that were causing my problems, I took them out and my symptoms went away.  I don't touch the stuff.  Trying out dairy this week was an evolution not only in my strict thinking about Paleo eating, but an emotional milestone as well.  I'm kind of proud of myself for overcoming that fear.  I was ready for my symptoms to return, but they didn't.  I got to savor that mildly sweet milky flavor that I'd forgotten, and make my first batch of yogurt ever, the flavor and texture of which almost brought me to tears.  Paleolithic people could only have dreamt of such divinity.

My old symptom didn't come back, but others did.  Wheezy breathing, eczema and stomach cramps ensued, despite my positive thinking.  It turns out I can't consume raw milk products.

But you might be able to, and I won't judge you too harshly if you decide to get some raw dairy.  Just don't go do something silly like eat it with Cocoa Puffs cereal...

Does anyone have any experiences to share about switching to raw milk?

9 comments:

  1. Loved this! Not only for the info, but the line, "While I can come off as a highly opinionated, dogmatic bitch, I can actually be sort of flexible sometimes."
    Awesome. =)

    I'm a milk/dairy lover, but I'd rather be drinking the good stuff. You've got me ready to research options in the Chicago area. Thank you!

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  2. Thanks, Mindie! Definitely follow the links for how to find it in your area. The Weston A Price Foundation is really good for that kind of information. Good luck!

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  3. As always, your blog was well-written and entertaining. However, I think it's irresponsible to talk about raw milk without at least mentioning the possible dangers. I realize that the USDA may be biased, but so is the Raw Milk Industry. I found this article: http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=raw-milk-debate,

    which I think presents all of the information with as little bias as possible. It sounds to me like there's not enough research to adequately determine the risk of exposure to e-coli and other harmful bacteria with raw milk consumption.

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  4. Thank you, Berkeley. You're right. This was far from being a post that shed light on all sides of the raw milk debate - it was more of an account of my personal experience. I did include a link from the post to a site about raw milk that goes into the possible dangers of it, which can be found here: http://www.raw-milk-facts.com/raw_milk_safety.html. Thanks for the article you shared, as well. I hope people read it.

    I didn't mention that when we went to visit the farm, we got to see Lafferty's lab results, which informed us that the bacteria counts in his milk were 100 times lower than a conventional dairy's bacteria counts and negligible relative to the allowable levels. The labs also showed that there was 0 fecal matter in his milk (a far cry from what they usually find in conventional milk). As always, I suggest that people know where their food comes from as often as possible. Thanks for your comment and thanks for reading!

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  5. Does the farm test every batch? If so, I'd like to try it. It seems like the benefits are definitely real. I just don't think it's worth the risk of getting e-coli. The fecal matter thing totally grosses me out!

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  6. No, they don't test every batch. They get tested monthly because all of their results are just like the ones I described. He doesn't feel the need to spend the money on testing every batch (and it wouldn't be financially possible for such a small farm to do that). I say try it out! If you do, let me know how it goes.

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  7. Neely, I was so hoping while reading your article that the outcome would have been different. I too have problems with milk products and for the most part, eliminate them from my diet. It is interesting, although not surprising, that the raw dairy brings the same symptoms as the store bought. I read somewhere once that humans are the only species on earth that drink milk after infancy, and the fact that it is from a different animal is quite bizarre to begin with. Oh and did the cow's name really have to be Nora??
    Nora

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  8. Ha ha! Nora was a VERY pretty cow, though! I would actually encourage you to try the raw dairy out, Nora. I must be allergic to it, but you may just have a lactose intolerance. People with lactose intolerance often can do really well with raw milk, especially after a few days of drinking it, since the enzymes necessary to digest the milk are still present in the milk itself. Yes, it is very strange that we drink milk from a different species. I've used that argument myself. But I guess we eat the meat of different species, too...

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