A Journey to Raw Milk…

Those who know and use raw diary products might find this post a bit of a snooze. But if you are like I was, you won’t even necessarily know that standard grocery store milk has been heated, sometimes several times, to a point that virtually renders the benefits of the milk useless. The heat kills enzymes that actually help digest the dairy. Plus, techniques used to prevent the milk from separating while on the shelf alter the delicate properties of the milk, making it more allergenic, at least to my body and possibly yours.

Back in the day, the words “pasteurization” (heating to extend shelf-life) and “homogenization” (forcing milk at a high pressure through small holes to prevent separation of the cream) were familiar terms to me, but certainly not understood. I, without question, associated them with safety, security and as a result, health. I did not realize that these techniques are used, in some cases, to prevent already unhealthy milk from causing harm. I have come to understand that healthy farming practices of a nearby, trusted farmer provide the same, if not better, safety results with all the health giving, immune building qualities of milk firmly intact.

As a vegetarian from 9 – 27, I was aware of the views my vegan counterparts held, like “milk is for baby cows, not humans” and “milk is mucus.” I ate dairy, but mainly butter, cheese and a bit of yogurt, all very rarely. Plus, I didn’t like the way a glass of (pasteurized) milk made me feel, so I never, ever bought a gallon. I associated milk with the ear infections I constantly cycled through as a child, and I instead opted for soy, almond or rice milk, convinced I was healthy and one step ahead of the curve. I had no idea that curve for me was ultimately heading downward because soy milk was a strong root of many of my nagging health issues. I also conveniently overlooked the plethora of additives found in boxed milk alternatives.

A crack formed in my anti-milk armor in culinary school when introduced to the book Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon. Ms. Fallon goes for the jugular of pasteurized milk. She explains in great scientific detail why carefully sourced raw milk and traditionally fermented raw milk products are far superior to their pasteurized milk counterparts. I began to understand why I had been getting ear infections and sinus infections from pasteurized milk, and I learned of traditional cultures who thrived on the life giving, immune-enhancing benefits of raw dairy. Not everyone does well on dairy, even raw, but I was ready to give it a try.

After reading her convincing work, I took the time to seek out a source for raw milk when I returned home from culinary school. This sourcing involved picking up my milk from a Igloo cooler in the garage of a trusted stranger I connected with on the Real Milk website of The Weston A. Price Foundation. I put my money in an yellow envelope taped on the fridge, 100% honor system. I felt like a renegade, and I couldn’t believe the hoops I had to jump to source this natural food.

Oh, but how those hoops were worth every hop. Creamy, rich and deeply flavorful, there was ultimately no comparison. Raw milk tasted alive and health-giving. I honestly loved it, but I still hadn’t fully unwound the former vegetarian programming. I would source it now and again, but continued to keep a box of “milk” nearby.

When I moved to California, raw milk was legal. I got a buzz from purchasing my raw milk in the dairy coolers, right next to the pasteurized option. Celebrating the freedom to buy at my whim, I up’d my consumption, but still wasn’t fully converted. In fact, raw milk didn’t permanently park itself in my refrigerator until November 2009, just 7 months ago, after I first attended The Weston A. Price Foundation’s yearly conference in Chicago. Something shifted inside of me after being surrounded by a perspective that appealed so deeply to my roots. I began to understand that health for me didn’t have to revolve around the latest spirulina, goji berries and cocao nibs. I yearned for things I’ve always known, like dairy, meat, fish, grains, beans, vegetables and fruit, but finally, after years of twists and turns, I felt empowered to navigate those food groups.

Looking back, the knowledge had actually begun to take root years before this conference. My year-long fascination with “raw foods” techniques taught me soaking and sprouting, being a vegetarian taught me the value of organic produce and ultimately returning from vegetarianism taught me the proper ways to treat animals within the cycle of life. Without knowing it, I had danced around the fringes of a traditional food lifestyle, but it was sitting in that conference, listening to Sally Fallon’s grounded information that it clicked and subsequently congealed. This basic and very old-fashioned diet was me. I knew it to my core. It was my foundation, and I had no farther to dig.

I’m a cook, and I don’t intend on becoming a scientist. Ultimately, I rely on what my body and the bodies of my clients and family tell me. And I rely on the scientific work of others, when I would like to understand what my intuition is telling me. I am aware that there is always a flip side to every argument, but I just don’t see how treating our animals, water and land with care could end up being the wrong answer. Raw milk from well-treated, grass-fed cows quite simply feels natural to me.

I still pull from my days of vegetarianism and health food stores, but I treat their offerings as supplemental sparkle for a very simple traditional diet. The meat I choose to eat is grass-fed and pastured, without soy feed. The fats I eat are unrefined and largely saturated. The vegetables and fruits are organic and local, as much as possible. I soak my grains and beans. And finally, the dairy I consume is grass-fed and raw from a trusted farmer.

I do not get ear infections or sinus troubles with this dairy. Raw milk doesn’t trigger these deep allergic reactions common to pasteurized milk in my body, however several glasses can still set off my candida (yeast related symptoms similar to those caused by eating lots of sugar) because all milk is lactose (sugar). Although I can drink a single glass with ease, I most often turn my milk into a simple fermented dairy drink called Kefir. Because Kefir is fermented, which pre-digests the lactose, it keeps my candida in check, while enabling me to enjoy the immune-enhancing benefits of larger quantities of raw milk. If you are lactose intolerant, raw milk may be your solution, and if you have a tendency towards candida, homemade Kefir may be your answer.

With this diet, I finally have been feeling stronger, more solid and more content with each passing day. Oh, and one more thing… I also use refined white flour for my occasional pie crusts and gravies because I am a firm believer in the healing properties of a good dose of balance. The 80 (good)/20 (treat) rule is a great, great thing.

If you would like to learn more, I recommend the Real Milk website of The Weston A. Price Foundation, where you can find a raw milk farmer in your area. And another great resource is Organic Pastures Dairy, which is my dairy farmer here in Los Angeles. Farmer Mark McAfee is a passionate, knowledgeable man, and his website has a lot of great information.

xo – Organic Spark

12 comments


  • Sweeter Hours

    Love this post! I too just wrote about raw milk today.

    June 26, 2010
  • Anonymous

    good job.we need it legal in Iowa.I have to go to Illinois to get mine.People that care deserve to eat real food.

    June 28, 2010
  • Tinia

    Love this post!
    I understand where you're coming from. I remain a vegetaraian to this day, but we are working to raise our own beef on our farm here because I want a humane option for my sons and husband.
    http://www.thepetitionsite.com/1/legalize-raw-milk

    We raise dairy goats and Jersey cattle, and we value the ability to get raw milk national wide. Sales or herdshares are illegal in my state.
    the above link is my recently written petition to legalize raw milk in the US.

    Here is my recently started blog:
    http://thevegetarianhomesteader.blogspot.com/

    June 30, 2010
  • Molly

    Love the new people this Raw Milk post brought to the blog! Thanks for posting. Tinia – looking forward to popping by your blog.

    xo

    Molly

    June 30, 2010
  • country girl

    Great post Molly! You really hit the nail on the head and explained everything very well.

    huge raw milk fan,
    dawn xo

    July 5, 2010
  • Jen

    This is an excellent post! It would make a great addition to any "Raw Milk 101" linkfest.

    July 5, 2010
  • yoyoveggiemama

    Thanks for this… I have been having the same fears, concerns, and now joy over our raw milk share…

    July 10, 2010
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