Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Raw Milk ~ Part 1

This has been the topic I have been most asked about since starting this blog . . . it comes with a whole set of very passionate supporters and opposition.  So we are going to unpack it a little in this post, and then more in a few more this week and next.

Just like anything else in your kitchen, YOU have the right to choose (or at least you should) what you provide for your family, and there is no judgement here on those decisions.  I am just sharing what we have discovered and a little about why we do what we do.  So here we go . . .

What is it?
There's Two Kinds of Raw Milk:
Cows that are fed grains, kept in small holding pens, and living in unsanitary conditions (leading to sick or infected cows) do NOT produce the type of raw milk I am talking about here.  This is the milk intended to be processed and sold in mass quantities.  Drinking this milk raw will undoubtedly cause illness.  It is not safe, but after some extreme heat and high pressure, the milk is sterile and shipped out to stores for consumption.

Raw milk produced from cows feeding on fresh, organic grasses, who roam freely, is a safe and healthful food.  The milk is not processed, just extracted, filtered, and cooled quickly.  When cows are healthy and functioning the way their bodies were MADE to, the product is natural and ready to be consumed…AS IS!   With no alterations or chemical processing!
Understanding this is really important if you decide to pursue providing raw milk for your family.    

Honestly, I’ve always had happy feelings when hearing this word until our family began moving into the Real food world.  It meant “safe” to me.  And that is still true – some milks, the one two types discussed above, are not safe without being sterilized, which is exactly what pasteurizing is – sterilizing the milk.
The milk is heated to high temperatures and kept there for a bit in order to kill all the bacteria and most of the enzyme activity it contains.  The resulting milk is very different from its natural state.  Raw milk is alive!  (Don’t be scared!)  It’s full of healthy bacteria that benefit your entire body, especially your digestive system.  The enzymes naturally occurring in raw milk assist your body in digesting the milk and breaking down the lactose (more on this later!), which is a foreign substance to our bodies.
After pasteurizing, these healthful qualities are killed and the milk is no longer raw; it’s cooked.
Have you seen the words “ultra-pasteurized” on cream or half and half?  This is super-sterilized and some pasteurization processes use ultra-high temperature (UTH) that allows the milk to stay “good” for a very long time without even being in the refrigerator!  Like months!   If you are one that gets squeamish at the thought of the shelf life of a Twinkie, this might make you quiver!

Homogenization is the process that breaks down the naturally occurring fat in raw milk so that it will no longer rise to the top (cream), but just settle into the milk.  The milk is forced through a very very fine “sieve” with holes so small that the fat globules are broken apart.  This process also heats the milk…again!
And here’s the crazy part…homogenized milk has been linked to heart disease, increased sensitivity to milk/dairy, and cancer.  The explanations are very scientific and detailed, but it has to do with enzymes, proteins, and fat being broken down into particles so small they surpass digestion and are absorbed straight into the blood stream.  The affects on the body are adverse and thought to be generally harmful, rather than providing nutritious substance.  (Before homogenization, these particles are large enough to be caught up in the natural digestive process and moved appropriately throughout the body.)
There’s lots of reading on this process and these ideas if you want to know more!
This is a huge area of concern and debate and probably what makes raw milk so contraversial.  Truthfully, you can find the research to support either side of the fence on this issue.  Many of the articles in the upcoming posts will have more on both positions.

The milk from the farm we own shares in is tested monthly, and the results are stellar every time.  So we have the "safety' record in hand every month.

Like I said before, if the cow is healthy, the milk will be safe.  Then the milking process and storage system must also be safe.  Our dairy farmer will share her process to ensure safe and high quality milk in her upcoming interview.
For those of you interested in the history of milk, the flux from raw to patuerized and back again, here is an easy-read short version.  It’s quite interesting, and sad, to say the least. 

Coming . . .
What the FDA has to say
Health Benefits
Testimonials and Studies
and . . .
               Interview with a Local Small Dairy Farmer

No comments:

Post a Comment