Monday, January 23, 2012

Pantry Raid #7: Cow's Milk

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I started this post with the intention of encompassing all of dairy.  As I started typing, I realized I was on the verge of writing a novel.  There was no way I could fit all of that info into one post that would be short enough for anyone to read in one sitting while still feeling all warm and fuzzy about this blog :).  So, I decided to focus on cow's milk for now.

Dairy can be a touchy subject these days with all the lifestyle changes some are making like vegetarian and vegan.  Believe me, I've toyed with making those changes too, but I have been completely unsuccessful in my attempts to persuade my dairy loving family to turn from their ways.  I can't lie, my occasional hankering for some dairy ridden delights could knock me off the wagon real quick too.   I love cheese entirely too much to ex it out of my life completely.

I've seen the graphic documentaries exposing the horrible treatment of dairy cows.  For those of you on my facebook, you've been so blessed to see all the video links I've posted in relation to this subject too.  This might be a good place to insert a thanks for dealing with me and my facebook ravings :)  But, in all seriousness, it really is important that we understand where our food comes from.  Those animals are treated horribly all in the name of hot chocolate or a cheap grilled cheese sandwich.   On top of that, looking beyond the inhumane treatment is a flurry of antibiotics and other drugs they pump into our milk providing buddies.  Add in some pesticide (and God only knows what else) ridden feed, and you've got one big nasty mess.
So where does that leave us as consumers?  I spent quite some time just feeling plain old frustrated.  Any changes to this part of our grocery list was going to cost us majorly.  Needing to just do something, the place we could afford to start with was our milk.   Making the switch to organic was just a small baby step.  We are by no means exactly where I want our family to be when it comes to milk (this is a "we're almost there" project for me), but armed with this information can help us all make the proper decisions for our family and the environment when in comes to milk.


The only thing organic milk insures for me is that my family is not consuming pesticides, hormones and pharmaceutical drugs via their milk.  Unless I have had a chance to tour the farm my milk is coming from, the fact I am buying organic can not insure how the animals are treated.  Most likely, the milk I purchase at the grocery store comes from a giant vat fed by farmers all over the country.  My gallon of milk could come from a gazillion different cows...crazy, huh?

Milk purchased in the grocery store, including organic, is also pasteurized/ultra-pasteurized and homogenized.  Pasteurization is the process of heating milk to a specific temperature and quickly cooling it.  They do this to kill pathogenic microbes that can cause disease.  Why is pasteurizing necessary?  When you have 1000's of cows packed into warehouses, all lined up and hooked to milking machines whose milk is then moved by truck in tanks to a processing plant where it is added to milk from other farms, processed and bottled, there is no way that you can insure cleanliness.  It's just too much product being handled by too many people.  So, to solve the problem, milk gets pasteurized. 

Pasteurized milk, like all other foods we heat up, loses nutrients and enzymes (i.e. the good for us stuff) during the pasteurization process.  Now, to take it a step further, some milk is ultra-pasteurized.  It is heated to an even higher temperature which kills pretty much everything, but this dead milk has a heck of a shelf life.  Good for the manufacturer, and bad for you.  Of course, because putting back a fake version of what you took out in the first place is always the right thing to do (sarcasm here), Vitamin D and A are added back in.

Homogenization is a little more complex.  You see some silly person along the way thought it would be nice if they didn't have to shake their milk before drinking it.  By nature, milk fat rises to the top of the container leaving the bottom pretty much skim milk.  In order to distribute the fat, the milk must be agitated.  So, a process was developed that broke down the fat globules into smaller pieces to be distributed evenly through the milk without having to shake it.  Essentially, it stays emulsified.  The chemistry that happens in your body after drinking the milk is so complicated, I don't even want to begin to try and describe it.  It boils down to excessive proteins in our blood stream.  Basically, homogenized proteins become so small that instead of being digested, which is what normally would happen, they bypass the digestive system and are floating around in our blood stream.  Since cow's milk proteins are so similar in chemistry to human's, the body treats them as excessive human proteins which, in one way or another, can trigger diseases like milk allergies, diabetes, heart disease and autoimmune disorders.   Yuck!


The option a step more healthy than organic milk is non-homogenized milk.  I find it at our local health food store.  Finding a local dairy that offers milk in this stage is the best alternative.  This way, you know where your milk comes from.

As far as pasteurization goes,  it is illegal in most of the US states to sell unpasteurized milk unless it is labeled for animal consumption.   I won't get on my rant about that right now.  If you can find a local dairy farmer that offers raw milk for animal consumption, make sure you have done your research.  The government is not all wrong in agreeing with pasteurization.  If your farmer has not handled their milk as clean as possible, you do risk getting sick from drinking it.  Do the benefits outweigh the risk?  That is for you to decide.  In my family, we drink non-homogenized, raw or organic depending on availability.  I'd prefer to just have a cow in the backyard, but at this point in time, that is just not an option.  If we had direct access to a very local farmer who let us tour the facilities and offered raw, for animal consumption milk, my cat's ;) would be drinking only that.


Some argue cow's milk shouldn't be for human consumption, period.  That's where I go running to the Bible.  There's a lot in there about food!  The Bible says God provided the Isrealites with a Promise Land.  God called it a land of "milk and honey".

Ezekiel 20:6  In the day that I lifted up mine hand unto them, to bring them forth of the land of Egypt into a land that I had espied for them, flowing with milk and honey, which is the glory of all lands:

This is certainly not the only place God refers to the Promise Land as the "land of milk and honey".  He says this over 20 times when He talks about the Promise Land.

So, is He referring to cow's milk??

2 Samuel 17:29 (NIV)  honey and curds, sheep, and cheese from cows' milk for David and his people to eat. For they said, "The people have become hungry and tired and thirsty in the desert."

So, rewind in time.  Were cow's pumped full of drugs, hormones and pesticides back then?  Nope.  Was milk pasteurized?  Nope.  How about homogenized?  Nope.  Were cows fed grains?  Nope.

Side Note:  Cows are not created to eat grain.  It messes with their stomachs and causes things like e-coli.  Huh...another mess we've made of our food system.  Cows should be fed grass, so look for milk from grass fed cows.

Psalms 104:14   He makes grass grow for the cattle, and plants for man to cultivate-- bringing forth food from the earth:   ( I love this verse!!)


Some could argue that people back then didn't live as long as they do now.  Tell that to Moses.

Deuteronomy 34:7  Moses was a hundred and twenty years old when he died, yet his eyes were not weak nor his strength gone.

My point being...just start somewhere.  This is a subject that we still have not fine tuned in my family as well.  A goal this year for us is to get closer to cutting organic, grocery-store milk out completely.  Our local farmer's market has a farmer that offers raw goat's milk.  We will be giving that a try when she has stock.  Another plan is to start making our own almond milk (the grocery store stuff is way too processed).   I figure between goats, cows and almonds, we should be able to completely kick the over-processed, grocery-store milk without a problem.

I know that was a lot of information.  Please don't let me discourage you if you are making the switch from conventional to organic grocery store milk.  That is still an extremely beneficial step!!!

Happy Monday!!

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