My friend just moved to Vermont and was telling me about "raw milk" the other day. What makes milk raw?
- Michaela, Summit Cove
Nothing makes me happier than sitting down to a big glass of milk and some cookies, especially if it is raw milk! Dairy is a huge part of the American diet yet most of us have no understanding of the process except that it must involve a cow at some point or another. It wasn't until Mr. Stewart and I took the kiddies on a raw milk dairy tour last summer that we began our journey to understand the political, economic and health issues that are all stirred up in a simple glass of milk.
Raw milk is produced by raising healthy and sustainable animals. A typical day in the life of these animals starts off with a morning milking followed by plenty of outdoor access. Milk is then poured through what looks like a coffee filter and chilled. Simple as that!
Each state has their own legislation pertaining to raw milk sales. Some states outlaw advertisement, some only allow for on-farm sales, and others require labels such as "for animal consumption only."
The funny thing is, the raw milk process used to be how everyone got their milk. However, since the late 1800s the process has changed. Pasteurization and homogenization took the place of healthy cows and quality control.
Pasteurization is a band-aid that "fixes" the surface issues that have developed in our industrial dairy system. Pasteurization and ultra-pasteurization are processes of heating milk to temperatures between 161-275 degrees to kill bad bacteria that are bound to develop in CAFOs (confined animal feeding operations) and in animals fed an unnatural diet (i.e. corn and slaughterhouse byproducts). Unfortunately, this kills the good bacteria (lactobacillus) which promotes healthy digestion; something raw milk has plenty of.
After pasteurization, milk is homogenized to keep the cream from separating as it does in raw milk. This allows us to go into the grocery store and pick from whole milk, 2 percent, 1 percent or skim. Non-homogenized milk, or raw milk, lets the cream rise to the surface where it can be removed and made into butter, ice cream and more!
Dairy choices give us, the consumers, a vote every time we go to a grocery store, farmers market or ranch. There are resources for raw milk in Colorado but they must be purchased as a "share" of the animal in order to keep it legal.
Take a peek at www.localsustainability.net to find the Rocky Mountain Growers Directory and sources for raw dairy and other sustainable goodies. It's been difficult to find raw milk near our home up here in the mountains so when we are able to get raw milk, we do, and we celebrate! Otherwise I try to get whole organic milk that hasn't been ultra-pasteurized.
Kolona Super Natural dairy products are my second favorite right behind some freshly chilled raw milk. They buy from only sustainable (grass fed, no hormones, and no chemicals) farms with average herd sizes of 35 cows to keep up quality care and processing control. There is no homogenization and they keep the pasteurization process as minimal as possible.
We have the power to tell the industrial food system that we want real food, from real farms, grown by real people. Whether it is milk, meat, veggies, or fruits, it's you dollar that shows the corporations what we really want.
To read more about the raw milk movement nationwide and here in Colorado, check out www.rawmilkcolorado.org. Better yet! Contact the High Country Conservation Center and sign up for its dairy processing class on Monday, from 5:30-7:30 p.m. at the Colorado Mountain College culinary kitchen in Breckenridge. It is a great opportunity to hear about the differences between raw milk and industrial milk. You can also learn how to make fantastic dairy products at home such as yogurt, soft cheeses, kefir and more. Hope to see you all there!
Ask Eartha Steward is written by the staff at the High Country Conservation Center, a nonprofit organization dedicated to waste reduction and resource conservation. Submit questions to Eartha at firstname.lastname@example.org.