|Image via Wikipedia|
It sounds amazing, but not so many years ago, nearly everyone lived on or near a farm. Nearly everyone ate pasture-raised beef, fresh milk, local grains and produce.
Now a only relative handful of family farms remain, and agri-business mega-farms produce the majority of what Americans eat. This food is sprayed with pesticides, processed till the nutrients and natural fiber are removed, or raised in inhumane environments and injected with mass quantities of antibiotics and growth hormones.
Back then, we ate what was in season or what we ourselves canned or dried. Now we don't know where our food comes from, even when it makes us sick, as was demonstrated by the contaminated ground turkey that killed one and sickened more than 75 recently. (Or maybe it is known, or at least suspected, that the bad meat came from Cargill, and the company is being sheltered by the agency meant to protect us.)
Is raw milk dangerous?
Years ago, raw (unpasteurized) milk was a nutritious taste treat, now it's against the law in many states. A big PR campaign convinced us of the danger of unpasteurized milk, and now virtually all milk in stores has been heated to 161 degrees for 15 seconds. But no one told the other side of the story: that heating milk (or orange juice, or any living whole food) may destroy some nutrients as well as enzymes that help us digest it.
|Image via Wikipedia|
|Goat milk cheeses|
On the other hand, food is produced on such a massive scale now, it would be a miracle if unpasteurized milk produced in bulk made it to retail stores without being contaminated. The trouble is, the few remaining farmers who want to raise a cow or a few cows to produce raw milk for drinking or cheese are being legislated out of business. Often the rules are senseless or simply don't take small farms into account.
States have cracked down on small unlicensed farmers selling raw milk to friends and neighbors. Three farmers running a herd share, in which several people split ownership because an animal's owner can legally drink its raw milk without state inspections, were arrested in California.
Only about 1% to 3% of Americans consume raw milk today, but the demand is growing. As excited as people can get about the dangers of raw milk, it has been consumed by humans for about 10,000 years. In the U.S., during the ten-year period 1998-2008:
- the number of reported milk-related illnesses, for both raw and pasteurized, was less than 5,000
- no deaths were attributed to drinking raw milk
- 2 deaths were attributed to eating a cheese made with unpasteurized milk
- 4 deaths were attributed to consumption of pasteurized milk products
Know your raw milk source or consider low-temperature vat pasteurization
Of course, if you were interested in switching from industrial to raw milk, you would want to be sure your producer was doing extensive pathogen testing, which is required. Even herd-sharing arrangements are subject to state law and must be licensed and inspected.
According to Wikipedia, some small U.S. dairies are now beginning to adopt low-temperature vat pasteurization. Advocates of this process say that it produces a product similar to raw milk in composition and is not homogenized.
The irony of the whole raw milk hoo-haw is, if it did make you sick, you'd know exactly where it came from, and there would be no federal agency protecting its producer from embarrassment or litigation.
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