This is my opinion, and only my opinion. What works for my family with raw, unpasteurized milk may not be possible for yours, and it may not be what God is calling you to do right now. Through prayer and discernment, I chose raw milk for my family a year and a half ago. It hasn’t always been smooth sailing, but for now, we get one gallon a week from our local farm. Here’s my story:
One of my good friends was already in a raw milk share group, so it was a natural extension of my reading to at least visit the farm and look into the process. When we went last January for a tour, my husband admitted he thought it was just a “pipe dream.” After all, I had only had an interest in raw milk for six weeks or so.
He about hit the ceiling in surprise when I came home asking him seriously if we could give raw milk and a cow share a try. “I really didn’t think this would ever amount to anything…” He wasn’t in favor of it, but he said he’d never like the idea any more than he did at that moment, so if I thought it was important and healthier for our family, we could give it a try.
Related: Sweetened Condensed Milk
I explained to him my reasoning, and here are my priorities, in order of importance:
- Grassfed: CLA I was first drawn to raw milk because it was the only way I knew of to obtain grassfed dairy. I described the health benefits of CLA in grassfed cattle earlier this week.My husband has a family history of heart disease and early heart attacks, and his high triglycerides are a major health concern.He also has Crohn’s Disease, an autoimmune disorder that affects digestion, although it’s been blessedly in remission for seven years. Any time I read about a food or nutrient that particularly helps triglycerides or autoimmune or inflammatory bowel disease, I really perk up and pay attention. I felt like the section in The Untold Story of Milk about CLA was literally jumping off the page at me, and I was overcome with a desire to obtain grassfed milk and meat. (Want to know what happened to his triglycerides?) I have since found a local source for grassfed, unhomogenized, organic, low-temp pasteurized milk. It’s $9/gallon. Ouch.
- Organic Avoiding antibiotics, hormones, and the chemicals used on whatever the cattle eat is a big deal. Most any source giving tips on “what to buy organic” says to place priority on those foods higher up the food chain, because any toxins are more concentrated in the meat than, say, the grain the meat ate. Organic store brand milk is $5.50/gallon here, and there are other considerations to organic milk that make it tricky. For $6/gallon, I could get organic milk PLUS all these other upgrades. Raw milk was a no-brainer, price wise.
- Unhomogenized I know, I know. I just told you yesterday that homogenization has been demonized without proper justification. It’s still a man-made, unnecessary process, and I don’t trust it. Sometimes, even for me, it’s not all about the science, but trusting my gut and my prayerful discernment. Did you see that gorgeous creamline in the top photo? That’s our milk!
- Unpasteurized/Raw Those lovely living enzymes are credited for a lot of immunity boosting and digestive health improvements. My husband and I often pray (beg) that our kids don’t inherit his Crohn’s Disease, which is genetic and environmental. I’m hoping that I can avoid whatever in the environment triggered my husband’s Crohn’s by staying away from the processed foods as much as possible. I can honestly say that our family has been much healthier since starting raw milk, with fewer colds and stomach bugs and less severe cases overall when we do come down with something. However, I’ve also made many other dietary changes since then, so no one can really point a finger at the raw milk for certain.
- Local I do love that I can support a local farmer, and the glass jars over plastic jugs is an added eco-friendly bonus. On the other hand, it irks me that one of our cow-share ladies has to drive 20 minutes each way to get the milk and then drop it off at all five houses. I’m sure the fossil fuel wasted in that inefficient system is just awful and offsets the plastic jugs we don’t end up throwing into the recycling bins.
There are many, many people who would put “raw” first and everything else very, very secondary. I’m not one of them, and that’s just me being different and setting my priorities where they felt right. Ultimately, the end result is the same. Some of the comments at the post on homogenized vs. unhomogenized milk and how to find the healthiest milk this week have been very interesting, as far as why people choose or avoid raw milk, fears of and real stories of bacterial outbreaks because of raw milk, etc.
If I ever became worried about the safety of my raw milk, I honestly think I would still purchase it and simply home pasteurize it to be safe. That probably sounds crazy to people who pay $5-10/gallon to obtain raw milk, but the grassfed and organic properties are worth it to me.
Raw milk comes at a great sacrifice, both financially, and of my time and sanity. Every five weeks when it’s my turn to make the milk run, I find myself questioning whether the Lord still wants me to get raw milk…usually when my daughter is pitching a fit because she doesn’t want to be in the car. Sometimes I find myself talking to Him while I’m driving, cutting deals: “Okay, Lord, if Leah doesn’t stop screaming by the time this trip is over, I’m done. We’re dropping the milk share. I’m sure You don’t want her to suffer (and me and Paul) with all this traveling we’re doing…” So far, He hasn’t reached down to say “no more raw milk,” but always has mercy on me with the screaming child stopping.
We also had trouble last summer with our milk souring much too quickly. It should be good about 10 days, at the very least a week, which is how long we go in between receiving our gallon. We were finding it undrinkable after only 4-5 days, and we had to work with our farm and our milk share group to make sure we kept the cold chain consistent with coolers, ice packs, and expediency. It worked. The milk stays good all week now, but my husband still stops drinking it straight in the summer because he doesn’t like the taste.
Is Grassfed Milk Really Different than Grainfed?
As with everything in the food realm, it seems, you can find a source that says the opposite. Some sources say CLA doesn’t really do anything good for heart health, and some sources say that grassfed meat and dairy has a nearly identical nutritional profile to grainfed cattle, CLA included. When I point to the yellow color of my cream and butter compared to the stark white butter I made with store cream as an example, I’m told it’s simply that the breed of cow at our farm (Jersey and Guernsey) is different than the conventional dairy cow (Holstein).
I beg to differ.
Check out this photo of the butter I made last night: The whiter stick on the right is from early May, the deep yellow on the left from June. The same cattle, simply switching over from the hay and alfalfa of winter to the grass and then fast-growing, well-watered spring grass, made quite a difference in the color of the cream. I’m no scientist, but I’m counting on there being more vitamins in the yellower cream.
I make butter with our May and June cream and freeze it for an added dose of Vitamin D during the depth of the winter. Dr. Weston A. Price recommended the practice in a sidebar of Nourishing Traditions. I’m thankful that our cows can digest the grasses that capture the energy (and vitamins) from the sun and preserve it to help keep my family’s immunities up when the darkness seems never-ending in January.
That said, I don’t think raw milk is the only answer. For this point in our family’s life, raw milk is the choice for us, of that I am certain. For your family, it may be different. I researched raw milk for hours (and hours and hours) before signing up for a cow share. I encourage you to do the same, and talk to others who drink raw milk, if you are considering making the switch.
Where Can I Find Raw Milk?
- Keeper of the Home details How to Find Raw Milk
- EatWild.com has a directory of local farmers, including raw milk options.
- Here is another really great option, from a reader:
What other bloggers are saying about raw milk:
- Wendy interviews her raw milk farmer at Eat Local West Michigan.
- Jo-Lynne posted thoughts on “The Raw Milk Question“ today!
- Kimi discusses Raw Milk Merits and Safety
- Stephanie describes the Safety of Raw Milk and a look at raw milk poured down the drain because of regulations in Canada
- Toni talks about government’s involvement in what we eat
- Lindsay asks “Is Organic Milk Worth It?”
- Kelly has a raw milk discussion