Tuesday, March 20, 2012

raw milk

A number of my friends are members of covert raw milk buying groups. They bathe themselves and their children in the milk :) because they’re not legally allowed to drink it.

The only milk in my fridge is rice milk. A year ago the only milk I drank was soy. Fifteen years ago the only milk I drank was pasteurised homogenised cows’. I gave up cow’s milk and most dairy foods in my early twenties after a naturopath suggested quitting dairy as a way to end the series of debilitating sinus infections I was having. I haven’t had a sinus infection since. My raw milk drinking friends tell me pasteurisation kills enzymes, vitamins and beneficial bacteria. So, it is not milk they argue, that causes allergies but rather what is done to the milk.

(I can hear some readers asking ‘If you’ve given up dairy, what about calcium?’ The quick answer is I drink calcium fortified rice milk, and get calcium from other food sources such as tahini, natural yoghurt, parmesan, dark green leafy vegetables, nuts and almond spread).

What is raw milk?
Raw milk is real food, straight from the cow in its natural state, it has not been pasteurised or homogenised. The term raw milk makes me giggle a bit because I’ve not heard of anyone asking for a litre or two of cooked milk but basically that is what pasteurised milk is.

What is pasteurisation?
Pasteurisation is when milk is heated to approximately 72 degrees celcius for 15-20 seconds. The reason milk is treated in this way is to kill all disease-causing microbes.

What is homogenisation?
Basically homogenisation keeps the components of milk together. That is the cream, the fat, does not rise to the top as it did in an old-fashioned bottle of milk. 

So, regardless of how I explain pasteurisation and homogenisation, the bottom line is the milk sold today is processed. It is not natural food as it occurs in nature.

In his book The Untold Story of Milk – The History, Politics and Science of Nature’s perfect food: raw milk from pasture-fed cows American author and naturopath Ron Schmid tells a remarkably thorough story – 19 chapters, 407 pages - of how and why pasteurised homogenised milk sold today is stripped of nutrition and more than that is contributing to ill health of those who drink it. Chapters that stood out to me in this book are: 'Milk in the Lat Traditional Cultures', 'Lactose Intolerance and Modern Milk' and 'Raw Milk Today - Green Pastures, Contented Cows and Contentious Issues'. I came across this book at my local library. If this is a topic that interests you it is worth seeking out.

Another interesting aspect of this debate is that in Australia where it is illegal to sell raw milk for consumption, hundreds of tonnes of raw milk cheeses are imported into Australia from Europe each year. Where is the government support for our artisan cheesemakers?

Given that it is legal to eat raw meat, raw eggs and raw fish it seems curious to me that raw milk is singled out. Advocates of raw milk are not asking authorities to risk public health, they are promoting the  fact that milk in its natural state is nourishing in a way that pastuerised homogenised milk cannot be. 

This debate brings into clear focus the importance and power of knowing where food comes from, the conditions under which it is produced and the environmental significance of organic farming and buying locally produced food. 

Do you drink raw milk? What are your thoughts on the issue?

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