Lately I’ve been reading up on the benefits of raw milk. This is milk that has not been pasteurized or homogenized, and therefore it is milk in its purest state. It is unprocessed milk straight from the cow, and the health benefits associated with it are striking. However, raw milk is essentially illegal and therefore hard to come by, especially away from rural areas. While I would love to try it, doing so involves either joining a herd share (buying part of a cow) or bringing my own containers to a farm and secretly asking for raw milk. Unfortunately, neither option works for my small, city-dwelling family right now.
I have been drinking organic milk for years, but I’ve noticed that almost all of it is ultra-pasteurized with an expiration date weeks – if not months - in the future. Eek! What in the heck are they doing to the lovely organic milk to make it last sooooo long?? All milk sold in grocery stores is pasteurized, a process that heats milk to a temperature of 145-150 degrees for half an hour, destroying certain disease-carrying germs and preventing the souring of milk. However, that process also kills off beneficial germs and destroys some of the natural nutrition found in milk.
In addition to pasteurization, most milk you find in the grocery store has also been homogenized, a process that exposes the milk to tremendous pressure in order to evenly disperse the milk’s fat globules so each sip tastes the same and you don’t have to shake a bottle of milk before pouring it into a glass. If milk is not homogenized, cream (aka fat) rises to the top. There is absolutely no danger in non-homogenized milk – it has simply become a matter of taste. Some studies suggest that homogenization may be a primary cause of heart disease and milk allergies — before 1932, heart disease was not prevalent in this country. After 1932 (when homogenized milk was introduced), cases of heart disease began to rise.
Since unpasteurized milk is not available, the next best thing for me is non-homogenized organic milk from grass-fed cows. Last week I stopped by a small local market called Green Grocer Chicago to check out the choices. There I found DELICIOUS milk from Castle Rock Farms in Wisconsin. At $8/gallon it certainly isn’t cheap, but its not much more expensive than the highly processed organic milk I’ve been buying for years. And the taste is well worth the price – I wouldn’t even compare it to regular milk because as far as I am concerned it is in a totally different league! Don’t believe me? Since I started serving it to little Evelyn she has been drinking twice as much milk as she used to! Another bonus: it is sold in returnable glass bottles, and since I am on a mission to eliminate plastic from my life this is a step in the right direction.
In my opinion, the less food is processed the healthier it is. I’m not afraid of the fat in butter or whole milk, but I am terrified of 100-calorie snack packs! Milk is nature’s way of nurturing and sustaining life, so why would we feel the need to mess around with it??? I am hopeful that, as a consumer, I am someday given the freedom to choose between raw and overly processed milk. Until then, I will continue to seek out healthy alternatives.
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