I am not here to argue whether milk is good or bad for you, this is just to tell you why we have made the decisions we have made. I would gather that a lot of you are milk drinkers and/or have milk drinkers in your family, so this information will at least get you thinking.
There are a lot of milk/dairy critics out there. I knew about veganism, but honestly never knew why people didn’t eat or drink dairy products. It has always been a huge part of our life and I never thought to question it. If you are interested in learning about the non-dairy opinion, check out the documentary Forks Over Knives (now available to rent for free through Amazon Prime!). There is some information that will really get you thinking at least.
Where did we start?
We drank whatever milk was the cheapest. We started with whole milk for our kids when they hit age 1 and then based on the recommendation from our pediatrician, switched to 2%. My husband and I don’t drink a ton of milk, so it was mostly for the kids.
When we first started our food journey about a year and a half ago, we decided to switch to organic. There was really no good reason behind it, I just knew we were making some changes and that seemed logical to me. Organic is better, right?
Then I started really diving into the logistics of our milk decision. I devoured as much information as I could and tried to wade through what we thought was important. In the end, I chose to make the switch to organic, minimally pasteurized, non-homogenized whole milk from 100% grass-fed cows from a local dairy out of Othello called Pure Eire.
Why whole milk?
We have honestly made the choice to switch to all full-fat products, no low-calorie or fat-free for us anymore. From what I have read, these products tend to be more processed and/or they switch out the fat for more sugar. Plus, I never thought those products tasted very good anyway.
According to Real Food, the fats in milk are what help the body digest the protein and our bones require it to lay down calcium. The fat also contains a lot of the essential vitamins.
The worst part for me is that to make skim or low-fat milk, some companies remove the fat and add powdered milk to give it that “milk-like taste”. Powdered milk contains oxidized cholesterol and unfortunately can be found in quite a few industrial dairy products, although I don’t think it would be listed straight up as “powdered milk”.
Cows are meant to eat grass, not a diet high in grain or corn. Milk from grass-fed cows contain more antioxidants, more vitamins and more omega-3 fats. They are raised without powerful growth hormones to stimulate milk production.
We started with organic milk, but realized that “organic” in the commercial sense just means they have to have access to pasture and are often-times fed a diet of organic grain. Cows raised on a grain/corn diet can develop stomach ulcers, leading to the need for antibiotics. I love the idea that farmers who raise grass-fed cows consider themselves “grass farmers”. As in, all they do is raise grass for the cows to graze on and the cows do the rest of the work.
If you want to go the organic route over 100% grass-fed for a slightly less expensive option, check out the farm’s website, ask questions. How are the cows raised? Some may be more grass-fed than grain, you just need to dive in to find out. Make sure you feel comfortable with your choice.
With unhomogenized milk, the cream, which is lighter, rises to the top. Apparently, when large amounts of milk are transferred from the dairy, all the cream would rise to the top, allowing for uneven distribution of the fat between customers. Homogenization forcibly blends the cream and the milk, so the fat does not separate. While this may make it look more appealing and is better for the bottom line, homogenization breaks up the delicate fats and causes the milk to sour more quickly.
What about raw milk?
Pasteurization came about for health reasons, to prevent the spread of diseases from poor-quality milk. However, it does destroy some of the essential vitamins and beneficial bacteria. Pasteurization leads to a longer shelf life, which is better for commercial sales, which is also why unpasteurized is far more expensive.
Unpasteurized, unhomogenized milk is what is considered “raw milk”. Basically, unaltered, traditional milk straight from the cow. As it does not go through any sort of heat processing, all the vitamins, antioxidants, beneficial bacteria and enzymes stay intact. Raw milk does not have a long shelf life, but what you lose in longevity, you gain in vital nutrients.
Laws vary state to state, but it is legal to purchase in Washington. You can purchase raw milk supplied by Pure Eire Dairy in Othello from Yoke’s and the NW Regional Food Hub in Richland. To find out what the laws and statutes are in your state, click here. If you are going to go the raw milk route, make sure you know the source. Find a dairy that is clean and transparent about their practices.
I am by no means advocating raw milk, mainly because we haven’t made the switch yet. We made the decision to switch to organic whole milk from purely grass-fed cows that comes from Pure Eire Dairy in Othello. They sell the milk at Albertsons and Yoke’s in our area, as well as the NW Regional Food Hub in Richland. While it is definitely more expensive (around $6.99/gallon), we feel comfortable with our choice. It is tough once you have read and heard all the information about industrial dairy practices and the severe lack of nutrients in industrial milk to just ignore it. To combat the price increase a little, we have cut back on the amount of dairy we consume. I have also started swapping almond milk for traditional milk in some recipes to make it last a little longer.
To help get you started in your milk quest, check out Localharvest.org for local dairy information and other sources in your area.
Recently, I have had a hard time digesting dairy products. I noticed after eating ice cream or some cheeses that I really suffered from indigestion. I would never classify myself as being lactose intolerant, but I definitely struggle with it, enough that I choose not to eat much of either food. Something I found interesting from reading Real Food is that our bodies require the enzyme lactase to digest the lactose in milk. Pasteurization damages the enzyme lactase therefore my body would have a harder time digesting the lactose, which could be the reason behind my indigestion. Food for thought.
I completely understand the overwhelming nature of this post and the absolutely ridiculous number of choices facing you in the dairy aisle. In order for me to be comfortable spending $6.99/gallon, I had to be comfortable with the information. I needed to feel like I had done my fair share of research and understand what was behind our choice. I suggest the same for all of you. Please don’t take my word for it. Making these changes definitely shows in your grocery budget bottom line and it’s important that you 100% believe in your decisions.
I’m excited to share our journey with you! In the next post of this series, I will be talking about the plethora of egg choices out there and why we are so lucky with our egg source.
In case you missed it:
- Where our journey began and resources we have used
- Learning to read labels and eliminating hydrogenated oils
- Demystifying the produce aisle and fabulous local options
- Real Food by Nina Planck (Amazon)