Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Everyone's Crazy About Raw Milk....and Organic...

I've been reading quite a bit about Paleo/Primal eating and some of it seems to make sense. Other things are just completely wacky. For example, raw milk people and their detractors. On the one hand, you've got these people who are terrified of life and convinced you will die if you drink raw milk, which, as someone who has inadvertently eaten a good bit of horse sh*t can tell you is unlikely... not that it can't happen, but if you're worried about dying of food poisoning, I would be WAY more afraid of KFC than raw milk.

On the other hand, a lot of the stuff the raw milk people say just doesn't make sense. For example, what do they think happens when you make muffins with raw milk? Does the milk undergo a miraculous insulation that prevents it from cooking? Or does that raw milk become the very thing they are preaching against? Being afraid of using ultra-pasteurized (heated to 250 degrees for 2 seconds) organic milk to make brownies that you will cook at 350 degrees for half an hour is silly.

Now, here's what I think... unless you love to drink pus, steer clear of conventional milk (at least in the US- I've seen some pretty clean Canadian dairies.) A lot of organic milk isn't pastured, and therefore I would steer clear of that too. Since I seem to have gotten over the allergy I had to milk before I had my little one, I drink local, pastured milk that is low-temp-pasteurized and un-homogenized. It isn't prohibitively expensive, it doesn't require a contract, it is as healthy as milk gets, and I don't have to worry about E. coli or Virginia's silly ban on raw milk.

Here are my rules for buying milk (and most food, really):
1. Buy as close to the natural state as possible. I don't know if homogenization does any harm, but I can shake my milk and have my food just a little less processed.
2. Which is related to one- buy pastured animal products when possible. Notice I say "pastured" not "grass-fed"? I believe in primarily grass-feeding and pasturing, but I see no harm in animals that are being raised in appropriate, healthy, traditional conditions (not feed-lots) having some grain. We've been graining milking animals and animals to be slaughtered since the domestication of animals and the rise of agriculture. That said, primarily grass-fed meat is definitely superior, since it contains CLA and higher levels of other nutrients than feed-lot meat. It has even been theorized that the "bad fat" in beef is actually a by-product of the corn-based diet most cattle are raised on.
3. Screw "organic". It's a fancy, expensive label that often means very little. It is very easy for a big factory farm to change a few practices, or the type of feed they give their animals without really doing anything that benefits the consumer. It is ridiculously hard and expensive for a small farmer to get an organic label when they are following practices that the average organic consumer would approve of. Not only that, to get an organic label, some farmers follow policies that I would consider inhumane- for example, not using insecticide ear tags that keep flies out of the faces of grazing cattle, or restricting anti-biotic use in an infected animal.

Let me make this perfectly clear- your "organic" chicken probably never saw the sun. The only difference between it and the chicken next door is probably just the food they ate. In the case of chickens and pigs, "vegetarian-fed" is unnatural, though I'm not sure which is worse- soy protein or slaughter-house refuse. If it was "free-range," it probably never dared to venture out into the tiny outside pen because by the time it was moved to "free-range" quarters it was acclimated to the chicken barn and terrified of the outdoors. The only way to get quality meat is to buy from someone you know and trust. Same with eggs.

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