Saturday, August 08, 2015

Why I like to drink raw milk

On the Homesteading Today message board there is an argument a discussion that's been going on for several days about whether raw milk is safe.  I have to laugh, because both sides have expressed every possible opinion, and yet it goes on.  The most sane comment I've seen on the whole discussion, and one that goes along with how I feel, was this:  "You and I agree that everyone should be allowed to drink the milk from their own cow. Fresher is almost always better. Raw milk for the general public is a bad idea."

Yep, that's my opinion too.  

I do believe the government has exaggerated the dangers of drinking raw milk, but there is the general safety of the whole American public to consider.

E Coli can cause mild diarrhea, or it can kill someone, especially infants and older adults. E Coli is found in manure.  Cows spend a lot of time laying on the ground chewing their cuds, and at some time or other I'm sure they have pooped on every square inch of the pasture.

I wash my cow's udder before I milk.  I have old towels I've torn into strips about two feet long and six inches wide, and I get one end of the strip wet and squirt a small amount of dishwashing soap on it.  I use the wet end to clean the cow's udder and the dry end to dry her off.  If I wanted to be really safe, I would put a little chlorine bleach in there to kill germs, but I don't do that.  Even if I did, a cow is a large animal, and there could be an almost microscopic speck of manure fall off her tail when she's using it for a fly swatter and end up in the milk.  I strain the milk through a paper filter, but you know, that little speck could have dissolved in the milk before I get to the strainer.  I should go on to tell you that most people who sell raw milk use a bucket milking machine, which reduces the problem of foreign things getting into the milk, especially if the udders are washed and sanitized well.

So now that I have totally turned my city readers off, I will explain why I drink raw milk.  

1.  I like it.  Especially the skim milk, which with un-homogenized milk is never totally skim, because you can't use a ladle and get every bit of the cream off the top of t  he milk.  Maybe I should back up and explain that when you milk a cow, the milk and cream are combined together.  As it sits in the jar, the cream, which is lighter than the milk, rises to the top.  After about twenty-four hours you can skim the cream off for butter or to add to your coffee or to make the best mashed potatoes in the world.  Skim milk you buy in the store tastes watered-down.  Skim milk here at home tastes more like 2 % milk from the store, only I think it's better than that.  Some people like to shake up their jar of raw milk every time they are going to pour a glass of milk so the cream and milk are mixed together.  That's OK, but if your cow is a Jersey or Guernsey, some of the cream is so rich and thick that it won't combine well with the milk, so you are liable to end up with a clump of cream in your mouth.  As much as I like cream on my cereal and in my coffee, I don't want a mouthful of pure cream.  If I'm going to drink some milk, it'll be mostly skimmed.

2.  I love Jersey cows, and using the milk and cream gives me an excuse to keep one around.  I really don't even mind hand-milking, although I wish sometimes I could get away for a couple of days.  But that's my choice; either keep a milk cow or two, or travel.  I can't do both.

3.  I have a theory that people living on a farm build up immunities to E Coli and other organisms that cause illness.  So it doesn't scare me.

In that discussion on Homesteading Today, people gave reasons why they think store-bought milk isn't acceptable.  However, there is nothing they can say that will convince me that store  milk isn't more sanitary than raw milk, because it is!  Commercial dairies have milking machines that allow the milk to travel all the way from the udder to a bulk tank, so nothing is going to fall into the milk on the way there.  Before they put the milkers onto the teats, they use a sanitized solution and spray the whole udder, which may be filthy when they begin, but believe me, it's clean when they get done.  That udder has had a complete shower!  And then, of course, that milk is pasteurized, which kills any germs that may have gotten into it.
My only objection to milk from a commercial dairy is that they often give growth hormones to their cows to increase milk production; I wish they wouldn't do that.  As far as the genetically-modified grains in the cows' feed, while I wish I'd never heard of GMO's, that isn't enough to scare me off from buying milk in the store.  Neither is the idea of the hormones, really.  Believe me, we are eating GMO's all the time; you can't get away from them.

If you would like to check the discussion on Homesteading Today, you'll find it HERE, going on for three pages, and it's pretty much just back-and-forth arguing.  You won't find me stating an opinion there, because others have stated my opinion for me.


Sister--Three said...

They say no raw eggs either!?! I have my own eggs and I don't eat them raw except I guess in meringue...but I doubt it would hurt me. Probably less germs.

Margaret said...

As always, you are the voice of reason and very sensible. My mom got very ill from raw milk, so we were never allowed to drink it. I also believe that growing up with it forms protective bacteria. It's why people in other countries drink the water and eat the food without getting sick while tourists who do the same get diarrhea.

Susan said...

Coming from a dairy family, we grew up on raw milk. Jersey milk, until I married. Then in was....thin, non-creamy Holstein milk. And no cream for our cereal! It looked blue to me. I did become accustomed to it. My doctor suggested holding off on raw milk for the kids until they were a year old. We never had any problems. We did get our milk from the bulk tank so it was filtered. If a cow was treated with antibiotics, that milk is dumped-that milk cannot be shipped. Samples are collected at every pickup. I agree that you probably do build up some immunity over the years. There is no right or wrong on this issue. You just do what is best for your family. It worked for us.
When we sold the dairy it was so strange to remember to buy milk at the store!