OK, I wanted to share with y’all a little (ok, a lot) of info on the raw dairy I feed my family. We are fortunate in that there's a lot of good information on the Internet. Google "Raw Milk" and you will have a plethora of information at your finger tips. I’m no expert and I’m not a professional with any specialization. I’m a natural foods advocate, concerned mom and skeptic of any and all food advertising! So, I will give you my conclusions thru all my searching.
Non pasteurized whole milk from grass fed cows is the way our ancestors have always consumed dairy. It's not until the industrialization period did people start getting sick from dairy products. This was a time when we, as a nation, started to move away from local farming to mass production farming, even with our livestock. After all, our economic well being was first and foremost. We were striving to make a name for ourselves and become a, if not THE, greatest nation in the world. But that came at a cost. This time period is known for its unsanitary conditions; too much uncontrolled growth. In response to the disease outbreaks, the FDA required pasteurization as a quick fix so the mass dairy farmers could continue their poor practices and at the same time avoid sickly Americans. It was purely a monetary/economic decision. Sadly, the pasteurization process requires expensive machinery the small, local farmers could not afford. It put most of them out of business and created a further push for the mass producing dairy farmers. : (
To understand the pasteurization process: the raw milk is heated to about 145 degrees for at least half an hour. This is done to kill any "bad" germs and also to prevent the milk from souring. So, let's think about this. When you heat anything over 105 to 110 degrees you begin to kill micronutrients (vitamins and minerals; the small trace elements found in organic matter) and enzymes (proteins that speed up the rate of chemical reactions). These are the things that help you digest the milk! No wonder we have so many people who think they have milk allergies! (I'll talk more about milk allergies in a bit.).
This process is similar to cooked fruits and vegetables. It is a commonly known fact that when we cook our fruits and veggies we destroy some (if not all) the vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients* in them. The same applies to dairy. You cook it you destroy a lot of the "good stuff". Unfortunately, cooking milk has more negative repercussion than cooking your fruits and vegetables. You are altering the chemical make up God designed as a perfect balance of fats, carbohydrates, proteins, enzymes, vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients.
Also, when you kill these vitally important micronutrients and enzymes it prevents the milk from souring, or preserves the milk so it will have a longer shelf life. This gives the milk time to go from the dairy, to the truck, to the store, and eventually to your fridge.
The two last things I want to share with you in regards to the pasteurization process is this: 1. pasteurization makes the calcium contents of the milk insoluble, meaning your body can not use it to do it's important job like strengthen your bones and teeth. 2. The pasteurization process takes the lactose (sugars) in the milk and converts them to beta-lactose. Beta-lactose is much more soluble which means it is more rapidly absorbed into the blood stream (aka-insulin spike).
If you are allergic to milk, consider a few things. First, if you have a lactose allergy, try raw milk. I think you'll find it easy on your stomach. Second, ferment your milk. What did I just say? That’s right, make Kefir. Ok, we’ve opened a new can of worms. Here I go…
Kefir was vital to our ancestors’ health because it is a natural way to preserve milk (before we had refrigerators). It is still apart of people’s everyday diet in many other cultures!
Kefir has more strands of healthy bacteria (aka-probiotics) than any other counterpart. It feeds healthy bacteria into your digestive tract. Yogurt has 4 strands of bacteria while Kefir has so many I can’t even name them all (but I’ve heard from others that it can have up to 30 different strands of bacteria and yeast). Search the Internet and you can find a list of the bacterial names, but they really don’t “speak” to me. All I know is it’s all GOOD bacteria, whatever its scientific name is.
What is Kefir?
Kefir is made using Kefir grains. Kefir grains look like large clumps of cottage cheese or small heads of cauliflower. They are NOT a grain. They are a cluster of bacteria and yeast held together by sugar molecules. You know what that means? The Kefir grains feed off the lactose in the milk to create the bacteria. So, your end product is a reduction in lactose and even an elimination (depending on the time it is fermented).
How do I make it?
Kefir is super easy to make. All you do is put some Kefir grains in a glass jar topped with milk (1 T grains to 8 oz. milk), set it out on the counter for 12 to 24 hours, and your Kefir is made! When you are ready to consume the Kefir, you strain the grains out thru a colander so the grains will stay in the colander and the kefir will run thru. Put your grains back in the jar, fill it with more milk and you’ve started your Kefir for the next day! If you’re interested I’d love to show you how it’s done.
What do I do with the Kefir once I make it?
Kefir is very tangy, tangier than yogurt. So, I consume mine in a smoothie everyday as a post workout meal. I often have it with a variety of fruits and I’ve even started to make a Kefir smoothie with almond butter, cocoa and banana…my new favorite! DO NOT be fooled by store bought Kefir! It is not the same! Commercially made Kefir is not made the way I explained above (using grains and letting it ferment at room temperature). Often time the probiotics are added after the Kefir like product is made.
Where do you get Kefir grains?
The cool thing about Kefir grains is you must get them from someone who grows Kefir…like me! If you are interested please ask.
If you have a casien allergy (which is actually quite rare), try raw goat's milk (from a local farmer). It's a viable alternative. For more on goat's milk: http://www.roseofsharonacres.com/raw_goat_milk_benefits. As far as taste, I have found it slightly different in taste, if I really try to taste the difference. AND you can make Kefir with goat’s milk, too.
Now what do I do with all this info?
I'll tell you what I've done. I've found two reputable sources for raw milk and raw dairy here in Georgia. They offer different delivery points near me, so I don't have to drive to the farm. A matter of fact, one pick up location is just 2 miles from my house. So, on Thursdays between 1 and 2 pm you will find me picking up my 2 gallons of raw milk and 2 pounds of raw cheese for my family. Want more info? Ask me!
FYI: It is illegal to sell raw milk for human consumption in 23 states, so it will be labeled "For Pet Consumption Only". Don't let that deter you. It's just what local farmers have to do that to go around the laws. Ironically, we, as a family, rarely drink the milk straight. I use it to make Kefir and occasionally in cooking and baking.
Disclaimer: I am not a scientist or health professional. I am a health food advocate doing my own research for the good of my family. My self education is experiential based. And, most importantly, I use common sense (or at least what I think is common sense J ). If you have a comment, something to add or even something you disagree with please do share!
*Side note about phytonutrients: these are the chemical compounds naturally occurring in plants, like lycopene in tomatoes or beta carotene in carrots. Before the use of chemical and lab made prescription drugs, phytonutrients were prescribed for things like inflammation and fever. Actually, some of the well known treatments for cancer and headaches are derived from these phytonutrients. Sadly, they are NOT considered essential by our government and their established FDA. To learn more about phytonutrients check out: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phytochemical or http://www.webmd.com/diet/phytonutrients-faq Good Stuff!!!