I’m not really sure what possessed me to get into raw milk.
HAHAHA: lie. Well kinda. About five years ago, I watched Food Inc. And, after screaming and falling off the elliptical when it got to the cow fistula part, which then caused me to be repulsed by all food for days, I decided I wanted to figure out if mass produced food was as issue laden as it seemed to be in the movie. (I should note here that cow fistulas have benefits for cows with digestion issues: what bothers me is the reason for the vast majority of those digestion issues.) I read and watched and researched for months afterwards, and everything I found cemented my decision to go as local as I could handle without losing my mind.
It’s not even purely health related. Our economy is seriously skewed. The way we get our food is warped. What happens to our food before we get it is evil, cruel, shortsighted, and/or entirely unnecessary; take your pick. I’m no PETA employee by any means, and I am so far from vegetarian, I’m sure there are motivational posters of me posted in every beef and poultry farm along the east coast. That said, I have T1 Diabetes, a sensitive stomach, and a whole host of other issues – skin, mood, weight, you name it – that have made my general health something of an ongoing hurdle. I have long supported organic foods, and if there isn’t a local option available, I will readily grab the nearest organic offering. A good, local, farm addresses so much more than just the organic issue though; and the more I looked into the local options, the more I understood about our mass produced culture, and the sacrifices we make in order to honor the quantity gods.
I started by finding local farms for beef, poultry, vegetables, and eggs. Easy, no problem. (Lie: hours of research, numerous phone calls, and tons of correspondence involving what type of feed is used, how the stalls/living quarters are cleaned, visiting the farms, how they hire their staff, what types of pesticides are used…) Eventually, I meandered into a sort of elimination diet…As in, I don’t believe in diets. Ew. I figured that if the chemicals, drugs, and treatment of the products in a lot of large farms was something I was avoiding, I might as well figure out if some of the foods, ‘cleanly’ manufactured or not, were contributing to some of my health issues. I started testing my sensitivity to foods by eliminating trigger categories one at a time. For example, I found that when I stayed away from gluten, my skin improved, my thyroid levels changed from borderline hypo to normal (my doctors don’t think this is the reason, but they also have absolutely no other explanation for why my thyroid levels -T4 and TSH- fluctuated by several points after I went off gluten), and my blood sugars are easier to manage beyond comparison. I didn’t lose much weight, but my tendency to bloat was reduced, if only by a little. I tried leaving out soy, dairy, and beans/legumes, but all three of those had much less overall effect. (I still stay away from soy, but that’s for different reasons – whatever, different post; moving on.)
I started to wonder if maybe part of what makes gluten (and all the other allergy related foods) so treacherous these days is because of how they are grown and processed. I mean, I’ve gotten to the point where even four star restaurant meat doesn’t taste as good as my local stuff. I wondered if some of the things that make dairy tough to process (aside from it being nutrients for a baby animal that is supposed to eventually weigh over two tons…moving on…) were related to what we do to the milk in order to make it ‘sanitary’ and increase its shelf life. I felt like ‘going local’ needed to be a more consistent commitment for me. If I thought mass produced methods were harming my food, didn’t like what big beef/dairy/poultry farms were doing to their animals prior to slaughter/during the milking process, and I was going to exert effort trying to avoid those things, then I wanted to be thorough.
Anyway, we bought part of a cow. (In Virginia, you can’t buy raw milk. ‘Tis unsafe. Or some such hoopla.) And every week, we get half a gallon of raw milk. And we love it. I crave less cheese (WHAT??? I don’t even know) and when I have it, I eat less of it. I actually make smoothies, which is a change from thinking about how great it would be to drink them more, buying all the stuff to get it done, and then never doing it. It feels criminal to let raw milk go to waste, which means I am under much more pressure to be efficient and use it all before it goes sour (in closely related news, I am going to start making my own yogurt). And the raw milk-organic berries-greek yogurt bonanza is a delightful way to avoid eating in the morning, which everyone obviously avoids because eating in the morning is heinous and awful and akin to kicking kittens. Raw milk is fabulous to my sugars. The taste is incredible; you can taste the different types of grasses the cow ate before she was milked, and the flavors make the overall texture more complex and layered. It’s easier to feel full with raw milk because every sip gives you so much more than the store bought stuff.
In a minefield of secret-bad-food-choice-explosions, I now feel good about my food. It’s consoling to know the start and finish of what goes in my body. Having to take drugs every day for a disease that does questionable and mostly unseeable things to me makes knowing exactly what I am eating a new and fascinating luxury. I love that my food choices enable natural and sustainable practices, and help to stimulate my local economy. Every time I bring food home, I feel like I am caring about more than just myself. And putting more care in your kitchen is a fantastic way to make your house more your home.
(This sounds like an advertisement for raw milk. I guess it is. Oh well.)