For a very long time now I have been wanting to do a "quick" post about local milk and dairy products. For me when I buy milk I am looking for Organic, hormone and antibiotic free, non-ultra-pasteurized. Ideally, I want to buy milk from cows that feed on pasture. I'd like to have the option of buying milk that is non-homogenized and perhaps even... gasp!, "raw."
Part of my education on the subject of fresh milk was from Nina Planck, who writes about the importance of consuming traditional foods. She believes that the road to health lays in consuming the foods that Humans have been eating for thousands of years and have evolved alongside, while staying away from "novelty" industrial foods and the man made alterations and additives that make such foods possible.
In her book Real Food: What to Eat and Why, she has something like 70 pages just on milk and manages to make it all very easy to um, "digest." She discusses the benefits of raw milk, siting studies that show reduced risk of heart disease among groups consuming whole milk, and the dangers of industrial creations such as powdered milk. Planck site's Dr. Kilmer McCully's work The Heart Revolution as pointing out that powdered milk may be the reason why in studies where milk is the one thing changed in the diet, Heart Disease is greater among groups that consume 2% milk and skim milk rather than whole milk.
Planck writes on page 65 that "[d]ried milk powder is created by a process called spray-drying, which creates oxidized or damaged cholesterol. Researchers in 1991 wrote, 'Oxidized low-density lipoprotein (LDL) is more atherogenic than native [unoxidized] LDL.' In other words, oxidized LDL causes atherosclerosis."
"Milk Powder containing oxidized cholesterol is a common ingredient in industrial processed foods including milk, yogurt, low-fat cheese, cheese substitutes, infant formula, baked goods, cocoa mixes, and candy bars. Nonfat dried milk is also added to industrial skim and 2% milk. In fact , skim milk may be made entirely of dried milk powder mixed with water."
It would be important here to note two things... First that anyone thinking of switching from skim to whole should certainly consult someone other than me (or even Nina Plank!), and secondly that the finer dairies will make skim milk simply by skimming off the milk fat. Here you just need to do some research, because according to Planck, no labeling is required to indicate if your lowfat milk is made in this way or from a powder. Since reading this book, I can verify that dried milk powder really is in all sorts of unexpected items.
Later, on page 68, Plank also goes on to say that "[c]ompared to industrial milk, dairy foods from grass-fed cows contain more omega-3 fats, more vitamin A, and more beta-carotene and other antioxidants. Butter and cream from grass-fed cows are are a rare source of the unique and beneficial fat CLA. According to the Journal of Dairy Science, the CLA in grass-fed butterfat is 500% greater than the butterfat of cows eating a typical dairy ration, which usually contains grain, corn silage, and soybeans." She goes on to say that as a "polyunsaturated omega-6 fat, CLA prevents heart disease,(probably by reducing atherosclerosis), fights cancer, and builds lean muscle. CLA aids weight loss in several ways.".... "CLA inhibits growth of human breast cancer cells in vitro. A Finnish team found that women eating dairy from pastured animals had a lower risk of breast cancer than those eating industrial dairy."
So these are just a couple paragraphs from those 70 pages and all of those pages are choc-full of information and anecdotes such as above here. Sometimes she leaves me doubtful, but generally her arguments made good sense to me and the numerous studies and the other authors she cites are a great introduction into a whole world of work being done. Erin, who is just about a life long vegitarian, loaned me this book saying that she actually enjoyed it more than Michael Pollan's work. (This book also has just as much info. on beef, pork, fish, poultry, eggs and more.)
Okay, so enough on Plank.... if you want fresh, local, milk from pastured cows where can you go?
So far as I know there are only a few options and only one, Avery's Branch , seems to satisfy all of these. Since selling raw milk is illegal, Avery's branch farm provides the option of you going in with other like minded inidivuals to buy a cow that they will then board for you. After you pay for your share of the cow ($100 I believe), you then pay for the up keep and care of the animal, plus the milking and delivery of the milk to you via several local market pickup sites. I believe this is another $35 per month. So the milk is not cheap, but by all accounts, including my husband's, it is wonderful. I have not tried it myself, because of certain medical reasons I am being extra cautious about the unpasteurized aspect.
The Second option is Homestead Creamery.
Whole foods' blog site has a quick piece about Homestead Creamery and a couple of people asked some very direct questions concerning the ultimate fate of the cows at Homestead and if the cows are pastured. On the pastured question the answer seems to be Yes, but you can click here to read the questions and answers in full. For other information about the dairy you can
click Here to read a cute news story about Homestead Creamery's home deliveries. Click Here to see a business summary for Homestead Creamery including their annual estimated sales (a lot higher than you might think. And discover that they also seem to own multiple meat processing plants. ) Click here to see a photo of their shop where you can buy their products including ice cream, butter and beef. Here is a cute slide show of a 4H trip to the Homestead dairy I found on flicker. It has one intriguing photo of cows lounging in in a field of green grass with a sheep dog nearby, and another of the cows eating grain from a trough. Their milk comes in glass bottles, and they actually charge a deposit that you get back if you return your empty milk bottle to the store! Around Richmond you can find their milk, eggnog, buttermilk, etc. at Kroger's Grocery Stores.
Finally there is Yoder Dairies. You can read the rather interesting history of the Virginia Beach Dairy here. It includes a line or two on how government regulations requiring pasteurization in 1931 forced the family farm to become a larger co-op in order to offset the expense. For a very small delivery fee Yoder Dairies has home delivery to several areas east of Richmond. Just like when I was a kid, you can set your glass bottles outside your door and they will replace them with full ones. They have a very long product list and you can get a mixed product delivery as well. However, it looks to me that while the milk is hormone and antibiotic free, these animals are probably grain and silage fed, and may or may not ever step outside.... I'll have to get back to you on that.