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Raw Milk Revolution
by Sarah Morrison
On Monday mornings one can find an array of abandoned glass jars full of money in the UPS mail room. These jars are unrelated to UPS but are connected to still another delivery service, which is now almost obsolete.
That same morning senior Johanna Burdet (Jo) wakes up and drives to school. On her way she picks up two glass jars from a neighboring student; she then goes to class like any other student. Jo is a woman dedicated to progressive change. After her first class is over, she walks to the UPS room to collect the rest of the jars and money.
The jars belong to students who are part of a raw milk co-op started in September of 2007. Jo loads the jars into her car and drives to one of 3 farms involved in the co-op. She pulls up to the farm and greets Violet, who has just finished milking when Jo arrives. The milk is still warm and unified in color as it has not had time to separate from the cream. Violet begins to filter the milk from a stainless steel bucket while asking Jo some more questions about the co-op. They then both pour the milk into each student’s jars and their own.
If it is a warm day and the farm, Jo places the milk in a cooler for the ride back to campus. Once at campus, Jo makes several stops. One stop is at Julie’s house, a resident supervisor. Here Jo puts several of the jars in a refrigerator for students living on lower campus. After this is done, she returns to her car and drives to the student kitchen. On an average Monday for Jo, the process of receiving and delivering milk can take from an hour to an hour and a half.
Why do people want raw milk? Why would these students pay $3 a half gallon for raw milk when they can walk to the dining room and get pasteurized milk for free? Aren’t most college students poor?
I interviewed several of the co-op members and asked them why they drank raw milk. Nelle, responded without hesitation “because it’s healthy,” implying this was common knowledge. “Raw milk is less processed and therefore by nature healthier, plus it tastes better, and I know where it comes from.”
Other reasons were anecdotal. One woman had bad asthma and allergies related to dairy and had not drunk milk in 10 years. She began to drink raw milk and experienced no negative side effects. She claims to feel stronger as if “there is more substance to myself.”
Several customers mentioned the cream that forms on top of the milk. One person stated, “I like the way milk separates, especially when I spill it on the counter and it makes swirls in the drops; it looks like a complex substance, but store milk just looks bland.”
Our bodies use amino acids as building blocks for protein and need 20-22 for the job. Raw cow’s milk contains 20 of the standard amino acids. Raw milk is a "whole" food, meaning a person could drink just raw milk and be completely healthy.
Raw milk contains live enzymes, which promote health benefits. Enzymes are heat sensitive and 90% are destroyed during the process of pasteurization. One enzyme, lactase, is particularly notorious in the milk community. Lactose intolerant people cannot drink milk. Ironically, the lactase that is in raw milk digests lactose, the milk sugar that is difficult for people to digest. Pasteurization, therefore, is actually the cause of milk being indigestible for lactose intolerant people.
Most people drink milk specifically for calcium. The enzyme phosphatase is needed to release calcium and phosphorous in milk. Raw milk has a higher amount of digestible calcium and phosphorous than pasteurized milk. Another advantage of raw milk that the anti-microbial bacteria found in raw milk fight off pathogenic bacteria and serve as a built-in immune system.
Pasteurization is a method of treating food by heat to bring it to a certain temperature in order to kill disease-causing organisms. The rationale for pasteurization is to prevent outbreaks of tuberculosis and e-coli. The source for these diseases is poor sanitary conditions of cattle and workers. They are not inherent dangers of raw milk, but rather the dangers of unclean raw milk. Pasteurization is a cheap and easy way to avoid diseases, and once factories adopted the practice infant mortality rates did indeed decline.
Before I learned about raw milk from Jo milk was just milk. Now I see layers–the history of pasteurization, the misconceptions that raw milk is the cause of diseased, the impact of industrialization on small farmers. I see the cows crammed in factory farms, and others grazing in pastures. I hear farmers who talk of their cows as units of production, while others talk of them as children. I see pasteurized milk as something dead, something created out of fear. Raw milk is full and alive, full of promise for the future due to the efforts of people like Jo. I am struck by how difficult is can be to make something as simple as raw milk or local food into a feasible reality.
(Sarah Morrison is a student at Sterling College.)
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