". . . little shall I grace my cause

In speaking for myself. Yet, by your gracious patience,

I will a round unvarnish'd tale deliver . . ."

(William Shakespeare's Othello, I.iii.88-90)

Monday, June 25, 2007


In our family's ongoing quest for better nutrition (see previous post), one of the things that we have been learning more about is the milk we drink. As with fats, it turns out that the commonly accepted wisdom is incorrect. While our parents (and generation upon generation before them) grew up drinking raw milk straight from the cow, most people today were raised on homogenized, pasteurized milk. Touted as one of the greatest scientific advances of the 20th century, pasteurization is the process of heating milk to high temperatures to kill potentially harmful bacteria. But the problem is it also kills a lot of good stuff, too. And pasteurization certainly doesn't guarantee safe milk, because the basic problem was never raw milk to begin with but dirty milk, and research shows that contamination can occur in any milk supply, raw or pasteurized.

Here is what we normally drink.

Right now I can buy it at Jewel for about $2.28/gallon. (That price reflects a "sale" that has been going on for months, but customers are only allowed to purchase two gallons at a time. The going price for a gallon of milk around here is actually $3.00 or more, but Jewel is apparently using milk as a draw to get people in to the store on the assumption they will then buy other things.)

Last year as we learned more about what pasteurization does to milk and also became concerned about hormones and antibiotics used in factory farming that make their way into the milk supply, we switched for a time to Oberweis milk. Oberweis is a family-owned Illinois dairy that prides itself on purchasing milk only from family farms that do not use synthetic growth hormone. Their milk is sold in glass bottles, and home delivery is available, so there is an element of nostalgia. And although the milk is pasteurized, Oberweis claims that they use a lower-temperature method which results in a better tasting product.

While I personally couldn't discern a difference in taste, several members of my family could, and because I highly desire to make my family happy, I deferred to their desire that I add an Oberweis stop to my regular shopping excursions. But as time went on it became harder to justify the additional expense (Oberweis milk is slightly over $5/gallon) and I found myself increasingly lured back to the lower price and convenience of the supermarket milk. There just didn't seem to be enough of a difference between the Oberweis and the Jewel milk to merit paying almost twice as much for the former.

Yet we still found ourselves questioning the overall nutritional value of pasteurized milk. Research also suggests there are negative effects associated with homogenized milk. So last week with the encouragement and aid of some friends who have long been making raw milk a regular part of their diet, we finally brought home our first gallon to try:

I don't exactly know what I was expecting, but I must admit I was surprised that the raw milk came in the same type of plastic container we get from Jewel. I was also surprised to find that I could discern only a minimal difference in taste (again, I don't know what I was expecting--maybe that raw milk would taste more like a cow?) For fun we did a blind taste test, and I was able to pick out the raw milk, but I'm not exactly sure why. I expected it to be markedly richer and creamier, but it really wasn't. There is a slight difference in color, as demonstrated below (the raw milk is on the left, store-bought on the right).

Probably the biggest difference--once again--is the price. This lone gallon of raw milk cost $7. At that price it is akin to liquid gold, making waste and spillage totally unacceptable. Thus my idiotic behavior whenever anyone decides to drink some: "Don't pour more than you can finish!" "Are you sure you want that much?" "Make sure you drink it all!" "Don't you dare spill that!"

I don't know, but there is something questionable about a mom who almost hates to see her kids drinking the milk!

I'm not sure where our milk odyssey will end up. I do believe there is a strong argument for making raw milk a staple of our diet. But we simply can't afford to drink it exclusively. So we will probably continue to drink the $2.28 milk from Jewel and to supplement with occasional raw milk purchases, hoping to glean at least some of the nutritional benefits that are there. In Illinois and many other states it is illegal to sell raw milk (the federal government prohibits it across state lines, but each state makes its own laws for intrastate commerce), but the raw milk providers here have figured out a loophole: they sell you a "share" of a cow and then simply charge "delivery" for the milk that already "belongs" to you. (Some states have specifically addressed and closed this loophole, but for the time being it still exists in Illinois.) Our raw milk sample was provided to us by friends who regularly purchase it; if we decide we would like to purchase it for ourselves on an ongoing basis, we will have to buy our own share of cow (I believe this will cost $50) and then be willing to place a $30 minimum order to have it delivered semi-weekly to a nearby location.

If you are interested in finding out your own state's laws regarding the drinking and selling of raw milk, click here. For more information about the benefits of drinking raw milk, go to http://www.realmilk.com/


Anonymous said...

I couldn't taste a difference either when we started drinking raw milk. But after a few months of drinking raw exclusively, I had to buy a half-gallon of store milk. YUCK. I don't like it anymore. Thankfully, I don't have a price difference between raw and pasteurized.
-- a looper mom

Anonymous said...

I am in McHenry County and drive about 5 miles to a diary farm to fill my own glass containers of raw milk directly from the farmer's milk tank. $2.00 a gallon. Introduce yourself to an old-time dairy farmer.

Anonymous said...

I live near McHenry County in Illinois and would like to get that milk also, where do I go?
thank you for any help: