What’s to Love About Raw Milk?

Faith Schlabach

Faith Schlabach › Faith Schlabach and her husband, who grew up Amish, live on a farm between two mountains ...

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For 15 years, we thought three in our family were allergic to milk. Being health conscious, we made the choice not to have any dairy in our diet. We even gave seminars at our family health food store about how very bad milk was for you. We talked about people going off of dairy and their asthma symptoms clearing up and, of course, we all knew about lactose intolerance.

What we didn’t realize was that all of our research and experience was based on confinement dairy, which is pasteurized, homogenized, A1 milk.

Eight years ago, through the Weston A. Price Foundation, we learned about the “other” milk – raw, grass-fed milk. After visiting an Amish friend who owned a small grass-fed organic dairy farm in Ohio, I brought home three gallons of raw milk. My family and I all took cautious sips and waited. Amazingly, no symptoms! No mucous or congestion for my husband. No lactose intolerance for my daughter, who couldn’t have even one tablespoon of regular milk. My son, whom we used to tease if he ate dairy today he went to work with his dad tomorrow (as he would become very much like a bear, and not a fuzzy sweet one), did not react to the raw milk at all.

Not only did we not react adversely, but we felt so much better and more satisfied once we started consuming raw milk on a regular basis. My daughter, who in spite of almost no sugar and frequent brushing could not get her cavities under control, has not had one new cavity in the eight years she’s been drinking raw milk.

In the joy of our discovery, I began to study the history of milk. What I learned further impressed upon me the dangers of confinement operations.

Raw grass-fed milk was consumed primarily up until the last century and was a natural part of a mainly agrarian lifestyle. For thousands of years, it nourished people in all regions of the world. When the Industrial Revolution came to pass, people moved to the cities for work, but they still needed that nourishment. Cows were brought into the cities and housed near the breweries where they were kept in very small stalls, fed high amounts of distillery grains, and given no access to grass. Further complicating this situation was a lack of understanding germs, lack of stainless steel, lack of hot soapy water, and a lack of a natural diet and clean housing conditions for the cows.

I also learned that when a ruminant is fed high amounts of grain, which they are not designed for, their systems become acidic. This change allows the mutated form of E. coli to thrive. E. coli by itself is benign (in fact, we all have it in our systems), but under the conditions introduced by industrialized methods E. coli can mutate into the dangerous form called 0517:H7. This is not a naturally occurring bacterium that our systems can easily deal with.

People started getting ill, mainly babies and the elderly. What was the solution? Instead of someone asking, “Why are people getting sick when they have been drinking raw milk for thousands of years?”, Louis Pasteur discovered that he could heat the milk and destroy the bad pathogens. Unfortunately, pasteurization also kills the beneficial enzymes (which help us properly digest milk) and the beneficial bacterias milk has to offer. Now, to give them the benefit of the doubt, science could not predict the onslaught of digestive problems this would create, that each subsequent generation would become increasingly sensitive to this problematic milk.

We have learned that the majority of dairy-intolerant people actually thrive on raw, grass-fed milk. There is also a portion of people that cannot have what is called A1 milk, but can have A2 milk. A1 is a genetic mutation that has been discovered and most dairy cows carry it. It is linked to digestive issues, heart disease, autism, and Type 1 diabetes among other serious health problems in humans. I will write more about this in the future. At our farm, we are aggressively breeding away from the A1 gene. As consumers, we need to be informed about these issues and as we demand a change, the tide will respond to the pull of the masses. My family and I have high hopes that A2 milk will become much more available over the next 10 years as informed and concerned consumers begin to request it.

You can always inquire at your local cow share farms (find one near you here). Ask if they are testing and breeding for A2 milk, if they are feeding free choice grass and if they are making natural amendments to the soil to improve the forages. You may want to consider buying your own family milk cow that you share with other families (certain genetics allow you to milk just once a day). You can also share milk with the calf (with the correct genetics, the bag will hold up just fine) so you can milk when you need it and let the calf have the rest. There are so many possibilities for you to consider. I will write more about these milk options in future articles. The important thing is that you know your range of choices, so you can make an informed decision for a sustainable source of milk, cheese, yogurt, meat, and other bi-products like manure for your gardens and field.

Do you drink raw milk? Have you experienced major health benefits since switching to raw milk?

Photo Credit: Rothwell Photography