Milk – good or bad?

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We are all very big milk drinkers in our house (4 – 5 gallons a week)…and to be honest I don’t think we could live without it! The good news is after switching to a more optimal milk source and type of milk we certainly do not have to give it up. I used to buy the standard store-brand skim (for the adults) and 2% (for the kids) from our local supermarket. I even switched to the organic variety earlier this year. Organic is certainly better than conventional, but I felt there were still some additional factors that continued to be overlooked.

My biggest concern about the milk we were drinking was if it came from cows that were being fed grass. I did a post awhile back entitled “You are what you eat eats too,” and this couldn’t be more true when it comes to milk. Cows are actually designed by evolution to eat grass, and a large majority of factory-farmed cows are instead taught to survive on corn (a super cheap grain). In some instances the corn makes the animals sick, which is part of the reason why they have to be administered so many antibiotics.

Now if you are buying organic milk you obviously know that the cows have not been given any antibiotics, but being organic doesn’t necessarily mean they have been fed grass (or anything green for that matter). For all I know they’ve just been fed organic corn. But, the point is that I really didn’t know what the cows were eating when I would pick up a jug from the supermarket. Even as I proofread this article now I have to admit it sounds a little over the top to care so much about what the cows eat before I would even drink their milk, but it really is important. The health of the cow greatly affects the health of their milk (as well as their meat products), and I am obviously on a mission to provide the absolute best for my family.

So going back to a time when I didn’t know where our milk came from brings me to why I stopped buying our milk from the grocery store all together. I recently switched to a delivery service (http://www.lakeviewfarmshomedelivery.com/) that provides milk from cows that are located not too far away in South Carolina. Not only can I call and ask them questions anytime (and you know I do!), but I could even go visit the farm myself if I thought it was necessary to do so. There is certainly a slight up-charge compared to a half-gallon of organic milk from the supermarket ($3.84 vs. $3.49), but they say their milk is two days from the cow. And it tastes so fresh I absolutely believe it. I think my children even noticed the difference because once we switched to the new milk I was having trouble keeping up with their consumption…it was like a broken record around here “more milk please!”

One other thing I learned more recently is that skim milk may not be the best choice for my husband and me (our girls drink 2%). This came as quite a shock, because I drink a lot of milk myself and have chosen skim for as long as I can remember. According to our milk delivery service, skim milk is everything leftover after the cream has been removed in a separator. And apparently the cream is what contains enzymes and fat-soluble vitamins. So just like the process that white flour goes through (since removing the bran and germ also removes all the good stuff from the flour) the milk is fortified with vitamins in an attempt to add back what has been lost. So once again I think the better choice is to just consume the good stuff the way nature has provided it to us and not opt for something that just emulates the good stuff.

We are joining our daughters and have switched to 2% in order to give us a good balance between the healthy cream and fat consumption. Michael Pollan even goes as far to say

To make dairy products low fat, it’s not enough to remove the fat. You then have to go to great lengths to preserve the body or creamy texture by working in all kinds of food additives. In the case of low-fat or skim milk, that usually means adding powdered milk. But powdered milk contains oxidized cholesterol, which scientists believe is much worse for your arteries than ordinary cholesterol, so food makers sometimes compensate by adding antioxidants, further complicating what had been a simple one-ingredient whole food.

This once again reminds me how happy I am to be buying our milk from a reliable and knowledgeable source, which allows me to continue our theme here of knowing exactly where our food comes from!

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