Milk – good or bad?

Pin It

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!

Posts may contain affiliate links. If you purchase a product through an affiliate link, your cost will be the same but 100 Days of Real Food will automatically receive a small commission. Your support is greatly appreciated and helps us spread our message!

179 comments to Milk – good or bad?

  • I was very excited today when I was out and about and saw a little store that had blueberries on sale 4 for 5 dollars. So I stopped to buy some. It was this cute store about 10 min from my home and it had tons of produce from and milk from a nearby farm. I asked if the cows on the farm were fed grass and the people said yes and went on to tell me all about the little farm and told me I really should go visit it. It seems every time I try to buy things locally, the people involved in the process are so proud of their farms and everything that they too want you to see where your food comes from. I think being resourceful we can all find ways to buy milk and other food in a more natural way.

    I hate milk and so does my family so we don’t drink much of it, but at least what we use in our recipes and such will be a lot better for us.

  • Rupel

    There is some concern that milk after age 2 may be detrimental to our health with increasing risk of otitis in children, DM (secondary to overactivity of the pancreas in its attempt to produce enzymes to digest the pasteurized milk), obesity as well as gastrointestinal toxicities. Also, much of the calcium we need can come from vegetables.
    Interestingly, we are concerned with getting enough calcium in our diet; however, countries in Africa and Asia with lower milk consumption have less incidence of osteoporosis; with the thought that the high protein in milk binds to calcium from milk, removing it from the body…possibly increasing risk of arthritis.
    Also, one study noted that approx 75% of the world’s population are genetically unable to digest milk (lactose intolerance). These people are also noted to have increased allergic illnesses…

  • Elizabeth

    Hey Lisa,
    How quickly does the milk expire? Have you ever ordered eggs or cheese from them?

    • Hey Elizabeth – They say the milk’s peak performance is about 7 – 10 days which we have found to be true. One thing we learned is that it is important to make sure your fridge is set at 37 degrees or cooler and to not store the milk on the door of the fridge (which is a noticeably warmer spot). Milk is the only thing I have ordered from them (I get my eggs and cheese from Matthews Farmers Market or CSA box). I highly recommend using Lakeview for milk and you could certainly try other stuff from them too…we have been very pleased so far and I love being able to support yet another local farm!

  • Hope

    Lisa,

    This was very interesting. I was wondering if you have done much research on raw milk. I am very interested in natural and whole foods nutrition, and I have started to read quite a bit about the controversies of raw milk vs. pasteurized milk. It seams that pasteurization and homogenization of milk takes out at almost all of the enzymes, at least half of the vitamins, and changed to composition of the fat particles to be more toxic to arteries and veins.

    here are a couple interesting website on the matter:

    http://www.westonaprice.org/
    http://www.realmilk.com/

    I was wondering what your perspective is on this matter? It seams to be one of the most debated topics in food every. I tend to lean more towards the side of the more natural the better, but I always love to hear what other people think.

    • Hi there – Yes, I have researched raw milk and it is actually illegal here in North Carolina. It is true that pasteurization not only kills the dangerous bacteria, but it also kills some of the good stuff like you mentioned. The milk we drink from Lakeview actually goes through a process called “slow pasteurization” instead of “ultra pasteurization”. This means it is pasteurized at a slightly lower temperature than what you find with most grocery store varieties. So it is safe to drink, but still has some of the good stuff left in it. Even if raw milk were legal here I don’t think we would drink it, and I certainly wouldn’t give it to my kids (for the same reason I wouldn’t want them to eat raw eggs or raw meat). I hope that helps!

  • Hi Lisa,

    It was great to meet you the other night. Congrats on all your accomplishments. We order from Lakeview as well. Been very pleased so far, and I highly recommend them to your readers.

    And there’s an interesting book that touches upon the comments Rupel made about osteoporosis. I’m reading it now, so I am hesitant to share my perspective until I finish it. You might want to give it a quick look. It’s titled Building Bone Vitality by Amy Joy Lanou and Michael Castleman. The hook on the cover reads “Why calcium, estrogen and drugs are NOT the answer.”

    Keep up the great work and thanks for your post!

  • Julie

    I’m new to all of this and have really learned a lot from your blog- what is your opinion of Soy milk?

    • Hello there! Two questions for you first…what are the ingredients in your soy milk (some have sweeteners and other additives)? And why do you chose it over dairy (is it an allergy)?

  • Lisa

    Lisa- since reading your post, I have been so extremely interested in getting grass-fed milk that today I conducted my own research on where I can get some in my area (Southern California). I came upon this website that talks about their pasture fed cows, and how its not natural for cows to be grass-fed year round. This farm was not alone in its stance, in my research I read a lot of farms’/dairy websites that had similar feeding techniques. What do you think of it?

    http://claravaledairy.com/faq.html

    Copied and pasted from their FAQs:

    Are Claravale Farm’s cows totally pasture fed?
    No. We feed our cows a traditional diet of hay, feeds, and pastures. Claravale Farm is a traditionally run dairy and we don’t think total pasture feeding of dairy cattle is appropriate for a number of reasons. Contrary to popular belief, total, year round pasture feeding is not natural for cattle and is not the way in which dairy cattle have historically been managed. More typical is for dairy cattle to get access to some pasture during the natural growing season (winter and spring here) and to be fed mostly hay, grain and other produce during the rest of the year. This is what we do at Claravale. In this way, farmers have historically taken advantage of natural yearly cycles of rainfall and production. Year round pasture feeding of dairy cows requires the artificial creation of year round pastures by intensive irrigation, which requires energy and water, both limited resources in California.

    Grass fed cows produce milk that has an “off” flavor. The older literature contains many references to the fact that cows which are on pasture produce milk which tastes bad. It is usually recommended in this literature that the cows be taken off of the pasture for a few hours before milking to limit this effect. These days, this is not a factor with most milk producers (including organic milk producers) because the milk is cooked and processed before sale so it doesn’t taste good anyway. The effects of the grass on milk taste will be masked by the effects of all the other processes. Every year when our cows do get some pasture we always get complaints about the taste of the milk. At Claravale Farm, taste is an important component of quality so we don’t totally grass feed our cows, but rather give them a varied, traditional diet designed to keep them healthy while producing delicious milk.”

    • Lisa – This sounds similar to the place that we use (their cows are not 100% grass-fed year-round either), and I think the important thing is that the place you found has obviously put a lot of thought into how their cows are fed/handled (in addition to feeding them grass when appropriate). After scanning their site I think it sounds like a great alternative to milk from the supermarket…thanks for sharing and good luck with it!

  • Melissa

    I’ve actually been doing a ton of reading about raw milk after stumbling onto the Weston A. Price website and finding about the whole “real milk” campaign. We actually bought our first gallon of “raw” milk the other day, and it’s still sitting in my fridge since I’m still so scared of it! Haha. We did drink it and are perfectly fine, and I made my own butter from the cream (it was sooooo good and easy to do). However, you really should read about the history of pasteurization. People have drank raw milk forever, and it wasn’t until the early 1900s that people started pasteurizing. It wasn’t that raw milk was bad, it was the fact that people started feeding cows things that made them unhealthy, brought them into the dirty cities, weren’t being as careful or clean, etc. So basically, it’s not that pastured cow milk makes you sick, it was people causing the issues. I’ve spent hours and hours and hours reading about this the past few weeks (it’s been a slight obsession) and have come to the conclusion that raw milk from a trusted source is perfectly healthy (healthier!) than pasteurized milk. And I’ve also discovered that NC has a large “underground” population of people getting this milk. I think the biggest source is Milky Way Farms in SC. But if you google raw milk you get over 6 million results back, and a lot of people are trying to legalize it in various states. Also check out foodrenegade.com. She has all sorts of info about milk. And you can email me if you have any questions, since I’ve probably spent about 10 hours or more this month reading about it (my husband doesn’t even want to hear the word “milk” for awhile)

    • Wow, that is very interesting. I have only read up on it a little bit, and once I learned that it could be harmful (like raw eggs or raw chicken) and that it is illegal I just kind of stopped there. Thanks for sharing this additional info with me though…I always love to hear the opposing argument!

      • Anna

        It is illegal because the government wants to control EVERYTHING. Raw milk actually has medicinal qualities, aside from just being better/easier to digest. I would hope that a website on eating real foods wouldn’t take everything the FDA/USDA says as fact. You know that they are in bed with Monsanto and big susidized farms right?

  • Melissa

    Oh one more thing.. did you buy the homogenized milk from Lakeview? When I bought the raw milk last week, it was of course not homogenized, and that’s how I was able to make my own butter. I meant to mention that there is a lot of controversy about homogenization too, since they alter the milk in order to make all the fat molecules the same size. They really know how to make natural milk and unnatural processed food!

  • This was a really interesting read, thank you. I try and keep a close eye on what comes into my kitchen, but I hadn’t given my milk much thought.
    I try to buy organic when I can, and Skim. I will definitely switch to a full cream milk now.
    We don’t drink a lot of milk in our house, as I don’t believe it’s good for my daughters asthma, so I really don’t need to worry about the fat content.

Leave a Reply