Milk – good or bad?

We are all very big milk drinkers in our house (2+ 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 a while back entitled “You are what you eat eats too,” and this couldn’t be truer 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 altogether. 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 left over 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 so far as 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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191 thoughts on “Milk – good or bad?”

  1. There is a group of 10 of my co-workers that are joining together to do the 100 days of real food. We are pumped to get started. April 2 is our go date. We thought there is power in numbers and supporting each other! Here we go! No turning back.

  2. Would LOVE some raw milk, but I live in Indiana. And of course dairy farms are a way of life around here, so the Dairy Industry has lobbied so hard against the sale of local raw milk that it is absolutely illegal and people DO go to prison for it in Indiana. CRAZY!

  3. What are your thoughts about drinking almond milk versus cow milk? I have cut cow milk out all together, but like it every now and then, especially in my smoothies. So, I started using almond milk or water. My issue is that anything other than skim milk is way too thick.
    Comments?

  4. I easily found a web site for a place that delivers 100% grass-fed Grade A milk in the Houston area. But as I filled out the info there is a “check the box” that I acknowledge that I understand the risk of consuming “raw” unpasteurized milk – which of course I didn’t so I looked into that – and find the CDC page that basically says if you are worried about your health, then the risks associated with unpasteurized milk make it not the best choice. http://www.cdc.gov/features/rawmilk/
    Thoughts? I think I’m staying at the grocery store.

    1. Amy Taylor (comment moderator)

      Hi there. Lisa’s family does not consume raw milk. In North Carolina, you can’t purchase raw milk for human consumption. That said, we have many readers who are raw milk drinkers.

  5. Hi. I was wondering if you’ve updated your thoughts on dairy since your original post in 2010, given many MDs and functional medicine doctors are now advising that dairy is bad for humans. I just recently read an article written by Dr. Mark Hyman in the New York Times making the case that dairy is for baby cows, not humans. I love cheese and an occasional bowl of fresh vanilla ice cream (from organic sources) but concerned that these foods may by damaging our immune systems. With all this information, what is a mother to do?

    1. Amy Taylor (comment moderator)

      Hi Cheryl. Lisa and her family continue to enjoy full fat dairy in their diets and believe it to be a healthy choice for most people. Decisions like that have to be made at a personal level once you’ve evaluated the info based on your own dietary needs and philosophy.

  6. We started participating in a ‘herd share’ program here in Virginia in which we buy raw (not pasteurized or homogenized) grass-fed milk directly from a farmer. We started after some research on autism diets after or son was diagnosed with Aspergers and decided to try the raw milk. Ours is from a 100% Guernsey herd and this milk is so good, so creamy…reminds me of the milk we got from my aunt and uncle’s farm when growing up in Kansas. We’ve had no problems with this milk, but interestingly (to me) when we’ve had to drink store=bought milk , even grass-fed, it tastes scalded. I guess after having the close-to-nature product, a processed one has an altered taste that we had not noticed before. And evolution did not design anything, We were lovingly designed by our Creator, God.

    1. Indeed, Lisa!! Our Creator provided everything we need to survive, and thrive..but…we are living in a Sin-sick world, so we must be wise as serpents, gentle as doves! Raw Milk is as good as it gets;there are sooo…..many things you can make with that, like butter, cottage cheese, cheese, sour cream, creme frashee (?)…awesome! Blessings, Sister!

  7. Hi, I’m thinking about doing the 10 days of real food, and I was wondering if we had to have organic milk from grass fed cows, or just organic, or even regular milk, would that be fine? I understand supermarket milk is processed a lot, but we can’t find any good milk, would it still be okay to make that exception? We live in a pretty tiny town, so when It comes to shopping there is not a lot of selection.

    1. Amy Taylor (comment moderator)

      Hi there. Just do your best. Most stores offer at least one organic option and you can also request that they carry one but do not allow the unavailability of various items keep you from making important changes. Even baby steps will move you forward. :) Best of luck.

  8. You failed to address the real “issue” with milk which is the center of the debate – is milk a “food” intended for human consumption?! We are the only mammals drinking another animals lactation (God created for baby cows, not humans) and at the center of serious controversy regarding early onset puberty, breast and prostate cancer, allergies, etc. Even if the “organic” debate resolves the grass-fed antibiotic issue, the fact is that you are still consuming massive amounts of cow hormones from a “new mother”. Additionally, the acidity issue has been proved to actually result in a net loss of calcium rather than any health benefit. How do you intend to address these issues? As a leader in the whole food movement, yes whole milk is better than chemically reduced fat milk, but the real issue is – should we even be drinking milk at all?

      1. I don’t think it’s a matter of wanting or not wanting to drink milk. It’s a matter of getting down to what is the healthiest thing for us humans to consume so we give our bodies the most beneficial fuel possible. I grew up drinking tons of milk. I rarely if ever drink milk these days, but I do eat ice cream, yogurt, cottage cheese, cheese and other dairy products so I would really like to know if we should be consuming this or not. I WANT to consume, but not if it’s not really good for me.

        I think the OP brought up a very good point about consuming another animal’s milk that is intended for cows’ babies, not humans.

      2. You should not be stressing out when it comes to switching to unprocessed food. It is simple, just eat foods that are pure gods creation and has not been played or touched by humans. Milk comes from a cow and god created cows for a reason. Drink your milk eat your plants and animals and avoid any human contact. Done.

  9. Lisa’s comment, ” Part of what we are trying to do is eat the natural food our ancestors have survived on for centuries”, prompts me to suggest that everyone interested in switching from processed to real food will find invaluable information about raw milk, bone broth, fermented & cultured foods, proper preparation of nuts & grains and much else that will result in vibrant health at westonaprice.org

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