I am relatively certain that I live in the most difficult area in the entire world to gain access to raw (read: REAL) milk. Not only is it completely, totally illegal to sell in my state (via retail OR farm sales, for humans or pets), but alternative legal loopholes such as herd shares are virtually nonexistent, and depending on who you ask — not allowed by the powers that be. From what I gather from farmers in our community, most are much too afraid of getting terrorized by the FDA and other government agencies to even attempt such blasphemy against the USDA-based dietary doctrine.
Literally my only available solution toward being able to consume healthy, unpasteurized milk is to buy a dairy animal, and milk it myself. Thankfully, Pre-Hubs and I are blessed with the land and resources we need to accomplish this. We got our animal, she gave birth, and any day now, we’ll be able to milk her, which we have been anxiously awaiting.
But in the time leading up to this momentous occasion on our homestead, I’ve had to make use of alternatives to drinking the real, healthy raw milk we didn’t have access to.
I know there are plenty of real-fooders, WAPF-followers, and other health-conscious readers out there who are in a similar position — they simply do not have access to raw milk, period. So, I think it’s important that we talk about what your options are when you just can’t get the real thing.
The next-best milk
The first important step in consuming healthier dairy is to find the best quality milk that you can. Realizing that we are not counting real, fresh, raw milk from pasture-raised cows, here are your next-best bets:
- Good…kinda: Hormone-free, whole (full-fat) milk from a smaller dairy (rather than a big-name brand which is likely comprised of CAFOs) pasteurized at the lowest temperature allowed. Be VERY careful about purchasing organic milk — the majority of it is UHT — or “ultra-pasteurized.” Avoid this!! UHT milk has been pasteurized at even higher, more damaging temperatures than regular ol’ CAFO milk! It is essentially dead and devoid of any nutrients, and is not at all a healthy choice. It doesn’t even need to be refrigerated, if that gives you any sort of clue as to how fake of a food it is!
- Better: Milk meeting all the above qualifications, plus being non-homogenized, organically-raised, and preferably local. Homogenization damages and denatures the milk, and it will be much healthier if it’s left with that delicious glob of cream on top. Also, it is quite possible for your small, local dairies to be raising their dairy cows organically, even though they may be unable to afford the thousands of dollars it costs for that “USDA Organic” label. Contact them if you can and ask how their animals are raised!
- Best (besides raw): Milk meeting all above qualifications, plus from entirely grass-fed cows. Again, a smaller, local dairy may be more likely to raise their dairy cows on grass pastures — the only diet that is truly natural for cows! Healthy milk comes from healthy cows, and healthy cows eat grass. Simple stuff.
Don’t drink it — eat it.
Since processed milk has been stripped of much of its nutrients and enzymes through pasteurization, it’s important that we add them back in through fermentation. Sally Fallon, president and founder of the Weston A. Price Foundation, explains:
“If you cannot find good quality raw milk, you should limit your consumption of milk products to cultured milk, cultured buttermilk, whole milk yoghurt, butter, cream and raw cheeses.”
-Sally Fallon, from RealMilk.com
The great thing about this is, you can make a lot of those foods yourself for cheap! We already know how easy it is to make your own yogurt out of milk – this is how I’ve been consuming the pasteurized milk I have to buy. I eat my homemade yogurt multiple times a day. It’s a great way for me to get some of the nutrition dairy provides, with the added benefit of healthy cultures to make up for what was lost in pasteurization.
In addition to cultured dairy, you’ll notice that Sally lists butter and cream as being okay to consume in pasteurized form. There’s a reason for this — butterfat is much more resistant to the damage caused by pasteurization, than the proteins found in the water portion of the milk. This means that pasteurized butter and cream are still worth buying, and can be a healthy addition to your diet. Just like with milk, grass-fed means you’re getting the highest quality, so look for that above others. Even still — any pasteurized butter is better than no butter at all!! (and is certainly better than –*gasp!* — fake butter!)
If you have access to non-homogenized milk, you likely will also be able to find minimally-pasteurized cream (again, you do NOT want “ultra-pasteurized”). Of course, you could always just skim off some of the cream from your unhomogenized milk, and use that! With your cream, you can easily make your own butter, which of course results in a nice little supply of buttermilk as well. Both can be cultured for added health benefits (see Nourishing Traditions or watch this video for how to do this).
As for cheeses, see if you can find some at your local farmers’ market. Even in states where raw milk is illegal, raw cheese which has been aged at least 60 days is legal everywhere. If you can’t find local raw cheese, take this tip from Sally to see if you can find imported raw cheese in stores (or order online):
“Raw cheese is available in all states. Much imported cheese is raw — look for the words ‘milk’ or ‘fresh milk’ on the label — and of very high quality.”
Pasteurized dairy as a beverage
There are some things you just kinda NEED to drink milk with. Pancakes? Banana bread? Cookies?! I don’t know about you, but those are milk must-haves for me. Thankfully, there are ways to make your second-rate milk drinkable, and even nutritious.
Since cream is resistant to pasteurization damage, as we mentioned before, it is actually going to be much healthier for you to drink watered-down pasteurized cream, than conventional (pasteurized) whole milk. This is what Sally Fallon recommends.
Your other option is to drink cultured milk — you may know this as kefir. Though I have not yet tried it yet (I’ll definitely share with you guys when I do!), I hear that making kefir isn’t too difficult. You’ll need to purchase some kefir grains, these are the starter culture which will cultivate your milk and make it into kefir. You can get these from our friends at Cultures for Health – they even have great tutorial videos to teach you how to make your kefir, and any other fermented foods you might want to try!
Ain’t nothin’ like the real thing, baby.
Of course, any dairy product is going to be infinitely healthier for you when consumed in its raw, natural state. If you don’t live in a red state like me (where absolutely no raw milk sales are legal, as found on the Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund site), you just may be lucky enough to get real, raw milk from a farmer near you. Visit RealMilk.com for a list of local, raw milk dairies in your state, and support them as much as you can!
Do you live in an area where raw milk is impossible to find? What have you done to get around this real-food roadblock?