Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Sally Fallon is making me paranoid: a milk rant.

About two weeks ago, I used our inter-library loan system to check out Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon. I had heard the book mentioned a few times by bloggers I liked so I thought I'd take a look. I figured it probably had a great selection of fermented food recipes and maybe some other interesting stuff.

Scary but fascinating

What I did not expect was to be scared out of my whits concerning nearly everything I eat on a regular basis. And we eat fairly healthy compared to the standard American diet. I make my own bread and every baked item we eat. I use whole wheat flour the majority of the time. I'm always reducing sugar in recipes if I can get away with it.

When shopping, I read labels and ingredients carefully. If a food item has more than ONE ingredient, I scrutinize it closely. The only product with high-fructose corn syrup that I allow into my house is ketchup (although, not anymore. I'll do a post on my homemade ketchup soon). If I can't pronounce an ingredient I put the item back on the shelf.

As I've mentioned before, I don't buy organic in general because of the cost. But we eat primarily vegetables and whole grains and if I'm going to buy meat I usually will splurge on that to make sure it's actually good (i.e hormone free). I do buy free-range eggs for when we eat eggs, but I still use the cheap store-brand ones for baking purposes. I even drink whole milk, because separating all the fat from milk just sounds nasty and wrong.

But even though I felt good about the fact that I love olive oil, real butter and whole milk, I soon became panicked. I used regular non-extra virgin olive oil for cooking (saving my good stuff for when I'm not going to be heating it up) but the way they process olives after they get the first press causes the resulting second pressed olive oil to be rancid and unhealthy. I learned that my butter was missing valuable nutrients because it came from cows who possibly never saw the light of day and have been fed soy-products (among other nasties). And not only was I putting undo stress on my digestive system because my milk is pasteurized, but I was also endangering my heart by the tiny fact that my milk is homogenized.

What the-!? I didn't even know what homogenizing was!

Turns out, it's when they blast the fat particles of milk into tiny pores so they stay suspended through out the milk instead of condensing at the top. Sounds clever, right? You don't have to shake your milk...or whatever it is they do when people drink real milk.

But because it changes the chemical make up of the milk - making the fat particles tiny, as opposed to the large fat molecules they used to be - the fat is no longer healthy. Now, rather than hanging in the gut and intestines and drawing in toxins to help your body clean out, the teeny, teeming fat molecules go into your blood stream and contribute to hardening of arteries.

See why I'm so scared?

Added to the fact that since my milk is from cows who are fed GMO soy, corn and other crap (like other cows and their waste, no kidding), crammed into tiny space, given hormones to produce far more milk than any cow should be able to - even if I were to get this milk raw, unpasteurized, non-homogenized, it still wouldn't be a beneficial food product.

And I've been drinking this stuff for a good five years now!

So what do I do? One thing is certain, I cannot not have milk in my house. John - a milk addict - would go on strike, riot, rampage, foam at the mouth....

Okay, I'm joking. He actually understood fairly well when I explained my terrors to him. The alternative, however, is finding a local farm and buying fresh raw milk. Um delicious, and I wish wish wish, I could. But it's so expensive. And one day I'd like to own my own milk cows and live off that, but that dream waits until we have some land.

At least turning my milk into yogurt arms it with beneficial bacteria and enzymes to promote healthy digestion. But it doesn't solve the homogenized problem. Even Stonyfield Farms, who I used to love and trust, started homogenizing their whole milk yogurt. It didn't occur to me to be mad about this until recently. In fact, I didn't even realize that the reason that their amazing, most-delicious-yogurt-on-the-face-of-the-planet cream top yogurt was non-homogenized until after it wasn't anymore. I just noticed that they stopped doing the cream top thing and started crying. (Well, not really.)

Then when I started making my own yogurt (and I've got a batch going right now) I thought, "I want to try to make that cream top kind. How did they do that??" so I looked it up. That's when I found out they started homogenizing it, much to the dismay of many people. But apparently it cuts their costs so they won't change (though I'm still going to write them to let them know my displeasure. You should too, if you care.) That said, I'll never buy anything from Stonyfield again. And that makes me sad because they're based in my state, a forty minute drive from my apartment, and I used to love them.

So local farmers it is. I asked John if we could start buying local raw milk and he said... Well actually we had a really long conversation about it and it involved many other things, but what it summed up to was "maybe."  The thought process went something like this: continue to buy gross cheap milk now and save enough money to buy a house quickly, buy our own cows (or goats), never spend a cent on milk again (other than upkeep costs) and drink the best milk we can imagine in the future. Or, buy expensive good milk now,  buy a house one day, and then buy cows (or goats) and cut costs on milk then by drinking our own (and possibly make money on it by selling some too.)

Course, let's be realistic here. I know nothing. Zilch, nada, zip, about cows. Or goats, for that matter. And increasing our food budget to pay five or six dollars per gallon of milk rather than $2.50, isn't going to set us back that much. Seriously.

I'm trying to think of it in this way (and convince John to as well): Local raw milk (hormone and antibotic free, but I'm not worried if they aren't certified organic because that certification is just dang ridiculous.) Is not actually expensive. It that mass produced, hormone filled, pasteurized, homogenized, cattle farm milk that's cheap. Way cheaper than milk should be. I should look at the price of that milk on the shelf and think "Okay, why's it so cheap? What's the catch here?" And well, now I know what the catch is.

Taking care of cows, even on a small scale, can be expensive (probably). But I want to support local farmers, small scale farms and real people making a living on growing real food.

It's the culmination of several things, this new attitude and revelation. I've always approved of small farms and eating as local as possible, but, except for when I grow and forage my own food, I've never really done it myself. Then I read The Omnivore's Dilemma and I realized just how bad the food industry really was. But I still didn't do anything about it. And now I'm reading Nourishing Traditions, and then one of my favourite bloggers wrote this article, and I felt very convicted.

I've known it all along.

It's time to make some changes. I've been slowly getting around to it with my fermented foods kick, which has given me a new appreciation for what I can do with what I normally buy. But I need to change what I buy, too. So maybe we'll be drinking (homemade) almond milk for awhile until I find some local milk. And then we'll start small. We'll just have to cut back on our milk intake for awhile. A gallon every two weeks instead of one a week, whatever, no big deal. It's a sacrifice I'm willing to make.

Because even though I'm just one person, I think I can make a difference. Even if it's just a tiny one

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