Last week, I tweeted a link to I drink raw milk, an article by Joel Salatin, and I commented that I liked the article, but the comments made me want to scream. Later that day, I received this response via Twitter:
mitoticspindle @antiquityoaks I'm all for small farms and sustainable agriculture, but I've gotten ill from raw milk--have to say I agree with the commentsWell, I've gotten ill from Vicodin and Tramadol and about five different non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medicines. Should we ban them? My husband got sick after eating a soy cheese pizza once. Should we ban that? In Illinois, they tried to ban church potlucks after people got sick from one, but they didn't get very far. My mother and uncle (and a few million other people) died from smoking cigarettes, but no one is willing to attempt to ban them, in spite of the fact that there is absolutely nothing good about cigarettes. Why do we think that it's okay for people to choose to use tobacco, and at the same time, we don't think people should be able to choose to buy raw milk? What about capitalism and our free market?
From reading some of the comments on Salatin's article, I've come to the conclusion that some people have no idea what pasteurization does to milk. People seem to think it is some highly scientific process that renders milk completely harmless -- and that milk is inherently contaminated. On the contrary, if milk has been pasteurized and is then handled incorrectly, it can become just as toxic as any other food that is handled incorrectly. Any food can make you sick if it's not handled properly. Remember the problems the U.S. had recently with peanuts and spinach? Has anyone suggested we ban them?
So, just in case you were wondering -- here's a primer on milk and pasteurization. Pasteurization was started because people were getting tuberculosis from cows through their milk. Today, 48 states in the U.S. are certified TB-free in cattle, and all 50 are TB-free in goats. There is an accurate and inexpensive TB test available to make sure your goats or cows don't have TB in case you're worried about it.
Milk is full of bacteria, and contrary to popular belief, this is not a bad thing. It's the basis of cheese and yogurt making. Milk is alive. Pasteurization kills it. Just as antibiotics indiscriminately kill good and bad bacteria in our bodies, pasteurization indiscriminately kills both good and bad bacteria in milk. How? By heating milk to 145 degrees and holding it there for 30 minutes, the vast majority of bacteria and other living organisms are killed. Ultra-pasteurized milk has been treated at 280 degrees, which kills everything instantly. Dairies like UP, because it means milk will not spoil for 45 days in an unopened carton, meaning they will have less waste, which equals more profit.
What's wrong with this picture? It's probably not a big deal to some people, but you cannot make cheese or yogurt with milk that has been ultra-pasteurized, even after adding cultures and rennet. It's just that dead. More important, however, is that some people can't drink pasteurized milk. This is often misdiagnosed as a lactose intolerance. Ask just about anyone with cows or goats, and they've been approached by people who need raw milk. Yes, they need raw milk. Some merely need raw milk if they're going to have milk in their diet at all, because they need the live cultures in the milk to help them digest it. But there are some people with severe medical problems, and raw milk is one of the only foods they can digest. Some of them are able to find a farm where they can buy raw milk, but others wind up moving to the country and starting their own herd of dairy goats or cows. Every year, someone buys goats from me because they need raw milk. Can you imagine having a loved one so ill that you'd be willing to leave your current life, move to a new home, and begin living a completely different lifestyle?
I use raw milk a lot. I even make cheese and buttermilk with it. It seems pointless to pasteurize milk for mozzarella when it's going to be put on a pizza or lasagna and baked, because heating it will essentially pasteurize it. Using milk in cooking also pasteurizes it, especially when you make something like pudding where you're boiling it. Ironically, I've only had one batch of cheese and one batch of yogurt go bad during processing -- both were from pasteurized milk. Assuming that milk is safe because it's pasteurized is a bad assumption. People can get sick from pasteurized milk. So, why don't we just ban milk completely? And while we're at it, we could also ban cigarettes.
Nothing replaces common sense -- not even legislation.
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