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Raw, Straight From the Cow - Unprocessed, Fresh Milk
In the day and age of many debates, why not add milk debates to the table. For those that already have an opinion, your opinion may be a strong one (mine is!). You have a few different views to look at and a few different opinions. Some are based on animal protection, others health and nutrition, but all in all, it really is a matter of opinion. Here the facts will be presented as such, but are only as I know them. They are not ment to sway you to my opinion, but rather to show the sides of the issue and present my personal opinion.
There are two types of cows out there. No we aren't talking about breeds in which cows come in many different sorts. We are really talking about two methods of getting cows to produce milk and how they are taken care of.
Family Farms-While family farms are going the way of the past (sadly) because they are a lot of work and not a lot of pay, these offer the best situation for the cows. These cows spend most of the day in the pasture and are brought in morning and night to be milked. They usually don't have any unusual or man made hormones in their veins incouraging them to produce above average milk production, nor do they spend their entire life being pumped full of antibiotics. They are taken care of because they are the lively hood of the family and no one wants to see them die. They are given good foods and their milk is sold for the profit of the small dairy farm.
Commercial Farms-Commercial farms often have hundreds or thousands of head. They are often pumped full of growth hormones so that they produce more milk then a cow normally would and usually kept on antibiotics to try and prevent illness before it occures. Some are even kept in a barn ready to milk three and four times a day. They live short lives and are disposible. This of course isn't the way of all commercial farms, but many are moving to these methods to ensure large amounts of milk production.
While every farm is run a little differently, these are the two basic forms of farms. It is true that the family farmer might indeed use growth hormones in the hopes of getting more milk and making more milk, but they are less likely to do so then the commercial farm. On the other hand, some commercial farms aren't run this way and their cows do indeed free roam and aren't hopped up on growth hormones or antibiotics.
There is a great debate over milk consumption in general. After all, humans are the only ones to drink milk of any sort after infancy and early childhood. The debate starts with whether or not we really need milk.
But that isn't really what we are going to get into. Todays milk goes through a lot of processing before it reaches the store, where most Americans purchase milk. These processses are designed to decrease the likely hood that the milk can cause illness and increase the shelf life of the milk giving it time to be shipped and then sold in the store, as well as giving you time to drink it once you have purchased it.
Homoginization-Homoginization is a process which breaks up the fat that is in the milk. This makes your milk one consistancy throughout the entire carton or jug. Otherwise milk seperates out into heavy cream, light cream, and milk.
Pasteurization-Pasteurization is the process of heating the milk (first used for wine and beer) and killing off bacteria. This makes the milk last longer, but many believe that it takes too many good things out of milk to make it worth drinking. Some of the bacteria killed are bacteria that are positive for the humans. Pasteurization also destroys vitamin and nutrient content, many of which are eliminated and some reduced by as much as half.
Ulterpasteurization-Many companies have moved to ulterpasteurization which heats the milk even hotter for longer. This increases the self life of milk up to four weeks. It also makes it so that it can be kept at warmer temperatures until opening.
How's It Taste?
Processed Milk-Most are familiure with the taste of processed milk. It is something that is a little hard to define. As a liquid it is thicker and creamer then water and has a sweeter taste then water. Some love the taste of processed milk while others never quite adapted to it after switching from breast milk or formula. Processed milk is available in all 50 states, though in some regions is harder to find then in others. Prices vary a lot from state to state (we moved from a location where we got it for $1.99 a gallon to a location where we pay about $5.49 a gallon on most days).
Straight From the Cow-Milk straight from the cow is warm (she kept it warm with her body) and also much sweeter then processed milk. This milk is safe to drink for a short period of time before it needs to be cooled. This milk is pretty much available it you go visit a farm and they will let you try it, or if you own a cow.
Tank Milk-Most don't refer to it as tank milk, but those who grew up on small dairy farms do. This is milk that has been taken from the cow and is now stored in a tank where it is cooled and stired. My experience with "tank milk" is from visiting my aunt and uncle who were dairy farmers. For most people this is "fresh milk" or "raw milk". Some think that it is very dangerous to the health, but contrary to most opinions it is safe. However, it is very different from processed milk. It has a sweeter taste and is much thinner, more like low fat varietyies of milk. Either people enjoy the taste of unprocessed milk, or they don't.
My Opinion of Raw Milk
No matter what you call it or how you say it, I don't like raw milk. I have a very firm opinion that I would rather drink anything but raw milk. I love the taste and more importantly the texture of processed milk, we grew up on 2% so I am not a big fan of lower fat varieties. I love milk, but raw milk isn't the same and to me isn't as good. It is sweeter and thinner, rather like drinking a sweeter variety of low fat milk.
Raw milk is easier to get in some states then others. It is probably healthier for you, but has its disadvantages. It has a lower shelf life, a need for colder temps to make it last longer, and isn't legal to be consumed in all states. Some states allow the consumption of raw milk by the owners of the cow. This is how co-ownership of cows began. Many people buy into the cow and then share the raw milk it produces. Whether your choice is to stick with what is available to you in the store, find a health store that sells raw milk (available in some states), to go completely raw and buy part of your own cow, or to avoid milk altogether it is up to you.
To know if you are going to like raw milk, you might want to try some before buying your own cow!