Milk the Way We Want It!

People and Cows - a love affair

People and Cows - a love affair

It's a trickle, not a flood, but central Kentuckians are beginning to want real milk, not the rearranged white molecules almost universally offered in local stores. In this we are joining a national wave of interest in good, clean, fairly produced milk that has not had much human intervention. Recent articles in the New York Times and Boston Globe describe the situation, both the interest and the dicey legal situation.

In addition, Harper's Magazine, in its April, 2008 edition, available online only to subscribers, includes a longish article by Nathanael Johnson titled, "The Revolution Will Not Be Pasteurized." Mr. Johnson usefully describes the new thinking about pasteurization, and makes a distinction about size of dairy operations. Small herds and careful hands-on dairying produce milk with fewer harmful bacteria and more helpful bacteria. Larger herds, even on organic farms, may find it harder to manage milk production with acceptable levels of bacteria for drinking raw milk.

Commercially, the situation is stark. Yes, Kroger asserts its milk has no bovine growth hormone, and that seems good to me. But all milk in Kroger and other stores, even organic milk, is pasteurized, which may not be as beneficial as we used to think. I said, "may," because if ever there were an area where we thought we knew something and now we may need to know something different, this is it.

Add that much of the milk is homogenized, something that doesn't happen in nature. Real milk separates into cream at the top and milk on the bottom. Homogenization forces the cream and milk to become one liquid. Is it possible our bodies do not recognize the new liquid and so cannot reap milk's remarkable nutritional benefits?

If we were growing and milking our own cows, no one would say "Moo." The issues come when someone like me -- I live three blocks north of Main Street in a mid-sized city -- wants fresh, real milk, and would like to pay a trusted farmer to provide it. Ideally all the legal and political issues (think Big Dairy) will be resolved soon.