This blog post is my exploration into why self confessed foodies, health junkies and the informed masses are ditching the white stuff and opting for alternatives...Come with me on a little journey back and see what has changed about the dairy industry, the reasons behind re-direction and where we could be heading in the future.
I am one of these health junkies, normally opting for health advice from alternative sources and have many books on the ideal nutrition and how by changing the food we eat can lead to better health and less dis-ease.
So for the last 20 years, we have used various milk alternatives from soya, hemp, almond, oat etc. The kids have consumed it too, our youngest son once off breastmilk went on to soya milk, this was due to eczema I should say but with hindsight I would have done things a little different.
Alternatives have been a big part of our diet and have been around for many years, organic/vitamin fortified ones... dairy milk was really just something we as a family put in tea and white sauces (they are never quite the same with other 'milks'). You go to a coffee shop now, in and around cities anyway and alternatives milks for coffee and hot chocolate are common place and I would guess possibly more popular among the health educated middle classes that frequent Costa or Starbucks in there lunchbreak.
We have been re-directed in our eating habits and the general consensus is that we need to eat less meat as this seems to contribute to climate change and various dis-ease's and replace your dairy with an alternative, maybe have vegan and vegetarian days too. Well known celebrities and chefs have created cookbooks that contain less of both meat and dairy. But isn't eating meat and dairy our past? Our teeth are designed to eat meat, we have canine's? Have we not been drinking the milk from animals way back to Egyptian times? Do we think that we can create 'new food'?
' If you don't eat the meat, you won't see the animals' Ann Roberts
As my mum says if we as a nation are not eating as much meat then there will not be need for so many animals... there are farming initiatives at the moment that are encouraging farmers to reduce herds and plant trees and rewild instead, the landscape of this country will change and it is by design as the government and political agencies manipulate us into what they believe is a better way of living for us, the animals and the planet.
So the beautiful cow, I love them, so gentle with kind eyes and a calm nature, they spend a lot of time chewing (as I witnessed the other day at Plaw Hatch farm), foraging and digesting, grass and clovers in the warmer months and dried grass (hay) and grain in the winter. Below is a young bull.
A bit about the cow...Cows have been around for thousands of years and were one of the first animals to be domesticated, they are a descendent of the wild ox and were found mainly in Europe, Asia and North Africa and can live up to 20 years
(In fact Daisy at Plaw Hatch Farm is 19!). All cows are female, male cows are called bulls or steers the latter would be relieved of its balls! A female cow is called a heifer until she has had a calf then she becomes a cow. Cows can almost see 360 degrees and have very good hearing, they are vegetarian, eat grass and can chew for 8 hours a day!
Knowing where your milk comes from is important, to know about the animal welfare and husbandry gives us peace of mind that the animals are well cared for and fed a good diet, allowed to roam free and have as 'natural' a life as possible. Small farms deal only with their cows and sell there raw milk either straight from the gate, by delivery, farmshops onsite or little self service shops on the farm, the cows can be seen and even stroked. Unlike larger farms that send there milk off in tankers which will go from farm to farm collecting until it is sent for pasteurizing, homogenising and standardizing, more about this later...
So why do we put milk through these processes? Pre 1920's roughly before Louis Pasteur came up with pasteurization all milk was raw and whole. Back in those days sanitation was a cause for many illnesses and as the population grew and the demand got bigger, dairies increased there herds, and there are some quite scary stories (in America) of watering down milk to go further and adding formaldehyde to kill off the bacteria...yew! When Pasteur came up with the idea that certain bacteria and pathogens cause illness, the legislation came in to ban raw milk and pasteurize it all.
When you read about this now it seems sort of right to pasteurize it, life was a whole lot dirtier back then. But what have we lost due to heat treatment...
Pasteurization - partial sterilization of a substance and especially a liquid (such as milk) at a temperature and for a period of exposure that destroys objectionable organisms without major chemical alteration of the substance. Marriam Webster dictionary
Homogenization - Specifically: having its fat globules mechanically broken down into uniformly dispersed suspended droplets. Marriam Webster dictionary
If you take something away from a whole you loose something, like peeling a potato, you loose most of fibre and compromise the acid/alkaline balance. Or you take our fat from yogurt you have to add sugar to make it more palatable. In this case you have taken the one thing that helps us digest it and more and more people are going over to dairy alternatives which in most have no raw nutritional value, they are coloured water. I have made our own oat/almond/cashew milk, you use a whole lot of nuts and i never knew what to do with the remains. It always seemed quite wasteful and that's on a small scale.
Below is a pig (Tablehurst Farm)...not a cow, just in case you were wondering. Very cute though.
Milk and Allergies...
A lot of people are put of consuming milk because of allergies, whether that be bloating, skin disorders, inflammation or mucus, a lot of health professional's would recommend a period of dairy elimination. Why is dairy considered so allergic?
Raw milk as it comes direct from the cow is considered a perfect food. It has a balanced blend of fats, vitamins, minerals, pre-biotics and digestive enzymes. When milk undergoes pasteurization it is believed that the digestive enzyme lactase is destroyed making the milk hard to digest, thus causing bloating, and digestive upsets, heat treatment also depletes some of the vitamins and minerals.
Equally when it is homogenized the fat is dispersed throughout the milk rather than leaving the fat at the top (remember gold top) these fat molecules are then very tiny. These days due to our diet people can have a 'leaky' gut, this means in very basic terms that our guts protective barrier is compromised, small perforations allow particles of food through into the bloodstream, the body pounces on the foreign invaders sending alarms of protection to the body hence inflammation and other reactions can occur.
This is why people can have problem with dairy products. Firstly raw milk is a great pro-biotic (it contains good bacteria for your gut), high in protein, a natural source of calcium, phosphorus, vitamins B12 and vitamin D it is full of natural fats, some would say a 'perfect' food and if you were a child at a farm the perfect 'fast food'. Raw milk does not go off, it just sours and can be used in cooking.
People drinking raw milk have reported a reversal in allergies and high cholesterol among others.
There is NO comparison between 'treated' milk and raw, except the colour and the place from where it came. Below are the ladies at Plaw Hatch Farm coming in for their afternoon milking.
Raw milk legally has to come with a warning -
COULD CONTAINS ORGANISMS THAT COULD BE HARMFUL TO HEALTH.
Now that sentence alone is quite scary and could put a lot of people off, myself included...but raw milk goes through extensive testing before it goes into the bottle, daily bacteria/pathogen testing and bi-annual tb testing, all farms are checked for cleanliness and hygienic practices are routine on all farms. After speaking to farmers which drink the milk as well as there children, they know the health benefits, all farmers know but if you are living in the city away from farms, watching the news, reading health articles and cookery books you won't be encouraged to find out about it and this was a realisation of mine yesterday when i went to meet Robin and the cows at Plaw Hatch Farm and see the last milking of the day, this is country living, connected with the animals and nature, us city dwellers are more connected with the supermarket than nature, we have little idea of how food is produced and animals are farmed we are just led into food choices. So get yourself out there and take a walk in the wild, grab your wellies and the children, go and take a visit to a local dairy and check out some raw milk, most dairies would be happy for you to meet the cows. Plaw Hatch Farm and Tablehurst Farm are open to visitors and you can go and witness the cows being milked at 4pm most days at Plaw Hatch Farm.
One thing I would like to add is this...If you don't fancy trying raw milk...yet please consider your milk choices for now. If you are consuming heat treated cows milk the best is full fat pasteurized, read the label, avoid, homogenized and standardized. Sometimes this can be hard to find, check for the cream at the top that gives the game away. Better still you can get it from the milkman at milkandmore.co.uk in re-usable bottles and you won't have the plastic to recycle.
You can find a farm or delivery near you and try raw milk if you haven't before and do some research into it if your interested.