A couple of months ago, we visited friends who have a cow for the fresh milk. The jars in the refrigerator seemed to be sealed, but I don’t know if they pasteurized and/or heat-sealed the milk, or if the jars self-sealed from having fresh, warm, body-temperature milk being put into a cold refrigerator. (I happened to do this when I put hot spaghetti sauce back in the fridge one time — the next time I opened the jar, it popped like it was the first time I’d opened it.)
It was a little disconcerting to me to see the milk in all those quart containers, because it looked like huge jars of pumped breastmilk, since it was all separated — you know, the cream rose to the top. I know some people don’t have a problem with drinking breastmilk, but that was a mental hurdle I had to cross, because I’ve never seen real milk before — milk that was not homogenized. [Actually, when I was a child my parents kept goats and at least one cow, so I guess I have, but I don’t remember seeing milk like that in a jar. I know we had a butter churn, and I think I have a faint memory of it being used at least once, but it seemed to be mostly a decoration.] I swished the jar to make the milk more uniform and gave it to the kids, and then I tried it myself. It was delicious!! I don’t particularly care for milk — about the only way I drink it is with chocolate syrup in it, although I do eat yogurt and love cheese and ice cream. Not the healthiest, I agree! But I actually drank two glasses of this fresh milk because I liked the flavor of it. And I let the kids have two glasses as well — I figured if breastmilk is so good for babies, then perhaps cows’ breastmilk is good for older children.
I’m not a huge fan of dairy, although I eat it and enjoy it. My husband wants me to give the kids a glass of milk every day for the calcium, although I sometimes wonder how much of what “everybody knows” is actually true and how much is clever marketing ploys by the dairy industry. I’ve read one health book which recommended raw cow’s milk, if you could get ahold of some, but strongly urged its readers to avoid the homogenized stuff you can get in the store. It was a book written from the Judeo-Christian perspective, and the author pondered if the stuff you buy from the store should actually be called “milk” because there is a Proverb along the lines of “just like churning milk produces butter, even so” (something else — hitting somebody in the nose produces blood, or something). Well, because the milk in the store has been homogenized, you can churn it all day, and you won’t get any butter. I can’t remember if it was that book or another book that said something about homogenization — which takes the normal large clumps of milk-fat and breaks them up until they are tiny, so they can’t clump together any more (and rise to the top as cream — the purpose is to have a uniform-looking product) — that it makes it so that our bodies can absorb more of the fat than we otherwise would. Apparently, most of the fat in real milk is too large for us to assimilate, so it largely passes out of the body; whereas the artifiically-small milk-fat in homogenized milk is broken up into pieces that are readily absorbed by the body. The author suggested that it is homogenization, then, and not milk itself, that is unhealthy.
One problem in acquiring fresh, raw milk is that I don’t think it’s legal to sell it, or there are so many restrictions on it as to make it unprofitable. Raw (that is, unheated, unpasteurized, pure) milk quickly goes bad and/or develops bacteria in it, so the government is apparently worried about people getting sick from ingesting too much bacteria, so regulate or outright ban the sale of raw milk. That means, you basically have to own a cow yourself, or be friends with somebody who does. I got this information from the friend (who unfortunately lives several hours away from us), and told him that the guy who lives down the road from us is a dairy farmer, and I asked my friend about the chances of me buying real milk from one of the dairy cows, and that was when he told me about the restrictions. But he said while it was illegal to give him money for the milk, I could possibly try to barter with him; or he could (wink, wink) give me the milk outright and I could buy him a sack of feed or something. I haven’t tried it, and don’t think I’m going to, because the man doesn’t seem approachable. But I still remember the taste of that milk, and would love to have some more!
There are a lot of opinions when it comes to milk — some people think it is practically child abuse not to give your kids dairy products every day, while others think dairy is horrible and possibly dangerous. I’m somewhere in the middle — I certainly don’t think that milk, especially as it is generally found in America, is just extremely healthy, but I also think there are far worse things that can be consumed, especially as a beverage. Probably one of the biggest problems with milk is that too much is consumed — even water can cause problems when you drink too much of it, so there should definitely be moderation with other things you consume, as well. But I wonder how many of the problems and health concerns associated with “dairy” are really more of a reflection on the processing of the milk after it leaves the cow, than on the actual liquid itself.