How Whole Is Your Milk?

Dr. Sneed and I have always been big milk drinkers. We each start off each morning with a glass of milk, and end each evening making sure we’ve swept up all the sippy cups still holding the remnant’s of our kid’s third or fourth refills and deposit them back in the fridge before they become…let’s just call it cheese-like.

All in all, we managed to go through almost a gallon a day as a family of four. Which makes milk a fairly substantial portion of our diet, not to mention our food budget. Every week, we’d go to Wegman’s and load up on whole milk for our 1yr old, 2% for the 2yr old, and skim for my husband and I. We made sure to purchase the hormone-free kind, but other than that we didn’t give much thought to it. It’s milk, what else is there to know about it?

A lot, apparently.

I’m not sure when, exactly, the thought struck us to take a good look at the milk we were drinking, but I do remember the discussion when Dr. Sneed first brought up the idea of switching the entire family to whole milk. My hand went right to my waistline.

WHOLE? As in full-fat milk? I’d spent years acclimating myself to skim milk in order to avoid having to buy a bigger pair of pants. I’d been raised with the belief that fat is bad, but milk is good – so drinking skim milk was the best thing for you.

I was half right. Milk is good. But so is fat – as long its the right kind. And when they process the milk you buy in the grocery store, they remove the fat along with the enzymes that help your body actually process and use the fat to its benefit.

So we switched the entire family to whole milk. And you know what? I’m still wearing the same size pants! In fact, our dairy consumption – at least for Dr. Sneed and myself – has decreased. Instead of drinking 1/2 a gallon of skim milk in a day (yes, by myself), I was drinking a cup of whole milk – and completely satisfying my dairy cravings.

So we decided to look further into our “Whole Milk” options. Did we want to go organic? Local? Raw? Chocolate?

Sadly, my son lost out on his bid to go to all chocolate milk. And I lost out on my bid to go to organic milk. At least the type of organic you can purchase in your average grocery store. It made sense at first – we try to buy organic in our vegetables, why not our milk? But organic milk sold in grocery stores is ultra-pasteurized. All milk purchased at your grocery store is pasteurized. Pasteurization is a process of heating milk in order to kill off whatever harmful bacteria it may contain. Which sounds great in theory. But in reality, it also kills off beneficial bacteria and greatly reduces the nutrients in milk. So when you ultra-pasteurize milk? You heat it even higher for even longer periods of time – which essentially nullifies the benefits you are trying to gain from drinking organic milk in the first place. So when we looked at going organic for our milk, it just didn’t make sense to pay extra for less.

Which led us to looking at the source of our milk. As I’m sure I’ll discuss another day, we’re big believers in eating happy animals. Animals who live as closely to nature as they would out in the wild, but protected from predators (other than us). And if we want our meat to come from happy cows, why wouldn’t we want our milk to come from happy cows as well? And while, sure, the milk we purchased from the grocery store came from hormone-free cows…were those cows happy? Probably not. At least not if they were living at your typical commercial-grade dairy farm.

Which led us, initially, to the idea of raw milk. Ideally, purchasing raw milk means that you are purchasing it directly from the farmer – which means you’ve met the farmer, and you’ve met the cows. You can judge for yourself if they are happy cows. If they primarily graze in wide open pastures, free of antibiotics and hormones, and producing milk on a natural schedule as opposed to being tethered to a milking machine in a concrete barn for the majority of their (short) days.

But raw milk isn’t legal to sell for human consumption in Virginia (although it is in other states, such as Pennsylvania). And getting into a local cow share program (in which you own part or all of a cow, and thus may receive the proceeds/milk from it) is like getting into the hippest club in NYC – unless you know the bouncer, you’re going to be waiting in line with everyone else “in the know.” Additionally, the CDC advises against it, although there is a plethora of anecdotal evidence both in support and against it out on the internet…

Honestly, as this point, I was almost ready to give up dairy entirely. (Which can have its own benefits, depending on what your health goals are). And then I met Meeka at the Olde Towne Butcher. And she mentioned that they carry cold-pasteurized cream-line milk from Trickling Springs Creamery in Pennsylvania – so local-ish!

Say what?

Cold Pasteurized. Cream-line. Milk. Brought down from Pennsylvania in glass 1/2 gallon jugs, the milk is pasteurized – but using a cold method which uses a much lower temperature over a longer period to kill the harmful bacteria, while allowing more of the beneficial bacteria and nutrients to survive. And it’s cream-line. Which means that all that delicious cream/fat in my whole milk? STAYS in my whole milk. The entire time.

Apparently, whole milk in the grocery store get’s its cream/fat removed, then replaced and homogenized so that is distributes evenly throughout the milk without needing to be shaken up – but also increases oxidization, spoiling, and health risks.

So sure, if you go grab a glass of milk from my fridge you’re going to want to shake it up really well. But then? It’s delicious. It’s nutritious. It’s creamy. It’s satisfying. It’s whole milk.

If you’d like more information about dairy, here are some resources we found useful:

Weston A. Price Foundation

Real Milk

Nourishing Traditions

Holy Cows & Hog Heaven

Centers for Disease Control & Prevention

Old Dominion Osteopatic Medicine

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