I wish I had paid more attention in science class back in high school. I should have known it would come to this eventually, of course. Midway through college I smacked my forehead for not ever fully comprehending math and then had to do some painful knuckling-down to make it all the way through blasted differential calculus for my major. And it worked. I get math now. I get all of it. The problem though, is that I am far more interested in nutrition than accounting now, and I’m coming at it with very little scientific knowledge.
See, the raw milk debate has hit my household, and this kind of conversation works best if you know what you’re talking about. And I’m afraid I don’t exactly.
Since The Big Boy began drinking cow’s milk on his first birthday, I have only purchased the organic whole milk for him from the supermarket. Conventional milk scares me (the hormones and antibiotics involved in its production just don’t have any place in my child’s diet), and I’m not crazy about the processing involved in low-fat milk either. Matter of fact, I avoid all low-fat dairy, finding even yogurt to be suspect. Have you noticed how many more ingredients seem to go into things that have had their fat content altered?
As The Big Boy gets older, I am sure I will start steering him away from cow’s milk. Already he prefers soy milk in his cereal, but for now he drinks about 16 ounces of whole cows’ milk every day, and I don’t have much of a problem with that. He needs the calcium, he needs the fat for proper brain development (and because he’s too doggone skinny), and milk is kind of a comfort thing for him. This is not an issue for me. And when Little Miss Piggy turns one next month, I fully intend to start offering her whole cow’s milk as well.
A dairy-free diet isn’t really something I’m after for us. Cheese is entirely too important to all of us, and though I haven’t drunk (drank?) a glass of cow's milk myself in 20 years or so, I have found that soy products aren’t the most reliable substitute for dairy when, say, baking macaroni and cheese or pulling together an alfredo sauce. The soy milk is just too nutty, too off-flavored, too gritty-textured for use in some recipes. I’m pretty sure that milk will always have a place in my refrigerator.
For the past few months, as I have read more about the industrialization of organic dairy farms, and as I have tried to purchase as much of our foods locally as I can, milk has become kind of a hot button for me. Because though we are purchasing organically (at a whopping average of $6.50 per gallon, no less), suddenly that just hasn’t seemed like enough anymore. I still have no idea really where that milk is coming from, except for the disconcerting knowledge that it is coming from far away, and the processing is still a bit of an issue as well.
So, raw milk, right? It is the obvious next step. And it is readily available to us through Athens Locally Grown, from whom I have picked up three gallons now over the past few weeks. I have read a considerable amount about raw milk over the past year or so and have been somewhat flummoxed by the science behind it all, but if there is one thing I am clear on, it is that the loudest argument against raw milk is from the FDA and I just don’t see the government as being the most reliable source of nutritional information. Governmental bodies have given us the Farm Bill, the school lunch program, and the vast ethanol conspiracy amongst other travesties.
I am conflicted on this subject, and wish that I understood it all better so that I could not only feel totally confident with my decision to purchase raw milk, but also so that I could make an argument here for why others should do so too. My sister-in-law, a registered nurse and someone with whom I discuss most scientific questions with, has given me the green light for serving raw milk to The Big Boy, and she passed me a well-balanced article that has shed some light (though not quite enough for me to feel well-versed) on the subject. Just today, there was mention of raw milk in Bitten, the blog written by The New York Times’ food writer, Mark Bittman, which linked to some other articles as well.
And the thing is, The Big Boy truly loves the raw milk. I was a bit nervous when I poured him his first cup three weeks ago. The color is not quite so purely white, and the consistency is a little thicker, a bit more viscous; the taste a tad tangier. But he loved it. He saw the picture of some brown cows on the carton, and he gushed, “Brown cows make very yummy milk, mom. I really love brown cow milk.” And, lo and behold, it is less expensive than buying organic pasteurized milk at the supermarket, and if I need to, I can actually get in touch with the farmer in charge of the operation.
Today, when we got to the Locally Grown pick-up site, The Big Boy seemed more eager than usual, and I wasn’t totally sure why he was hopping around and craning his head while we waited for our bags, but the minute we got to the car, he handed me his empty big-boy cup and said, “Fill it up, mom! I can’t wait to have some more of that yummy brown cow milk.”
For now, we will stick with it. Could you dash the hopes of such a cute four-year-old? And I will keep reading up on the subject until I am a little more sure that I know what I’m doing. But will I serve it to Little Miss Piggy when she’s twelve months old? I don’t know. I think I’m leaning towards waiting until she is a little older, which means I may be buying two different milks for a few years here. I really, really wish I had paid more attention in science. Ms. Gallagher, wherever you are, I would like for you to know that it may have taken 18 years, but I’m finally willing to admit you may have been right. Science is something I will need in real life.