Sorry I haven’t posted for a long time. I just got back from Chewonki and I definitely have a lot to share about the things I learned there.
While at Chewonki, I took on a vegan diet except I drank milk from my friend’s farm. It is part of my philosophy to not only avoid foods which are harmful to the environment, but support those that I deem sustainable and kind to animals. Milk grown on the local Goranson farm fell under the last category for me. The milk is special because it is super fresh and I know the person who is making it. The mik comes from just one cow, which means Carl (my friend’s brother) can give that cow a lot of attention and care, making sure to keep her happy and healthy. The coolest thing about this milk is that it’s raw, unpasteurized and unhomogenized. Homogenization just means that the fat globules in the milk are brought under high pressure to mix them into the rest of the milk and create a homogenous solution which looks clean and fresh to consumers. All milk that is sold at supermarkets is pasteurized, meaning it’s heated to kill any bacteria and make the milk effectively sterile. But the heating gets rid of a lot of other things that are beneficial for humans. It reduces the amount of vitamins A, B, D, E, and K. It denatures the enzyme lactase which helps us digest the protein lactose in milk. It kills helpful bacteria which would naturally fight off the bad bacteria like E. coli or Salmonella. A lot of milk in supermarkets is vitamin D fortified and Lactaid is milk that has the lactase enzyme added back into it. These fortifications are examples of humans destroying something that is naturally present in the milk only to add it back in, which seems pretty inefficient to me. The reason we have pasteurization is to get rid of pathogens and harmful bacteria, but these wouldn’t be present if we had better, cleaner conditions for our cows. If pasteurized milk is safe because it is sterile, raw milk is healthy because it is rich in life. I am lactose intolerant and I hadn’t drunk milk in probably 3 years, but I tried that raw milk with no problems.
The pasteurization process makes sense for a system which is looking for efficient, guaranteed, standardized safety. I think it’s nice to hear the other side once in a while, though. Pasteurization makes sense for our current system, which transports milk long distances. Here is a really cool site which allows you to figure out where your milk came from by looking at a code on the bottle: http://whereismymilkfrom.com/ This isn’t the kind of system I want to support, which is why I won’t drink milk. The kind of self-sustaining, localized agriculture like Carl’s makes sense for me. Since raw milk can’t be bought in a grocery store, I won’t likely drink milk again. There are a few reasons for this decision. Often times, I hear the argument that cows enjoy being milked. This is true if the cow is giving milk to its calf or being milked gently by hand. But with commercial milk production, cows are milked by machines which aren’t comfortable or careful. Along with this mechanization, cows must be repeatedly impregnated to keep them producing milk. If the cow gives birth to a male cow, it will likely be sold to become veal and live a short life in a confined crate. Whenever I think of consuming milk, I remind myself that I am in a way indirectly supporting the veal industry and other cruel practices.
Obviously, it’s a really hard change to fundamentally change what you consume, but I find it fascinating and enlightening that a product we often don’t think about has so many moral and environmental complications to it.