Oh boy – this one is a doozy!!! We already discussed the health of animals on our meat and eggs page. But with milk and dairy, there are a few other factors to consider. They deal with how the milk was processed. Since these factors are not as black-and-white as those affecting the health of animals, we are going to refrain from including them in “Our Take”. However, we will share what we know about them so you can decide what is best for you.
This is the process of forcefully passing milk through small holes to break up the fat molecules, preventing the cream from rising to the top. The original purpose of homogenizing milk was to prevent people from being able to compare the quality of milk based on fat content (the more cream on the top, the higher the quality). As far as we know, there is no other purpose and no health benefit from homogenization. For those reasons, we choose non-homogenized. Click here to read pro and con arguments about homogenization.
This is the process of heating milk to high temperatures to kill bacteria. Milk that is not pasteurized is called raw. Pasteurization is controversial to say the least. Those against it argue it kills beneficial bacteria and destroys some of the nutrients. Those for it argue it kills harmful pathogens making it safe for human consumption. Inform yourself before making a decision. Learn both sides of this debate by clicking the following links: Real Milk and FDA.
To make 2%, 1%, or skim milk, the manufacturer simply removes some of the fat or cream from the milk. As a result, the milk is no longer a “whole food”. On our Getting Started page, we discussed the benefit of whole food being complete, meaning it has all the nutrients we need to absorb all the goodness it has to offer. Unfortunately, this is not the case with “skimmed” milk. By removing the fat, they are removing some of the vitamins. So what do they do? You guessed it. Add back synthetic vitamins, typically vitamins A and D.
Cultured dairy products (like yogurt, cheese, butter, etc.) are the result of fermenting milk with lactic acid bacteria. This lengthens the shelf life and is also believed to improve digestibility. Some say people with milk allergies are often able to tolerate cultured dairy products. If you would like to learn more, Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon discusses the benefits of and has recipes for cultured dairy products. And there is a blog called Nourished Kitchen that discusses cultured dairy products as well.
Since the labels are essentially the same as beef (with the exception of the processing methods), we’ll get right to the point.
• • • OUR TAKE ON MILK AND DAIRY • • •
Good: organic, whole
Better: grass-fed, whole
Best: organic, grass-fed, whole
Best**: organic, grass-fed and cultured
*If you decide raw (unpasteurized) milk is right for you, you can find a source at Real Milk. If you prefer pasteurized milk, Traders Point Creamery and Kalona SuperNatural produce organic, grass-fed, non-homogenized milk and sell their products nationally.
**If you find a source for raw milk (such as a co-op or farm), that source will most likely sell dairy products as well. If you prefer pasteurized dairy products, Kerrygold, Traders Point Creamery, and Kalona SuperNatural offer grass-fed, cultured dairy products and are sold nationally.
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