Raw Milk 101

Consumers all over the country have been discovering the benefits of eating locally sourced food in recent years, and some are taking that one step further and raising and growing food right in their own back yards. Many people today are choosing to live the way that their great-grandparents lived by keeping chickens, growing vegetable gardens, maintaining home orchards, and keeping a family milk cow. This not only keeps families actively engaged in the process of putting food on their own tables, when done properly it provides them with more nutritious food than what’s available in standard supermarkets.

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There was a time when a family dairy cow was a normal part of the average household. People drank raw milk on a regular basis as well as used the milk in cooking, baking, and to create butter and cheese. Modern consumers have been rediscovering the benefits of raw milk in recent years, and the traditional family dairy cow is making a comeback on the American landscape.

Why Purchase a Family Dairy Cow?

Most large dairy farms feed their milk cows an unnatural diet that contains substantial amounts of synthetic hormones, antibiotics, and pesticides. In many times the animals are kept in extremely crowded and unsanitary conditions, often standing more than knee-deep in their own feces or forced to live on concrete. Commercial dairy cows are often kept perpetually pregnant so that they produce as much milk as possible. Their calves are taken away from them at birth, and when the cows themselves become too worn out to function as good milk producers, they are shipped off to the slaughterhouse to be turned into hamburger.

The conditions in the average commercial dairy leave little doubt as to why it is deemed necessary by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for the milk to be extensively treated before it is allowed to be sold to the general public. Much has been said in recent years about the possible health hazards associated with drinking raw milk, but none of these problems existed before commercial dairy farms began producing milk in massive amounts.

The family milk cow, on the other hand, eats green grass, drinks clean water, breathes fresh air, has a comfortable sheltered area in which to sleep and get out of the weather, and is often treated with affection by the humans in the household.

Why is Raw Milk Better for You?

Raw milk helps to boost the immune system, contains digestive enzymes, and is full of vitamins, minerals, and trace elements, including omega-6 fatty acids that play a significant role in reducing instances of cardiovascular disease and in regulating insulin levels. Raw milk is also thought to protect against allergic reactions and until the advent of large, commercial dairy farms, raw cows’ milk was actually believed to have healing properties.

Is Pasteurization Essential?

Some home dairyists choose to pasteurize the milk from their family cows using pasteurization devices manufactured for home use. A nice stainless steel one will run around $400, and many people find that they are well worth the price. The pasteurization process is simple — it involves rapidly heating the milk to a degree where the heat kills pathogens and bacteria and consequently cooling the milk. Home pasteurization machines are easy to use and many home cooks find using them to be fun.

Whether to pasteurize milk from a family dairy cow is a personal decision. Milk from a clean cow that is handled in a sanitary fashion and properly refrigerated probably doesn’t need it, but some people would prefer to use a home pasteurization device for their own reasons.

Keeping a family dairy cow involves many intangible benefits. Many people feel a great deal of satisfaction in returning at least partially to their agrarian roots, while others like the thought of being as self sufficient as possible concerning their family’s food supply. Children who grow up in homes where chickens, milk cows, and vegetable gardens are a part of everyday life rarely feel a disconnect between themselves and the food that nourishes them. Having an intimate understanding of how we depend on other creatures for our very survival makes us all better stewards of the planet on which we live.

Is a Family Milk Cow Right for Your Situation?

If the added health benefits and increased flavor of raw milk appeals to you, a family milk cow might be an excellent addition to your household provided that you have proper facilities for the animal. A small bit of pastureland and a shed that offers shelter is enough to accommodate a dairy cow.

One of the best reasons for purchasing a family milk cow is that the federal government has made the sale of raw milk illegal in many states — even when bought directly from the farmer. There may come a time when the only source of raw milk is from the same source that worked for our great-grandparents — the old-fashioned family milk cow.

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Farmer Guy June 26, 2014 Raw Milk