THOUGHTS ON RAW MILK + DE SMET DAIRY FARM TOUR

Monday, November 17, 2014


A few years ago, I picked up Real Food by Nina Planck. To say that it has changed the way that we eat is an understatement. As I read through each section of the book, I could feel myself getting more anxious with every page. I was overwhelmed at the thought of the complete food overhaul that would need to happen in our home if we were to eat the way she described. Raw milk - where could I find that? It was (and still is) illegal in most states. Organic produce - we can't afford to shop like that! Grass fed, organic, local beef - no one raises beef like that anymore! I finally decided to just take it one step at a time. Raw milk wasn't available in this area until recently, so we opted for pasteurized organic whole milk. I sought out the cheapest place to get organic produce and will continue to sing the praises of Trader Joe's even though nothing they carry is locally sourced. Though I would prefer to buy locally, this was my middle ground for the benefit of my budget and sanity. On our first go around here in Albuquerque, we bought three chickens and let them run freely through our backyard so we could afford organic, free range eggs. I started to seek out more vegetarian meals, so that when we did eat meat, we could afford the good stuff. I started with one step and once that was second nature, we moved onto something else. At least 80% of what we eat is now organic and we actually spend the same, sometimes less on groceries than we did before we started this food overhaul, but I still consider it a work in progress.

One of the biggest things Planck focuses on in Real Food is raw milk. She is a huge proponent of raw milk, but I wasn't completely sold on it just from reading her opinion and research. The history of why milk is pasteurized is an interesting one that makes me confident raw milk shouldn't be illegal, but I was still a bit skeptical. I knew that if I could find a farm that met my expectations as far as cleanliness and how their cows are treated, I would be willing to make the switch. Enter De Smet Dairy. I finally got around to taking a tour of the farm and I'm sold. They're third generation dairy farmers located in Bosque Farms, New Mexico. Their cows are grass fed and allowed to roam freely on pasture, whereas most conventional dairies keep the cows confined indoors and feed them grain. They only milk them once a day, so that the babies get to stay with their mamas for an extended period of time. They're free of all hormones, antibiotics, and GMOs. Basically, the cows get to live a good cow life, which means they make better milk.




When looking for raw milk, the main thing I wanted was organic, so I asked why they weren't certified. De Smet Dairy is not certified organic at this time, but they once were (last year). They had to drop their certification because they expanded their herd and an organic certification requires all animals to have been raised under organic conditions for a year, plus the certification is extremely expensive for a small farm to afford. Though I believe that the benefits of raw milk far outweigh the risks, I'm not here to try to convince you of that. I will encourage you to do your own research and tell you that there's a chance of food borne illness from basically any food you buy at the grocery store. Listeria is found in pasteurized cheeses. E. Coli is found in bagged spinach. Salmonella is found on chicken that comes out of industrial plants even though they essentially bleach it before packaging it. Conventional foods and traditional foods both have risks involved in eating them. Personally, I would rather eat traditional foods from animals who also ate their traditional diets than factory raised animals whose products are sterilized before you can come in contact with them.

Evie was ecstatic the entire time we were at the farm. She is such an observer - she wanted to see everything and every step and know what every machine was used for. When she saw the cows being milked she said, 'I want some! Can I have some milk, pease?' I told her we would buy some when we were all done seeing the farm and when we pulled a jug out of the cooler she exclaimed, 'DIS MILK FROM THOSE COWS OUT THERE?! We're gonna drink it?!' Every time I pour her a glass, she can't stop talking about where it came from. She was equally excited about feeding the beef cows apples and climbing on all the old tractors. Overall, I was really happy with what I saw. The biggest challenge for us in eating local real food is the logistics in picking things up from each separate place. De Smet has partnered with a local farm, Skarsgard, that offers CSA memberships, so we plan on signing up for one in the new year and making the switch to raw milk.

I'd love to hear your thoughts on raw milk and the changes you're trying to make in your families diets in the comments below!

4 comments:

  1. i've never loved dairy but i remember when i was a kid that the cow girl brang us raw milk to our home. here in europe, in belgium, there are lots of farms that offer their raw milk via a machine like can machines... but my husband and my daughter dont drink a lot of milk so what i do it's to buy fresh milk not UHT but just partially pasteurized milk.

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    1. I feel like Americans are some of the few people afraid to drink raw milk. I hear from a lot of European friends that raw milk is just normal where they are. In some places here, it's illegal. The place we found raw milk will soon offer pasteurized milk too, which I would choose if raw milk weren't available. Fresh and local pasteurized milk is better than UHT milk, I agree.

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  2. This totally intrigues me! My husband would love this, he is the extremely healthy eater in this family. It has taken me a while to train myself to cook like that. I think I need to read more on this.

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    1. There's a lot of info our there on both sides of the argument for and against raw milk, but mostly good stuff. Real Food is a good place to start since she's done all the research for you and gives it all to you in a chapter so you don't have the scour the web for it all. I'm honestly fine with just drinking organic milk like we have been, but this place is so easy for us to buy from and I've read so many good things about it. I think the tricky part is finding a dairy close by that will give you a tour and let you see how clean their equipment is and all that. I wouldn't be comfortable with it if I didn't know where it was coming from.

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