I’ve known the benefit of farmer’s market and home- grown produce for years (just try a garden – picked tomato vs. a store – bought one) and the taste difference between free – ranged, pasture - fed chicken eggs vs. a factory raised bird is unbelievable. Besides the taste, eating local has less environmental impact (think big gas- guzzling trucks hauling your veggies all across the US). These things I’ve known for awhile. But quite honestly, I’d never thought about similar implications with dairy products. I’ve always bought organic milk at the grocery, and that was that.
Now that I own goats, however, and people have started asking if I milk them, I’ve begun to consider the benefits of goats’ milk over cows’ milk (goats’ milk is far easier to digest than cows’ milk and is the preferred option for the lactose – intolerant) , and how much of a difference fresh can make. I don’t currently milk my doe; I simply don’t have the space for a milking stand or for storing supplies. I’ve also wrestled with the idea of dairy goats vs. fiber goats, since I am, after all, a major fiber enthusiast.
Enter Brad Kessler, author of the book I just finished reading – Goat Song. In it, he chronicles how he and his wife started their own small dairy in the mountains of Vermont and fed themselves with fresh milk and cheese from their small herd of Nubian goats. He even travels to France at one point to learn from an artisan cheesemaker her age – old craft.
What really struck me, however, is what he shares concerning the taste and health benefits of eating fresh, raw, unpasteurized milk, something most Americans will never even consider in their lifetimes, and it’s a real shame. To paraphrase, he states that basically pasteurizing fresh milk kills over 99% of its’ bacteria and enzymes, good and bad. Some of these enzymes are what inhibit the bad bacteria, which means that basically, pasteurized milk has more of a chance of developing these baddies than fresh milk, at least as far as cheese- making is concerned (since the milk and its curds will age). It also kills all of the “taste” that would factor into the finished product, which is why French cheese is far superior to American. In addition, a European survey of children conducted in 2007 found that those raised on fresh, unpasteurized milk were healthier and virtually allergy free, which was not the case with those raised on treated milk.
That last line really hit me. This is not what we are told in the states. I dog -eared that page and knew I needed to really look into that, and more importantly, share it. It helped me come to the decision I’d been putting off. Yes,I need to keep at least a pair of dairy does in milk. We won’t be able to sell any milk or dairy products due to Federal regulations but we can certainly feed ourselves (and likely reap great health benefits in the process).
I can’t believe how happy and calming it has been to be on this road to micro-farming after struggling so long to find my fit in the “conventional” work place. I certainly have my frustrations and bad days, but on the whole, this life has been so much better for us all. If you have kids, I really urge you to take them to a local farm, just to see the animals and get an idea where food really comes from. Not only do kids love watching the animals, but it makes everyone more appreciative of what goes into what’s on our plates.