If there could be a master key to safe raw milk, I think it would be contented cows. Remember Elsie, the Borden cow? Their slogan used to be "Milk from Contented Cows", when safe milk first became synonymous with pasteurization. Today’s dairy cows have strayed way out of Elsie’s pasture. These cows may not produce raw milk that is safe because Elsie’s descendants spend their brief lives entirely indoors, living on field corn and soybeans to the degradation of their milk and the degeneration of the nation’s health.
Cow health and safe raw milk
It’s not complicated science to understand that quality of life as well as diet affects cows’ milk quality. Superior milk reflects many things — quality fats, available minerals and vitamins, living enzymes, no "off-flavor" and much more. When animals are raised entirely outdoors on green grass and/or hay, their milk is proven time and again greatly reduced in pathogens (bad bacteria). When cows are happy, they will "chew their cud", a sure and outward sign with ruminants (grazing animals) that, as organic farmer Chris tells me about his ladies, safe and delicious milk with lots of cream is in the making.
Safe raw milk can be more assured when cows graze the fresh green grass sprinkled with wildflowers on an organic farm. Dairy cows are BIG Mamas; herds of them require outside room to move with fresh pasture every few days in Summer and grass hay to eat in Winter; each needs a comfortable stall with humane tending and strict attention to their health and cleanliness — this will mean less stress and a stronger immune system able to ward off disease without the continual needful expense of antibiotics and growth hormones that factory farms require.
The origin of milk pathogens (actually human pathogens found in milk) is primarily a result of poor sanitation, animal stress, and animal sickness. According to the definitively indicting book, The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan, these conditions plus factory cows’ unnatural diet stresses them enough to require ever more drugs to meet very short-term and cruel per unit production goals — drugs that can be traced to both their milk and their meat.
Most milk from "confinement cows" should be pasteurized if used for human consumption; in recent University of California Davis tests, 31 percent of raw milk samples taken from farm tanks of conventional milk intended for pasteurization contained detectible human pathogens. Raw milk standards need to be superior to that of the commercial milk supply headed for the cooker, big dairy biz couldn’t begin to measure up and consumers would need to pay the price for this superior food. Currently some states require that raw milk hold to much lower bacterial counts than pasteurized milk, leading one to believe that drinking pasteurized milk is dangerous in more ways than one.
The Farm to Consumer Legal Defense Fund was established in July, 2007, to protect the rights of farmers to provide meat, eggs, raw dairy products, vegetables and other foods directly to consumers. If you really want to know the current legal climate along with actual bacteria count requirements, their site is worth checking out.
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