The secondary title of this fascinating book? “The history, politics, and science of nature’s perfect food: raw milk from pasture-fed cows.”
And, the book delivers on both its primary and secondary titles. I challenge anyone who has a poor opinion of raw milk to read this book with an open mind! While I myself am a raw milk drinker and advocate, I learned so much about the early history (ancient history, really) of milk, the struggle for clean and reliable milk that led to ‘certified’ milk and pastuerized milk, the role of milk in the prevention of disease, and how the ongoing struggle to ensure access to consumer choice of raw milk is a convulted case of ‘follow the money’ at best, and under-handed politics at worst.
Anyone that thinks milk is boring would do well to read this book, that, while extremely informative, and at times even scientific, is by no means dry reading.
I think among the epiphanies I noted while reading it was that the advent of pasteurization in the early to mid 1900’s was not a conspiracy aimed at ending the sale of raw milk. It had noble aims and goals, and accomplished some of them. In large cities, such as New York, the number of people, many of them immigrants, who desired milk for themselves and their children, outweighed the resources to safely deliver raw, or pure, milk to them. As a result, so-called ‘swill dairies’ grew up alongside of whisky distilleries, the cattle being fed and housed un-naturally, that is on the leftover mash of the whisky-making process and confined in pens where they stood and rested in their own excrement. Milk, in its raw state, in this condition, was unsafe.
On the flip side, physicians continued to advocate for access to raw milk, so that their patients could truly heal and receive nutritious food. The physicians of this time so believed in the healing power of pure milk that they inspected dairies and certified them independently, asking the dairy farmers to sign an ethical code, and adhere to safety and cleanliness standards. The ‘certified’ dairies the physicians endorsed were generally outside city limits, and couldn’t provide for the needs of all.
As a stop-gap measure, I would say, milk pasteurization entered the picture, rendering the swill-dairy milk sterile. However, forever in the minds of the public, continuing to this day, we confuse ‘sterile’ with ‘nutritious’.
Take a chance and read this book! I’d love to hear what you think of it. It reinforced my own desire to continue to advocate for the right to choose the milk I drink, and for the state or national government to protect and defend my right to do so – though sadly, even in my state of North Dakota, the legislature is considering a bill to make it much harder to have access to raw milk. Perhaps if each legislator even read the first three chapters of this exciting tome, the education they receive would ensure that no further bills of this nature be considered.