A Thumbs Up Book Review
The Untold Story of Milk: Green Pastures, Contented Cows and Raw Dairy Foods
By Ron Schmid, ND
Review by Joann S. Grohman
This is a powerful book. If you are already enjoying raw milk, The Untold Story of Milk is the tool you need in order to defend your choice. If you are looking for an alternative to commercial milk, yet hesitate to drink raw milk due to threat of disease, this book effectively sorts out fact from fear. You will be able to choose a supplier with confidence. Ron Schmid has provided a huge resource, one you can mine for fascinating information about the history of milk, the health supporting properties of raw milk and the quite shocking story of the suppression of raw milk use.
Schmid presents three main themes: the overwhelming evidence for the health benefits of raw milk; the disturbing reluctance of medical professionals to consider the well-established benefits of raw milk or to challenge anti-raw milk dogma; and the self interest of the dairy industry, which has succeeded in taking from most people their freedom to choose raw milk. All statements are supported by references.
The dairy industry would prefer we never get a sip of raw milk, let alone drink and serve it long enough to discover its advantages. Schmid has more interest in the health benefits of raw milk than the superior flavor of fresh milk and cream and the products made from them, but speaking as a long time cow owner I can tell you there is quite simply no comparison. As E. Annie Proulx once said, “It’s like the difference between a plastic flamingo and the real bird.” Again from personal experience, I can tell you that many of the benefits to health are quickly evident, often within one or two days. Schmid, a naturopathic physician, provides overwhelming documentation for the health enhancing properties of raw milk. A well-cared-for cow grazing on pasture or fed quality hay produces milk that contains an array of important enzymes and antibodies. These make raw milk completely digestible and directly support the immune system, claims that cannot be made for commercial milk.
All our lives we have been assured that raw milk should not be trusted; to drink it is to play Russian roulette with your life. How can this be true? People have been drinking milk and making cheese for thousands of years and honoring milk in religion and tradition. This has been the case everywhere that milk-producing animals were domesticated. Our ancestors have been unanimous in support of milk and always used it raw (or cultured). How did they fail to notice its deadliness? Of the purported health risks two things can be said. Firstly, chronic diseases of cattle, although never as widespread as we have been led to believe, have been effectively eradicated from the national dairy herd. Secondly, everyday infectious agents such as Salmonella and Campylobactor are of fecal origin. Contamination can and does cause illness. The majority of outbreaks have been traceable to chicken. Meat, eggs, oysters, and all raw food including milk, are sometimes carriers of potentially disease-causing organisms that are present due to sloppy practices. Milk-borne outbreaks have overwhelmingly occurred in pasteurized, not raw milk It is patently unfair and prima facie evidence of the deliberate targeting of raw dairy products that milk is held to a different and higher standard than any other food. All food should be clean, but modern mass production methods make this impossible. Current regulations now place the responsibility on the consumer to avoid contact with raw meats but it remains the legal obligation of the producer to provide clean milk. I insist on keeping a clean operation myself, as do the producers of certified milk. When food is locally produced on a more human scale, clean practices can reliably be maintained. To give this some perspective, Schmid notes that Campylobacter organisms alone cause an estimated two million cases of gastrointestinal illness per year, whereas only 700 cases were associated with raw milk during the entire eight-year period from 1978 to 1986. The total number of cases of food-borne illness from all causes is now 73 million per year. Milk is not a uniquely hazardous food and should not be treated as such. Schmid makes a strong appeal for a level playing field for raw milk producers.
The excesses practiced by departments of public health in some jurisdictions to put certified milk producers out of business read like anti-terrorism schemes. Canada has a $250,000 fine and jail sentence for even giving away raw milk. There is a move afoot in the US to make it illegal to dispense raw milk to your own family from your own cow. Current standards, in some areas of the US, if applied to mother’s milk, would make it illegal to breastfeed. “Suppression of raw milk consumption has nothing to do with public health and everything to do with who controls the food supply,” states Schmid.
Schmid has a dim view of the value of commercial milk, compromised as it is by heating and fractioning, reconstituting it to create tasteless standardization, and fortification with powdered milk. He supports personal and community efforts to obtain high quality raw milk, a commitment I share. However, to simply quit using pasteurized homogenized milk without having a superior milk option in place leads parents to substitute juice, soft drinks and soy milk. Commercial milk contains significantly greater nutrient value than the foregoing beverages, each of which is associated with its own set of health problems. Not least of these is that they do not contain adequate calcium to support desirable bone structure. Perhaps Schmid might have noted the pernicious effects of relying on these inevitable substitutes.
Now that he has a cow of his own, in future editions of The Untold Story of Milk, Schmid may wish to modify a number of statements regarding the causation and treatment of mastitis. As with raising kids, theory and practice don’t always conform.
The photograph of butter opposite page 237 requires revision. The pallid pat shown at left is white not because the cream was produced by cows in confinement but because they were Holsteins (black and white) and their cream naturally contains vitamin A, which is colorless. The yellow butter on the right was made from cream from a colored cow (probably Jersey or Guernsey). Their cream contains vitamin A in the form of carotene. Butter from colored cows is yellow even in winter on hay feeding, although not the Day-Glo yellow it will exhibit when the cow is on June grass.
Editor’s Note: Holstein butter is generally more pale than Jersey butter, but it becomes quite yellow when the cows are on green grass. Carotenes in Jersey and Holstein milk give it a yellow color, but the butterfat also contains true vitamin A–the carotenes are a marker for the presence of vitamin A.
This article appeared in Wise Traditions in Food, Farming and the Healing Arts, the quarterly magazine of the Weston A. Price Foundation, Spring 2004.