Raw is good (or at worst, not necessarily bad)

Posted by By at 6 December, at 10 : 13 AM Print

The first line in a newspaper story reads: “An Amish farm in Pennsylvania has been stopped from selling contraband milk after a year-long federal government sting operation.”

“The Rainbow Acres Farm was found to have been smuggling banned unpasteurised (sic) milk to customers in Maryland,” the story went on.

Wow. Year-long sting operation? Smuggling … contraband?

What? Was Rainbow Acres Farm owner Dan Allgyer doing? Hiding it under his daughters’ skirts as they walked from the barn to customers.

Apparently, the problem was not so much that Allgyer was selling raw milk – it’s sort of legal in Pennsylvania – but he was selling it in Maryland, in unlabelled bottles, no less. One might presume that just because the white bottled liquid looks like milk, smells like milk and tastes like milk, without a label we cannot be certain it is milk. It may have become something else when it crossed the state line.

Interstate commerce is what brought in the Food and Drug Administration. By “sort of legal” I mean it’s OK to sell it on the farm in Pennsylvania, with the appropriate permits, and in stores IF the farm has its own packaging operation with labeling and bottling machines. Carry it across the state line and rules change.

I was raised on raw milk. Every other day, we went to a nearby farm, picked up our two gallons and carried it home. The only bad part was a broken finger in March 1965.

Mom and Dad had gone to Mom’s Dad’s funeral, and I had decided to pedal my bicycle the mile or so to the milk farm. On the way back, the two gallon jugs safely in a basket fastened to the bike’s handlebars, I encountered a car moving uphill, taking its half of the road from mine.

Off I went, onto the gravel shoulder. As I moved to re-mount the pavement, its edge gave way, the bike went down, the milk splashed all over, and my left trigger finger bent backward, considerably farther than its designer intended.

Years later, I had opportunity to write about the last farmer in the State of Maine to deliver unprocessed milk door-to-door. I had to call it “unprocessed” because, as farmer-delivery man Ken Bailey explained, some city folks – of whom his customers numbered many, did not like consuming “raw” food.

Ken vehemently objected to having his milk “ruined” by processing – pasteurizing and homogenizing. His cows and farm were regularly tested by government inspectors, and daily tested by his customers, so pasteurizing was not, in his opinion, necessary. And homogenizing was just plain bad for humans, he declared.

There is scientific support, though the jury remains out whether there is scientific proof, for the latter claim.

Homogenizing milk serves two purposes, neither of which have much to do with consumer health.

Unhomogenized cream, of which real whipped cream is made, rises to the top of a bottle left to sit in the refrigerator. That’s a neat thing to know if you are a country kid about to make fresh ice cream; all you need is to skim the requisite cream from the top of the jug of unhomogenized liquid; otherwise, simply shake the bottle before pouring a glassful. Unfortunately, to the uninitiated, the unshaken milk may erroneously appear to have spoiled.

The other reason for homogenizing milk is it allows mixing product from a multitude of farms, offering a uniform taste to consumers. A drinker of raw milk, on the other hand, could easily tell when the cows come into the barn for winter and are turned back out in spring (the difference between hay-fed and grass-fed cows), and when the pink clover is in bloom. (To a cow, that’s candy, though it is not known to cause bovine cavities).

Fruits and veggies often taste different according to where and how they are grown. Industrial food suppliers know that, but do not want the bother of explaining it to unsuspecting consumers. (Several years ago, Holiday Inn ran an advertising campaign promoting “No surprises.” Even our motel rooms should be uniformly vanilla, it seems.)

Even now, I obtain eggs, and occasionally meat, from a farm near my home. In season, I can buy tomatoes, rhubarb, onions, black raspberries and other tasty and healthful groceries from local growers. While visiting my grandchildren, I bought “fresh” apples from a grocery. If that’s what they think apples are like, it’s no wonder they don’t like them. They seem to enjoy the apples I remember to take with me when I visit.

And I know that if I ever get sick eating farm-fresh produce, I’ll know exactly where it came from. I won’t need the FDA to mount a year-long investigation to find out.

Photo by Chiot’s Run
This post was written by:
- who has written 169 posts for Rock The Capital
John Messeder is an award winning journalist with more than 35 years experience writing about education, environment and local government issues. He has lived in Maine, Florida, California and Alaska, and, by temporary turns, numerous places in between. John also is an accomplished photographer, and avid hiker, conservationist, oral history buff, and author of several books he has not yet got 'round to writing. He lives in Adams County, Pa., just over a hill from Gettysburg, with his wife and Golden Retriever. He may be contacted at john@JohnMesseder.com - Email jmesseder

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