Milk it does a body good:
Let’s get things rolling with a reality check about the source of dairy in the U.S. – spoiler alert: It’s not typically from a farm with a red barn where the cow is milked by hand by a bonneted lass.
I have three main concerns about commercially farmed cow’s milk. Here they are in no particular order:
1. Cow’s milk is meant for a calf in the weaning period. When the calf is grown it has the common sense to stop drinking cow’s milk. The ratio of calcium to magnesium to phosphorous is not suited for human health and can lead to calcium leaching from the bones to combat the imbalance (osteoporosis). No other mammal in the animal kingdom drinks another mammals milk for leisurely pleasure…and certainly not after the weaning period. So if you’re a full grown adult drinking the milk of a cow…expect other mammals to look at you askew.
Here’s an interesting quote from the PETA website:
“Besides humans (and companion animals who are fed by humans), no species drinks milk beyond infancy or drinks the milk of another species. Cow’s milk is suited to the nutritional needs of calves, who have four stomachs and gain hundreds of pounds in a matter of months, sometimes weighing more than 1,000 pounds before they are 2 years old.(28)”
“Cow’s milk is the number one cause of food allergies among infants and children, according to the American Gastroenterological Association.(29) Most people begin to produce less lactase, the enzyme that helps with the digestion of milk, when they are as young as 2 years old.”
2. Inhumanity. If you’re not aware of what happens on a commercial dairy farm to produce that gallon of skim milk on your table, you should be. According to published data by the USDA, U.S. cows are now producing nearly twice as much milk as they did in the 1970’s. You might wonder how? Bovine growth hormone? Cruel over-milking procedures? Then again, maybe you might prefer not knowing…more velvetta on your mac- and- cheese?
The stress on these lactating mothers to produce ever greater amounts of milk is considerable. Their babies are removed from them at preciously young ages and the mothers are confined in tight, filthy spaces for hours on end as they are hooked up to machines for milking and injected with growth hormone to stimulate flow and antibiotics to fight the resulting udder infections.
What of the energetic health effect of consuming the product of a suffering animal (this assumes that you can imagine that the lactating cow is suffering. Any mom’s who’ve breastfed can fill in the gap here for the novice about the joys of lactating.). Have you ever watched an animal suffer or die? If you have, was your first thought, mmmmmm….can’t wait to eat the meat or drink it’s milk? Unlikely. It’s naturally repulsive. And for a reason. Do you need to see a double-blind, placebo controlled study to know that the end product of a suffering mammal has negative health consequences for the consumer?
Here’s some great data about the dairy process from PETA.org:
“After their calves are taken from them, mother cows are hooked up, several times a day, to milking machines. Using genetic manipulation, powerful hormones, and intensive milking, factory farmers force cows to produce about 10 times as much milk as they would naturally. Animals are often dosed with bovine growth hormone (BGH), which contributes to a painful inflammation of the udder known as “mastitis.”
” An industry study reports that by the time they are killed, nearly 40 percent of dairy cows are lame because of the intensive confinement, the filth, and the strain of being almost constantly pregnant and giving milk. Dairy cows’ bodies are turned into soup, companion animal food, or low-grade hamburger meat because their bodies are too “spent” to be used for anything else.”
3. Commercial cow’s milk is pasteurized and homogenized. At first blush this sounds good. pasteurization as a process has probably saved untold amounts of lives from filthy and contaminated processes, but at what cost? And have we outgrown that need? Consider the following from RealMilk.com:
Pasteurization destroys enzymes, diminishes vitamin content, denatures fragile milk proteins, destroys vitamins C, B12 and B6, kills beneficial bacteria, promotes pathogens and is associated with allergies, increased tooth decay, colic in infants, growth problems in children, osteoporosis, arthritis, heart disease and cancer. Calves fed pasteurized milk do poorly and many die before maturity. Raw milk sours naturally but pasteurized milk turns putrid; processors must remove slime and pus from pasteurized milk by a process of centrifugal clarification. Inspection of dairy herds for disease is not required for pasteurized milk. Pasteurization was instituted in the 1920s to combat TB, infant diarrhea, undulant fever and other diseases caused by poor animal nutrition and dirty production methods. But times have changed and modern stainless steel tanks, milking machines, refrigerated trucks and inspection methods make pasteurization absolutely unnecessary for public protection. And pasteurization does not always kill the bacteria for Johne’s disease suspected of causing Crohn’s disease in humans with which most confinement cows are infected. Much commercial milk is now ultra-pasteurized to get rid of heat-resistant bacteria and give it a longer shelf life. Ultra-pasteurization is a violent process that takes milk from a chilled temperature to above the boiling point in less than two seconds.
There’s a wealth of data to suggest that commercial cow’s milk does not, in fact, support good bone health. It may do just the opposite. So how is it that we came to believe that cow’s milk is a miracle food? It has everything to do with the government subsidizing dairy farmers and needing to park the abundant, cheap, cow’s milk. Their solution? The public school lunch program. Long a dumping ground for poor quality meats and other subsidized commodities, the government has been using the federally funded school lunch program to solve their problems. Since most rational people would assume that anything we offer to kids in the school must be inherently good for them, consumers made the leap that cheap cow’s milk (not to mentioned flavoured and sugared cow’s milk), must be good for everyone. Not so.
In short, I submit that the only acceptable form of animal milk (or milk products) is organic, raw milk from exclusively pasture-fed, (and therefore free-ranging) animals. In general, after considerable research and consideration I find that I cannot personally support the practice of commercial milk consumption. I encourage you to do your own research and establish your own opinion on the matter.
Off to my hazelnut milk smoothie!