A Taste of Freedom

14 07 2010

A daily bounty from loved and familiar sources.

The Fourth of July calls to mind so many things — picnics, fireworks, bar-b-ques and, of course, American independence.  We naturally associate that independence with individual freedom which translates into the right to vote, freedom of religion and the press and, oh yeah the right to choose what food we eat, right?  Wrong.  The FDA has fixed that on our behalf, taking away our freedom to choose whether we want to have raw, unpasteurized milk, cheeses and juice and is working toward making irradiation of fruits and vegetables as commonplace as pasteurization.

The debate continues over whether pasteurization destroys essential nutrients.  In order to effectively pasteurize a liquid, it must be heated to somewhere around 160 degrees farenheit for fifteen to twenty seconds and then be immediately cooled.  By definition, a food is no longer “raw” if heated over 117 degrees for more than a few minutes because it changes the essential nature of the food by destroying enzymes, denaturing proteins and, if cooked in water (in the case of fruits and vegetables), leaching essential nutrients from the food.  Arguably, pasteurization only lasts for a matter of seconds, but the temperatures to which the milk or juice is exposed is considerably higher than 117 degrees.

Back in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries thousands of people were sickened and/or died from drinking diseased milk.  The causes of the epidemics ranged anywhere from diseased animals to diseased milkmaids.  In some cases cows were kept in abhorrent conditions and fed cooked grain, a by-product of distilleries.  These cows became malnourished from an exclusive grain diet and produced a bluish, nutritionally void milk that farmers would sometimes supplement with chalk or plaster in order to make it look white.  This milk was typically sold to poor people who became increasingly malnourished or diseased.  Eventually there was a public outcry for clean milk which led to the development in 1924 of what is known today as the Pasteurized Milk Ordinance (or PMO) which aims to help prevent the spread of milk borne disease.

All the work, all the responsibility, all the reward.

Certainly in those days, as people were migrating from rural areas into more urbanized settings, it was difficult for a person to learn anything about the farm or dairy their milk was coming from.  Perhaps the populace needed some form of protection — and maybe they still do.  But what about people who make an educated choice to consume raw milk products?  They have become fringe people.  Renegades that, in more than 20 states, need to get their milk like some people buy illicit drugs — at a predetermined spot, on the sly, cash only.  Small, raw milk dairies need to sell their milk “for animal consumption only” in order to avoid the scrutiny of health inspectors.  But why, almost a century later, is raw milk still renegade milk?  In 2007 there were a reported 200 cases of people in the U.S. who possibly became sick from the consumption of raw milk products, but compare that to the number of people who suffer the effects of salmonella poisoning — an estimated 142,000 Americans each year from eggs alone, 30 of whom will die.

One of the lovely things about producing food for my own family is that I have the freedom to make these choices for myself.  So, on Independence Day, we gorged ourselves on fresh, raw milk chévre — one cake covered in dried cranberries and walnuts, the other in chives — and on caprese salad made with fresh, raw milk mozzarella, a non irradiated heirloom tomato and basil from the garden.  It was bliss not only for the flavor, but because I knew exactly where everything had come from and could feel good about it.  My house is completely dairy self-sufficient (eggs, butter, milk, cheese) and the garden is bursting with summer produce.  In the past months I have watched my son’s lactose threshold become a non-issue as he consumes glass after glass of raw goat’s milk and my daughter’s eczema has all but disappeared for the first time since she was a baby.

We’ve had a taste of freedom over here on our little ghetto farm and it tastes GOOD.




2 responses

21 07 2010

Wow, J! Very impressive. Looks like you did some research for this one. I can’t wait to taste your ghetto farm goods someday. 🙂

4 08 2010

According to this article, by making kefir (prounced keh-feer’), you can restore many of the nutrients in milk that are destroyed by pasteurization and actually turn it back into food.


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