Fresh, organic raw milk and dairy items are a treat - and a worthy treat at that. The consumption of organic raw milk and dairy products is linked to relief from asthma and eczema. Furthermore, organic raw milk is a living food replete with enzymes and beneficial bacteria that would otherwise be killed through pasteurization.
Raw organic milk and dairy products like raw butter, raw cream, raw cheese and raw yogurt are rich in natural vitamins and other nutrients like conjugated linoleic acid - a known cancer fighter. So once you understand the benefits of consuming organic raw milk and dairy products, how to you go about finding an organic raw milk dairy or creamery? There's many factors to consider prior: legality, production standards, milking procedures, herd management, bottling and distribution number among them.
How to Find a Raw Milk and Dairy
In some states, organic raw milk and organic raw dairy products can be purchased at the store; however, in most locations selling organic raw milk directly to the public is illegal which forces health-minded consumers and farmers to circumnavigate the laws through cow share programs. Cow share programs allow consumers to purchase a share in the farmer's herd of dairy cows. Then, as a partial owner in the herd, the consumer is entitled to a share of whatever that herd produces: namely, organic raw milk. After all, the state can't come after you for drinking milk from your own cow. You can find organic raw milk suppliers at your local farmers market, through the raw milk association in your state and by visiting the Campaign for Real Milk.
Choosing a Dairy
Once you've found your supplier or organic raw milk, examine their production standards, milking procedures, herd management, bottling and distribution procedures. If your organic raw milk creamery is certified or part of a self-regulated state-wide raw milk organization, your farmer should be able to supply you with documentation that they operate according to standard and accepted procedures. Please note, however, that not every state offers such a self-regulating agency and such an agency is not requisite to the operation of a high quality organic raw milk dairy. As always, the best way to ensure the quality of the milk you purchase is to visit the farm yourself. Know your farmer.
Organic Raw Milk Production Standards
- The milking station should be clean and free of hay, manure, dirt and dust to prevent the breeding of flies and rodents.
- The milking station should also be free of livestock when not in use except under extenuating circumstances (such as inclement weather, particularly during calving season).
- The milking station should also be swept clean before and after milking.
- Farmers should use sanitized stainless steel containers and sanitized silicon tubing when milking as both inhibit the growth of bacteria.
- Organic raw milk should be immediately bottled into sanitized containers.
- Organic raw milk should be immediately chilled after milking.
- Teats should be cleaned prior to milking.
- Cows are fed during milking and, most often, fed grain.
- Cows should be fed exclusively or almost exclusively on fresh pasture; however, your farmer knows the nutrient composition of native grasses better than anyone else and may need to supplement those grasses with very limited quantities of other feed and natural supplements to optimize the health of the herd and the taste of the milk.
- Animals should be tested for TB, brucellosis, mastitis and watched for other systemic illness. Cows who are ill need to be milked last or on separate equipment, with their milk discarded.
- Cows should be, ideally, treated with holistic methods. If a sick cow does require the use of antibiotics, the cow should be removed from the cow share program, and their milk discarded until the antibiotics clear their system. The routine, subtherapeutic use of antibiotics should be avoided.
- Ideally, dairy farmers should implement holistic pasture management to prevent over-grazing. Pasture should be allowed to fully recover prior to allowing the cows to graze the same area again.
- Raw milk should be sampled and tested regularly for pathogens and these reports should be made available to you.
- Cows should be treated humanely with full-time access to pasture, free-flowing water and shelter. Cows should be treated gently to minimize any stress.