The Untold Story of Milk, 2nd ed. (New Trends, 2009) by Ron Schmid, ND, is subtitled: The history, politics, and science of nature's perfect food: raw milk from pasture-fed cows.
It's a brief history of milk, of our relationship to dairy cattle and other milk-giving animals; it's about the science of raw milk and the contemporary politics of farming and food.
People have been herding milk-producing animals for 30,000 years and on all continents, drinking the raw milk and making fermented raw milk products, such as yogurt, cheese, and more exotic products such as koumiss and kefir. In some places, milk and milk products have been the majority of the diet.
In earlier years in this country, a "milk cure," or largely raw milk diet, was used to treat tuberculosis, diabetes, heart disease, kidney disease, and many other conditions. The fresh milk's healthful properties are its plentiful nutrients and unique enzymes. As a naturopathic doctor, Schmid discusses experiences prescribing raw milk. Schmid points out, however, that no one now would treat illnesses with milk from supermarkets. Pasteurized milk shows none of the health benefits of raw milk.
What happens when milk is pasteurized? It becomes a different substance, denatured by heat and sadly, inherently allergenic.
One of the special enzymes, lactoferrin, contributes to growth, improves the immune system, and prevents anemia. It kills bacteria, viruses, and yeast by stealing iron from them; that iron then is easily assimilated by the body. But this special enzyme is killed by today's "ultra-high temperature" pasteurization.
Pasteurization was developed in the 19th century to address the problems of urban milk. "Distillery dairies" in cities (the last one, in Brooklyn, closed in 1930) fed cows the byproducts of whisky production (described by Schmid as "an acid refuse of grain and water," also known as "distillery slop" or "swill"). Cows normally lived less than a year but produced copious low-quality milk, which was then adulterated to improve its appearance and stretch its volume, and delivered under unsanitary conditions. Pasteurization heated this milk to kill its rampant bacteria.
Even today, instead of solving cleanliness problems at the level of the factory farm, milk is simply zapped. Milk from pasture-fed, properly cared-for cows would not, according to the information in this book, need pasteurization.
The Untold Story of Milk is an excellent overview of these issues surrounding milk and more: the treatment of farm animals, the quality of our food, what we can expect from high-quality food, and the political battles over food.
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