Local Food: Milk — it does a body good?

Published 5:37 pm Monday, August 29, 2011

Hickory Creek Dairy's goats and cows come running when owner Greg Shafer calls them. These made their way from the back of the pasture to us in record time. Each cow comes when called by name.

This month I celebrated what my husband so gently referred to as my “16 backwards” birthday. With creeks and grinds of various bones increasing, I decided to mark the event with a journey back to my nutritional roots — and yours as well.
Milk. We have all been raised on it and weaned from it. Some proved allergic to it and others wonder why some of us still cling to it. After all, humans are the only animals to continue to drink milk, or to drink the milk of another animal at all, cried some researchers in the early-1990s.
I am not prone to take on such arguments. Me? I love the stuff. Pour it in a glass, scoop it out as cottage cheese or ice cream and I’m there. However, after my husband was in a serious car accident requiring him to grow new bone on a titanium plate in his leg, the value of dairy, and its golden component — calcium — became of greater interest.
We learned about Hickory Creek Dairy from our trip to Granor Farms and were intrigued. Despite controversy, many continue to want the documented benefits of raw milk products, and they are many.
The morning of our visit, one of the breakers for the electric fencing had gone down and owner Greg Shafer awoke to a call from his cousin saying he thought the cattle carousing in his yard, just down the road from the dairy, were Shafer’s. He would know. The property on which the farm is located belonged to Greg’s dad, James, who still has roughly 150 acres of vineyards in the area.
Young Shafer and his cousin grew up on these lands, and it was at his cousin’s farm that Shafer first became interested in dairy farming. He now is proud to return the land to a more sustainable state and to be providing the natural products on which he was raised.
Milk. Several years back commercial dairy’s promoted their product with the slogan: “Milk, it does a body good!” However, are all milks created equal?
“Not at all,” Shafer said. “I believe that milk is important to the diet. Grocery store milk lacks nutritional value found in the live enzymes, bacteria and proteins found when milk is left in its natural state. The body recognizes this. My own personal experience and the testimony of others who consume milk in the raw state, speaks to the general sense of well-being attributable to drinking raw milk and its byproducts.”
Indeed, according to raw-milk-facts.com: “Cows pastured on organic green grass produce milk with amazing health benefits.”
The explanation: “Heavy grain diets change the composition of the milk and hinder its ability to protect itself. Grass-fed milk has natural antibiotic properties that help protect it (and those lucky enough to drink it) from pathogenic bacteria.”
Documented nutritional benefits chronicled at teacup farm.com among other sites are impressive. When comparing raw milk to its pasteurized and homogenized distant cousin, available in all grocery and corner stores. the numbers are: 26.6 percent more calcium; 194 percent more iron; 10.7 percent more selenium; 227 percent more zinc; 25 percent more B1 (thiamine); 25 percent more vitamin B6, which is fully destroyed by pasteurization; 11.1 percent more B12; 335 percent more vitamin C; and 17.6 percent more vitamin E.
So if raw cow’s milk increases benefits, how does the goat milk measure up? The same article weighs in with the stats on goat’s milk versus cow’s milk by stating that the goat’s milk offers “13 percent more calcium, 134 percent more potassium, four times more copper, 27 percent more selenium, three times more vitamin B3 (niacin), 25 percent more vitamin B6 and 47 percent more vitamin A. For infants and small children, raw goat’s milk must be supplemented with folic acid in order to be adequate as a formula.”
This raises the question — if recent reports urge us to return to getting more of our nutrients and vitamins from natural resources rather than manufactured supplements, doesn’t raw milk make sense?
Food allergies are a common occurrence; many have to avoid products containing peanuts for instance. Likewise there are those folk who are lactose intolerant or have a milk allergy and can’t drink milk. Or can they?
For many, raw milk can be tolerated where pasteurized milk cannot. Some of those who cannot tolerate any cow’s milk, raw or pasteurized, often have no problem with raw goat’s milk.
Mt. Capra’s Wellness Watch, mtcapra.com/benefits-of-goat-milk-vs-cow-milk, suggests that “goat’s milk contains less lactose than cow’s milk and therefore is easier to digest for those suffering from lactose intolerance” and lists five reasons for choosing goat milk over that of its mooing cousin. Among these are the claims that goat’s milk is less allergenic, is naturally homogenized, is easier to digest, rarely causes lactose intolerance and matches up to the human body better.
As far as taste goes, those who know claim that for the most part the goat’s milk seems a bit smoother, perhaps even a bit sweeter. This may be due to the fact that goat’s milk is naturally homogenized (the process of keeping cream blended into the skim milk). This is why if you leave a glass of raw cow’s milk next to a glass of raw goat’s milk out for a period of time, you will return to find the cow’s milk has separated into the cream and skim milk layers while the goat’s milk remains unchanged.
Set out raw cow’s milk and pasteurized milk out for a period of time and you return to find that the pasteurized milk will more than likely becoming a stinky, unconsumable product only suitable for dumping down the drain. The raw milk will become a soft cheese-like product still viable for consumption.
Each of us should be doing our own research and experimentation when it comes to what we put in our bodies. I am convinced that I want to introduce raw milk into our diet at Hempel house and will be entering into a contract for my very own cow or goat with Shafer. As hubby’s body continues its project of building bone from the shattered mess left from his accident, I think it’s a no-brainer for us. You must decide for yourself.
Some may worry about the fat content and weight concerns of using raw milk. Personally, I have discovered that by incorporating locally grown, in-season natural products into my diet, I am more satisfied with less food and have lost more than 40 pounds to boot.
There has been a ban on selling raw milk directly to the consumer in any form in Michigan since 1948. Thus the lease contract. Hickory Creek Dairy contracts with individuals to lease both cows and goats, making the animals’ raw milk available. Lessors of the animals provide income for the farm.
Shafer clearly states: “before signing a cow (or goat) lease you understand you are boarding a cow with us, not buying milk, and you will agree that you are aware of any and all risks that are associated with the use and consumption of raw milk and that all raw milk obtained by you is for your use only and for no other purpose.”
If you decide raw milk is for you, then a lease with Hickory Creek Dairy will cost $57 for a full year and entitle you to 3 gallons of cow/goat milk per week per lease and other raw dairy products as available, including goat cheese, butter and cream. As a bonus you can also pick up farm fresh eggs from the dairy’s free range chickens. Note that there is a price/gallon for the milk, cream etc. that goes toward the boarding and care of your animal.

Pricing and further information for Hickory Creek Dairy located at 712 West Snow Rd. in Baroda (use of a GPS or Google for “Snow Road” is advised) is available at the dairy’s website at hickorycreekdairy.com, or you can call Greg at (269) 470-6890.