When I posted about limited choices to buy organic and local, I got reader feedback about getting locally produced milk delivered to your doorstep. I googled “milk+delivery+Boise” and found Boise Milk – a company that home delivers milk, bread, eggs and a few other products including produce and coffee beans.
Last Wednesday I got my first consignment.
- 2 half gallons 1% hormone-free milk from Reed’s Dairy, ($5.06)
(the bottles are returned and reused)
- 1 loaf whole wheat, preservative-free bread from Classic Harvest (from a neighbouring town), ($3.28)
- 1 dozen cage-free, vegetarian-fed, hormone-free eggs from Naturally Nested (based in Washington and Oregon states). ($2.96)
Delivery Charge – $1.75
Total – $13.05
The prices are reasonable, the flavour and quality are up to expectations. So far, so good.
When I was a kid in India (Mumbai), each morning the milkman came from door to door with fresh raw milk. Or we could go to the tabela (cattle-shed) and watch the buffaloes and cows being milked before we made our purchase. There were more buffaloes than cows, actually. 70% of the milk consumed in India still comes from water buffaloes. Buffalo milk is fattier than cow’s milk and yields creamier yogurt.
Water Buffalo (Wikimedia Commons)
Today, it sounds idyllic and impossible. The cattle-shed is now a huge apartment complex. But, really, how do we know what the cows were fed or injected with other than the bales of hay strewn about? And where did that hay come from? What chemicals and processes were used to grow it?
Now we buy milk in bottles or cartons and have to read and rely on labels and what the United States Department of Agriculture and the Food and Drug Administration tell us. I don’t trust these agencies as far as I can throw them, but I have little choice but to educate myself on what my options are.
I had to make a choice between:
1. Horizon brand organic milk from Winco and Kirkland from Costco – both labelled as organic, “hormone-free” and “antibiotic-free”.
2. “Hormone-free” milk supplied by Reed’s Diary that comes from a town 3 hours from where I live.
There are dairy farms located closer to my city, but this is the only home delivery option.
Why buy milk at all?
A bit of background here. A zillion years ago, I got very ill with jaundice. It took me three months to recover, and then I had a relapse – for another three months. I was asked to stay off dairy the entire time. I didn’t mind. I’ve never liked the taste of milk and homemade yogurt was about the only dairy product I missed. This was in India and soy substitutes weren’t abundant back then. I’m not a great soy fan either, so in terms of flavour and variety, I didn’t mind the dairy-free diet at all.
When I did recover, I realised a few things. I had lived most of my life before jaundice with colds and coughs. They disappeared. I used to have very sensitive skin, breaking into rashes for no identifiable reason. The rashes disappeared as well. Being dairy-free made me much healthier. For the next ten years, I was a strict vegan. I never had a single cold, no respiratory or skin infections. I was very fit and active in some high-intensity sports.
Then I met the dude. He would coax me to share a cup of milky tea with him, a spoon of ice cream here, a cup of yogurt there. A very corrupting influence. I would have a bit of dairy, mainly homemade yogurt, but had soymilk with my cereal and calcium supplements. Two years ago, I had bloodwork done. My doctor saw the results and was very very unhappy with my calcium levels. “Double your calcium supplements.”
She also recommended increasing my protein intake. I’d reached a stage where I began to dislike soymilk almost as much as I disliked milk. So I switched. I started having 1% milk with my morning cereal and tea with milk twice a day in lieu of black. I was quite neglectful in taking my supplements, though. For the past year in fact, I haven’t taken any.
My latest blood results show normal calcium levels. I’ve also realised that I don’t react as badly to milk as I used to. I get suggestions from vegans telling me how a vegan diet is nutritionally superior. They also point to valid ethical reasons to avoid consuming dairy (and eggs). Being vegan worked for me for 10 years. Not so much now.
It’s a personal choice and everyone should find what works within their ethical and physical constraints. It’s not an either-or solution. It is possible to find milk produced and marketed more humanely than they do in the corporate dairy sector. It’s also a matter of deciding whether you want your calcium from tablets or from naturally produced milk. I prefer the latter, ‘cos it also meets my protein requirements.
If you are vegan and can sustain your lifestyle, more power to you.
What kind of milk?
“Certified organic” means agricultural products have been grown and processed according to United State Department of Agriculture’s national organic standards, which for milk prohibits synthetic pesticide use in crop production and require outdoor access for animals in livestock production.
That is, the cows were fed “certified organic feed” which is at least 95% “pesticide-free” and are allowed to roam and feed freely. It refers to “how” the milk is produced.
Antibiotics are not really an issue when it comes to milk. In both conventional and organic milk production, milk from cows that receive antibiotics is not used until tests show it is antibiotic-free. All milk in the U.S. is routinely tested to ensure no antibiotic content.
That, actually, is a misnomer. All animals and their products have natural hormones. What “hormone-free” refers to is artificial growth hormones.
According to the United States Department of Agriculture,
A genetically engineered form of naturally occurring growth hormones, recombinant bovine somatotropin, or rBST, is given to a cow to increase milk production by as much as 20 percent.
The FDA (Food and Drug Administration) approved the use of rBST/BGH in 1993 for use in dairy cows after concluding there is no significant difference between milk from treated and untreated cows.
Monsanto, which produces Posilac, which is one of the most widely used of these artificial hormones, has been suing small producers from Maine to Florida for stating that their milk is free of artificial growth hormones. They are objecting to the implication that rBST/BGH is unsafe. Well, the use of artificial hormones are banned in dairy production in the European Union and Canada.
Samuel Epstein, professor emeritus of environmental medicine at the University of Illinois at Chicago School of Public Health, in his new book “What’s in Your Milk” charges that rBGH milk can increase the risk of breast, colon and prostate cancer.
Dairy producers who do not use artificial growth hormones (like Tillamook) have been doing so without making it public so as not to be sued and intimidated by Monsanto with the government’s collusion. They’ve been working hard to take away our right to information as consumers.
Under pressure from Monsanto, the Pennsylvania agriculture secretary banned dairy producers who do not use artificial growth hormones from using the “hormone-free” label. After a public uproar, the governor reversed that decision. Now, Monsanto has created a group called American Farmers for the Advancement and Conservation of Technology (Afact) to campaign for removing “hormone-free” labels in New Jersey, Ohio, Indiana, Kansas, Utah, Missouri and Vermont.
What about melamine?
The Food and Drug Administration’s latest initiative against public health is its attempt to conceal where melamine-tainted infant formula came from.
Is milk from cows fed with fish meal melamine tainted? we may never know.
There still are no reports of FDA inspection of domestic fresh milk for melamine, a noteworthy oversight given that dairy cows are sometimes fed fish meal, a product previously found to have melamine contamination. Or, maybe the FDA did inspect fresh milk and simply withheld the evidence as it did with its tests of infant formula. (Source)
While most of the melamine in the food chain in news reports has been linked to China, the entire food chain in the U.S. is melamine-tainted – in wheat gluten fed to cattle, and in a lot of the waste stream recycled into fertilisers. Melamine has a lot of adverse effects, mainly kidney failure.
Local and “hormone-free” OR Organic from the supermaket?
Local milk that is labelled “hormone-free” but not “organic” is a sort of compromise. You support local producers who are often more humane in their treatment of their animals and ensure that your dairy supply has a smaller carbon footprint as it comes from closer to home.
It’s more expensive than regular milk, but cheaper than “organic milk” as the dairy producers don’t have to pass the more stringent certification standards organic farms are subjected to.
Organic milk is ultimately is the “greenest”, ‘cos water, air and the soil and least tainted in the process of producing it. However, it does involve transportation from distant locations. However, in terms of health and safety, a whole slew of chemicals do get into our food chain anyway. Plus, organic milk is not necessarily healthier.
About 60 percent of the milk produced in the U.S. goes into dairy products like ice cream and cheese, so while we can control where the milk in our home comes from, we do not really know where the cream in the Starbucks cup of coffee was sourced.
See our earlier post – Milk: Is It Overrated?
Ivy at Kopiaste has conferred upon us the Angel Award. While we aren’t really enthused by awards (read my bitchfest), they make sense when they honour specific initiatives. This, therefore, is something we would like to pass on. Thank you, dear Ivy.
1. The rules of this award are not to be taken lightly–which means you can’t give it to someone just because they did something really sweet for you.
2. This award is to be given to bloggers that have shown they are angels by doing something humanitarian and heavenly to help others.
3. You don’t have to receive the award in order to give it. Feel free to copy it and bestow it on someone who is worthy of it. If you think they’re an angel, they probably are.
4. The award must be linked to a post about an organization or good cause you would like more people to be aware of.
5. The rules for this award are to be shown when giving the award.
When we think of “humanitarian and heavenly efforts to help others”, we’re thinking of initiatives rather than people. I like the idea of pointing to specific posts by fellow bloggers who have enlightened me and helped me expand my horizons. They do not believe in grand gestures. They simply transform their worlds by practising what they believe in and sharing glimpses of it through their blogs. They believe in responsible consumption and pause to think of the impact of their lifestyles and choices on those around them.
Here are some blogging initiatives that inspired me:
Human rights in Africa
Jeanne @ CookSister is passionate about a variety of causes, most notably in the developing world. Her latest effort is to raise money by blogging daily for a month for the UN Food Programme.
Food photography tutorials
A lot of bloggers take fantastic pictures. Some share their insights in ways that actually enlighten those aspiring to improve their own skills. The Food Photo 101 series from Nika @ Nikas Culinaria is a great example.
Eating local and tracing where your food comes from
Another blogger who I really enjoy reading is Deb of Austin Agrodolce. She epitomises local, conscious consumption. A pre-packed frozen dinner and her take on it. Priceless. Check out her garden at Gardenista.
Combining food and art
Alexa from Artsy-Foodie cooks healthy, beautiful gluten-free food. What I love most is the inspiring way in which she combines art with food. She certainly has helped me see cuisine and its consumption in a refreshing, creative light.
Lydia @ The Perfect Pantry is, well, Lydia. Each post is an encyclopedia of information. She writes not just to express herself, but to educate. Her latest post about cookbooks for gifting is an example. To her blogging is more than self-expression. I am always struck by the effort she expends in SHARING her vast repository of knowledge and experience with her readers.
Health and food safety
Regina @ Weight of the Evidence knocks my socks off with the breadth and depth of her research. Her latest initiative is the Food Stamp Challenge, where she tries to shop healthy on a limited budget.
Bloggeraid is a growing group of international food bloggers determined to make a difference to alleviate world famine.
You can pitch in by
1. Blogging about it.
2. Putting the badge on your blog and linking to the Bloggeraid site.
3. Participate in the fundraiser organised by Giz @ Equal Opportunity Kitchen. She’s selling a host of items and the proceeds will go to the World Food Program.
4. Do you have any items to auction or sell to raise money for the cause? Contact Bloggeraid.