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About organic milk. March 29, 2009

Posted by ourfriendben in homesteading, wit and wisdom.
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Silence Dogood here. As a lifelong organic gardener and devotee, I try to buy organic whenever I can. And milk is one of those products that falls into the “not only should but better buy it” categories. After reading for years that conventionally produced milk is laden with antibiotics and estrogen-rich Bovine Growth Hormone in addition to the usual pesticides, herbicides, bacteriacides, and fungicides, I have anted up the extra bucks every time we buy milk.

But what a pain. And I’m not talking about a pain in the wallet here, but about the fact that nobody seems to sell organic milk products in less than half-gallon sizes. If you’re like us and use milk principally in coffee and tea, it would be nice to be able to buy quarts of it so it didn’t hog so much refrigerator space. At least it doesn’t go bad, no matter how long it takes to use up one of those half-gallons, because it’s ultra-pasteurized.

Now, imagine my dismay the other day when I was doing a little background research for a book I’m currently editing on healthy foods for pregnancy and saw that ultra-pasteurization destroys pretty much any health benefits in food. Well, great. The authors recommended raw milk, which is full of healthy digestion-boosting bacteria, vitamins, and other nutrients. And living in Pennsylvania as we do, we’re lucky enough to have farms that sell raw milk within easy driving distance. I have bought it a number of times, and yes, it’s delicious. But.

But what? But, it’s only sold in gallons where I live. Now, it takes me and our friend Ben a long time to work our way through a half-gallon, and a bit of effort to make room for it in our always-packed fridge. Imagine trying to make room for a gallon of natural, unpasteurized milk, then using it all before it sours? For the two of us, that’s not terribly practical, to say the least. Fortunately, we have chickens and outdoor cats who are very happy to drink sour milk, but still. I suppose the ideal solution would be to find other people who’d be willing to split a (ridiculously inexpensive) gallon of farm-fresh raw milk with us every week. I’d be happy to drive over and pick it up. But we don’t know any people like this. So what’s the best answer?

Frankly, I don’t know. I’d welcome reader input on this! And yes, yes, of course I could make yogurt and yogurt cheese with the extra milk. Assuming I had time to do that every week. Assuming we could eat all that yogurt and cheese every week. Assuming… sigh. So please, give me your best thoughts on this. I love the idea of supporting local farms. I’d love to be able to find quarts of organic milk. I wonder about the real detriments of ultra-pasteurization. And I hate wasting good milk!

         ‘Til next time,




1. linda - March 29, 2009

I buy organic milk too – we have access to a nice, vat-pasturized, non-homogenized, organic grass-fed brand. Vat pasturizing is still heating, but it’s at lower temps than regular pasturization and still lower than ultra, and available in 1/2 gal., which we usually use before it goes bad. It’s not raw, but it’s a reasonable alternative and it’s what we can get around here.

My mom lives in a rural area and has access to raw milk through local farmers. She vacuum seals it in pint jars with her Food Saver (great machine by the way, if you don’t have one,) then freezes it – a pretty good option for keeping raw milk. She thaws it in the fridge as needed. The only problem with freezing it, since it’s not homogenized, is the fat tends to clump into tiny beads. (different from the normal texture of non-homogenized milk that tends to have some fat globs in it anyway.) It doesn’t affect the flavor at all. I’m not crazy about the texture for drinking, but they’re used to it and don’t mind at all. It works fine for cooking, baking, and coffee, since the heat breaks up the little fat beads.

Thanks, Linda, that’s great information! I wonder if you could pressure-can milk and not have to refrigerate it, but then perhaps pressure-canning would be as damaging as ultrapasteurization. Definitely a complicated issue! I’d never heard of vat pasteurization and am very happy to learn about it.

2. lzyjo - March 29, 2009

There is a local dairy near me that sells raw milk. They offer half gallons and pints. Maybe your could speak with a dairy manager at the farm and suggest smaller quantities? I Also read in a TIME article that in Illinois consumers can bring their own containers to the farm to be filled. Who knows what happens to all the good stuff after it’s in the hot coffee anyway. You really aren’t heavy dairy consumers, so you probably have less to worry about than people who have 8 oz every morning with cereal.

Good suggestions, lzyjo! And no, we don’t use a lot of milk, but, ahem, that doesn’t touch our consumption of butter, cheese, sour cream, and yogurt! Gulp…

3. Daphne Gould - March 29, 2009

My mom lives rurally and can’t drive so she buys her milk in quantity and freezes it. I’m lactose intolerant so milk isn’t much of an issue since I can’t have much. I do buy the ultrapasturized stuff in individual servings, because when it is used, it is used it is in small quantities. At a rate of about two cups of milk a month it really isn’t worth me worrying that it is ultrapasturized or not. In fact it helps because it goes bad in the fridge slower. I do buy the organic kind.

My biggest issue is that my son is lactose intolerant and loves milk so drinks Lactaid. I wish their were a brand that was organic too, but at college he just drinks what he can get.

Good point about organic Lactaid, Daphne! Wish someone would pick up on that. Otherwise, yogurt and kefir are obviously ways to go if you’re lactose intolerant, but what about cottage cheese, cream cheese, and other cheeses? I’ve always assumed cheeses were good to go for lactose-intolerant people, but now that I think about it, I really don’t know. As for frozen dairy products, I know people who do it, I’ve been subjected to them at people’s houses, and I can’t stand them! I’m sure they’d be fine in cooking, but if somebody hands me a glass of formerly frozen milk, a stick of formerly frozen butter, or a slice of formerly frozen cheese, I’m outta there. There’s no comparison between the texture of fresh and frozen, and the flavor suffers, too. I’ve also read about people who can milk, cheese, and butter, but can’t even begin to imagine what that tastes like or what sort of texture it has…

Emily Harris - June 1, 2009

I was in search of organic lactose free whole milk. Can’t find it, but Horizon does sell organic lactose free, 2%. Maybe that will work?

Susan - January 8, 2011

My husband is lactose intolerant too. But we use raw milk that I pasteurize at home. I make mozzerella cheese, ice cream and yogurt with it. He has had no problems. Since the milk is not homogenized (like store bought) which is where the problem begins with lactose intollerance.

4. Gail - March 29, 2009

Our local milk producer has half gallon sizes and it tastes so good we use it on cereals, oatmeal and to accompany cookies! But that’s not raw milk…must look into that to see if they sell it, too! gail

Not sure what Tennessee’s laws are as far as selling raw milk, Gail—I don’t recall ever seeing any when I was growing up, but I wasn’t exactly sensitized to the issue then, either. Well worth looking into! And even if it’s illegal, at least you’re enjoying locally produced milk!

5. Jen - March 30, 2009

I envy you having access to raw milk. All the organic brands around here aren’t from local dairys. So I’m buying the local stuff that promises to be hormone free, but doesn’t say anything about antibiotics and I’d be very surprised if it were grass fed. Also I can’t afford $4.69 a HALF gallon for Horizon or Stoneyfield farm. Must do more research.

At least you’re supporting local farmers and avoiding added hormones, Jen! The raw milk I buy costs an inconceivable $3.25 a GALLON—and that’s after they reluctantly raised the price from $2.95! Keep on looking.

6. Ben Cowart - May 28, 2009

I grew up drinking raw milk until the feds decided it was going to save us, and outlawed it. Now my brother has a herd of goats, and I get the raw stuff for free. The only problem was, it spoiled every 3 days. I had a lot of experience with a gadget called a Foodsaver. It basically just vacuum seals food in containers and bags. The raw stuff was coming in mason jars, and it just so happens that Foodsaver makes an attatchment for large and small mason jars. After a little experimenting, I have discovered that raw milk can last much longer. The current experiment is going on 3 weeks now. I had a glass this morning. It tastes great.

Thanks, Ben! What a great tip! We love goat’s milk, too. How wonderful to have a free, fresh supply! I’ll have to look into the Foodsaver!

7. DancingFarmer - August 3, 2009

Raw milk does not go “bad” as fast or the same way as pasteurized. I know this to be true because we have our own cow. However…I have pulled the following from another site so I don’t have to write it all out. Good Luck!
“However, in raw milk, the lactic acid bacteria use the milk sugar lactose as fuel, and produce lactic acid as a by-product. The lactic acid makes the milk sour, not spoiled like pasteurized milk.
Soured raw milk is still a nutritious food! Soured raw milk is excellent for baking, and some people even enjoy drinking it. As raw milk naturally sours, you can also control the souring to make yogurt, sour cream, clabber, or kefir! If you’re worried about your raw milk souring too quickly – never fear! Keeping the milk nice and cold on a back shelf on the bottom of your refrigerator should help keep your raw milk fresh for almost 2 weeks without any souring occurring!

You are so right, there’s an enormous difference between sour and rotten milk. Sour milk can be used for all sorts of purposes, and anyone can see how wholesome it is by watching chickens, cats, dogs and etc. make a beeline for a bowl and lap it up. We forget that sour cream has a direct connection to sour milk, creme fraiche, and the like. Raw milk sours, pasteurized milk rots. Yuck!!! And thanks for the reminder.

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