These days, the next question is: What kind of Milk?
I got my hands on some ‘raw’ milk, and I have to say it was delicious. But that is not all there is to say about this food du jour.
I wish I could bring you photos of the farm, but the farmers preferred that I didn’t. Either way let me set the scene: their milking stalls are shaded by a luscious grapevine, currently bearing fruit. To get the the honesty box and fridges you walk through the middle of the stalls and get hit in the face with farmy smells that bring a richness to drinking the milk later on. Unfortunately, the farmers told me they cant keep up with current demand and didn’t want extra publicity, so I’ll do the right thing by not listing their address. Though if you really want, and you’re not in Australia, I’m sure you find a supplier near you.
I’ve already covered all of the good things you can say about ‘raw’ milk – it tastes really good. But there are also some pretty good reasons to avoid it. In the United states, ‘raw’ milk is responsible for about 150 times more outbreaks of disease than the pasteurised version. And it’s not just question of numbers. The diseases found in raw milk are usually much more serious than what turns up in the supermarket variety, including the potentially fatal e coli. Since these are common on the skin and in the faeces of cows, they can quiet easily find their way into the milk farmers collect.
The big different between ‘raw milk’ and what you throw in your trolley is pasteurisation. Its namesake, Louis Pasteur, was a frenchman who proved that microbes can only reproduce from other microbes – a revolutionary idea in its day. In pasteurisation, milk is heated it to 72ºC for 15 seconds, killing any nasty bacteria that was inside. Whack a lid on that and you’re got safe milk, no shit (well, at least not the microbes in the shit).
Back in the nanny state that is Australia, selling unpasteurised milk is illegal, but kiwis have developed a much better approach. And yes, its true, milk is not the only domain to which that statement applies. Here, anyone can purchase unpasteurised milk, but only if you visit a farm directly. Those who aren’t fussed, or don’t know the difference will end up with pasteurised milk in their fridge.
Predictably – for a food that is low tech and retro – pasteurised milk is the subject of a bunch of made up health claims. Want to prevent asthma, bypass a lactose intolerance, or make yourself miraculously healthy in some other way? Unfortunately, I have access to a secret repository of wisdom, also known as scientific journals, and can confirm that all these claims are utter codswallop. A shame really, but wanting something to be true doesn’t make it so. Oh wait, people believe that too.
Why did I try it then? I was curious, I love finding new flavours, and I don’t usually shy away from risks. I know there is an outside chance I might get sick and I know its not going to make me any healthier. But its great to to live in a country where, if I really want to, I can make up my own mind.
If you like this post, feel free to send me a wheel of unpasteurised cheese.