HA! Gotcha! Pervs.
I'm talking about milk. Let me say right at the start here that I do not believe that humans NEED milk, in any form other than from their mothers, as infants. I don't. I also think that modern industrial dairy practices have given us a product that is a far cry from anything nature ever intended. But the fact is, I love the stuff, and I especially love the stuff that you can make from it, and used judiciously, I believe it can be an important and even beneficial part of a human diet. But the more I learn, the more I know that I don't want my daughter consuming the quantities of milk that I did as a child, and I want the dairy products she does consume to be of the highest quality, and as natural as possible.
I've been killing myself trying to find a source of fresh, raw, grass-fed milk to buy. As it is in most of the country, buying and selling raw cow's milk is illegal in Arkansas. There is a loophole, apparently, where you can "invest" in a dairy cow, and get paid dividends in the form of milk from that cow. Really--it's called a "cow share," and I'd love to find one. I don't think I'm going to have any luck, though, because it looks like the hoops the farmers have to jump through to offer a cow share are many, and tricky. And it's painfully obvious that the barriers against this practice have FAR less to do with protecting the consumer from health threats than with protecting the huge and powerful corporate dairy industry from competition.
Hello, Dairy Industry! Yes, I realize you've purchased ad space that runs here, and, well, yes, I understand about biting the hand that feeds me, but hey--you want some consumer feedback? GIVE ME BETTER CHOICES. Give me organic, GRASS-FED milk from cows that actually live the lives portrayed in the graphics ON YOUR PACKAGING, that hasn't been ULTRA pasteurized so that it's a totally dead product. Release your lobbyists' stranglehold on the industry so that people like me are able to procure milk products from small, LOCAL farmers. Hey, here's a thought--if my milk only has to travel, say, a couple hundred miles or less to get to me, then maybe it won't NEED to be nuked to such an extreme that it has a two-month shelf life!
Honest to gosh, Dairy Industry--all you have to do is give me the OPTION. I swear I'll pay twice as much for the product I want. From your point of view, it has to be better than what I'm doing now, which is buying LESS milk than I otherwise would. Just my two cents, guys. If you're gonna keep printing pictures on your milk, yogurt, ice cream, cheese, and butter packages of sleek, shiny, happy cows contentedly grazing on fields of green grass in the sunshine...I just think you might want to consider making that kind of operation a reality for at least a FRACTION of dairy cows. See how we, the consumer, respond. I think you'd be surprised. I mean, it's not really fair to market on the idyllic image that most of us have about milk-cows, only to pull a bait & switch and send us Frankenmilk in plastic jugs from across the country. Just sayin'.
Anyway, this brings us to goat's milk. Much, much more of the world is fed on goat's milk than cow's milk. Goats are just easier, more convenient, and kinder to the planet as a whole. A goat can thrive in an unforgiving terrain that would not support a cow. Goats are more economical to feed and house. Goat's milk is easier to digest than cow's milk. I know where you think this is going, family members, and NO, I have not bought a dairy goat. Yet. But I am doing research and making contacts with those who DO own dairy goats, and planning to go pick up some frozen goat's milk (and some fresh, if I can find it, though most people seem to freeze it for purchase). What's amazing to me is that I can buy fresh, clean goat's milk off the farm for about half the price that I can get it at the store, and it won't have been zapped of many of its nutrients through ultra-pasteurization, like the kind offered at my grocery store.
And here's an interesting little tidbit: It IS legal to buy raw goat's milk in Arkansas. I would imagine that this is because not many people in the general public even think of goats when they think of dairy products (although, doesn't almost everyone you know enjoy Feta or chevre cheeses?), so the threat of competition to agribusiness is small. But JUST IN CASE, there are laws in place to keep those goat's milk producers from getting too uppity (or even making a living), and to keep too many consumers from being able to avail themselves of this very viable, and many would say superior, alternative to cow's milk. I'm sure that many other states have the same laws in place as Arkansas.
In the first place, raw goat's milk can ONLY be bought or sold on the farm where it was produced. These are called "incidental sales." So, you know, no sending your product out to stores or anything like that--that might give the common consumer an actual alternative to mass-produced dairy! But don't worry. The dairy goat farmer doesn't really have to fret about not being able to market his product in stores or at farmers' markets, because the government ALSO puts a cap on how much raw milk he's ALLOWED to sell in the first place! Really! I know, right? Can you imagine any other industry being told exactly how many units of a product they're allowed to sell? The more you know, the harder it gets to see the USDA as anything but a regulatory agency designed to protect the bottom line of the "Big Guys."
But back to the raw goat's milk. It is legal, in Arkansas, to sell up to, but NOT MORE THAN 100 gallons of raw milk per month. I'm not even sure how the government keeps tabs on that count, but that's the law. 100 gallons. At this point, it becomes clear that the restrictions placed on raw milk are NOT about consumer health, but about favoring Big Agribusiness. If the state of Arkansas were actually concerned about raw milk being, in any way, a health hazard, why in the world would they allow 100 gallons per month of this terrifying substance to be unleashed onto an unsuspecting public? I think the term "incidental sales" pretty much gives us our answer. "Incidental" sales just aren't a threat, and a sales-cap that means an average of 3 or 4 gallons a day not only limits a consumer's access to a product, it limits the farmer's incentive and reward for producing that product. It makes me want to spit nails.
And while many people believe that consumer demand could change this, I have my doubts. If more and more people stop buying from Industrial Dairy in favor of options like raw milk from dairy goat farmers and cow shares, I suspect that we'd suddenly find brand-new legal restrictions on those "alternative" practices. Cow shares are already illegal in a couple of states, unless all the share partners actually form a CORPORATION in order to share that cow and what it produces. It's very frightening, to me, to think just how much our government controls what food is available to us, and how VERY much the wants of corporations are favored over the needs of individuals.
*steps down from soapbox*
So...if any of my local friends here can point me to anyone who organizes cow shares, or a great local dairy goat farm, please leave a comment or email me. I'll be checking out some resources, and will let you know what I find. And if any of you have thoughts on raw milk or goat's milk or evil, evil gub'ment agencies, I'd love to hear them, good or bad, agreement or dissent.
*shakes fist at Government*