It is a strange state of affairs when it’s easier to buy a bag of weed than a gallon of dairy-direct milk. All I need to score dope is to make up a fake ailment (sleeplessness, dandruff) and pay $100 bucks to a shady doctor to get a medical marijuana prescription. Then I can buy as much pot as I like. But I don’t need weed. I want raw milk.
When it comes to milk, raw milk is real milk, to me anyway. Pasteurization and homogenization remove many of the nutritional benefits of milk. Raw milk is alive with beneficial bacteria and enzymes. It’s hypoallergenic. It doesn’t produce lactose intolerance (pasteurized milk does). Raw milk goes from the cow straight to the bottle. Given our industrial food system that process freaks some people out. And it should. Most milk is dirty. That’s what pasteurization is for. Raw milk from a scrupulous dairy, however, is clean. In well-run dairies, there are no pathogens or harmful bacteria that need to be removed by pasteurization.
There are two fine dairies in California that sell raw milk: Organic Pastures and Claravale. Organic Pastures is my preferred milk, but I don’t like the plastic bottles the milk comes in. So I set out to find a source for raw milk. I went to my local farmers market and sidled up to a cheese vendor. “Hey, do you know where I can get some raw milk?” You’d think I was trying to buy a black market kidney given the cold stare I got. Dairymen who sell raw milk are paranoid and rightly so. As Ari LeVaux’s news story in last week’s issue made clear, selling raw milk can get you into big trouble. But if you want to feed cows antibiotics and hormones and raise them in filthy conditions and spread their manure into groundwater fouling lagoons—no problem. It’s like a nanny state in reverse. Instead of trying the protect the public from things that are bad for us, the government is making access to products that can be good for us difficult while it allows products known to do harm to enter the marketplace unfettered.
A lot of raw milk advocates say they’re buying milk for pets, and that’s how some dairies describe their milk: pet food not for human consumption. I just ask where I might find “a local source for some really good, fresh milk that you can’t get in stores.” Wink, wink. One cheesemaker said he knew a guy who knows a guy who runs a “cow share.” In a cow share, a group of people buy a cow that’s cared for on a rancher’s land. Once you own a cow the milk is yours. But I haven’t heard back from that guy yet. I’ll let you know how it goes as my attempt to navigate the raw milk underground continues.
It’s that time again of year again. It’s time to eat. Silicon Valley Restaurant Week runs Sept. 14-21. Restaurants across the valley will offer value-priced three-course meals. If you’ve been wanting to go out to eat or try a new restaurant, this would be the time to do it. Dig into www.siliconvalleyrestaurantweek.com for more information.