Every Tuesday morning, the supplier, under cover of pre-dawn darkness, packs up his truck in rural Minnesota to make his weekly delivery. His drop-off site is a nondescript, middle-class home in a Minneapolis suburb, where his regular customers begin to converge around 8:00 a.m. They drive up, park, pick up their orders, leave cash, then return to their everyday lives.
What they’re doing is illegal, but the contraband isn’t cocaine, krugerrands or even Cuban cigars.
It’s milk. Straight from the cow. Whole, non-pasteurized, non-homogenized, non-industrialized, raw milk.
Why is it illegal? Because the Minnesota Department of Agriculture prohibits the sale of raw milk, unless it is purchased by consumers only “occasionally” and only “at the farm where the milk is produced.” (Source: Westin A. Price Foundation – “What is Real Milk?”)
So, why do otherwise law-abiding citizens buy illegal milk? Part of the blame should go to Nina Planck.
Founder of London Farmers’ Markets and author of Real Food: What to Eat and Why, Nina Planck is America’s leading – and most outspoken – champion for the cause of raw milk. My first exposure to her was in early 2006 in the form of a New York Times op-ed piece that she wrote, called “Whole Milk is Best”:
Whole milk is what is called a complete food, because each ingredient plays its part. Without the fat, you can’t digest the protein or absorb the calcium. The body needs saturated fat in particular (monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fat can’t do the job) to take in the calcium that makes bones strong. Milk fat also contains glycosphingolipids, which are fats that encourage cell metabolism and growth and fight gastrointestinal infections.
The all-important vitamins A and D are found in the fat. Historically, whole milk and butter were the best sources of these vitamins in the American diet, which had up to 10 times more of both vitamins than modern industrial diets.
In skim and low-fat milk, the vitamins are removed along with the fat, so dairies add synthetic A and D. But Vitamins A and D are fat-soluble; that means they cannot be absorbed into the body unless they’re taken in with fat. Thus, even fortified skim and low-fat milk are not nearly as beneficial as the real thing.
Reading this piece three years ago opened my mind to the possibility of raw milk for my family. I knew of other families who were regularly consuming it and so already had a source. But I needed further research to feel completely safe with the decision, and then to convince my reasonably skeptical husband. So I went on a quest for more information. Here was my reading list:
Before too long, I was convinced, and began giving raw milk to my family almost three years ago. Its taste is rich, creamy and satisfying in a way that 2 percent or skim never were. My kids love it and now turn their noses up at the milk they are served in school. I credit raw milk with clearing up my daughter’s eczema, which is corroborated by a group of British researchers who concluded that just a couple of glasses a week reduce a child’s chance of developing eczema by almost 40 per cent.
Most important, we know the milk is safe. We trust the small farm where it comes from and know that their cows are happy, healthy, well-cared for and grass-fed. This means we also have learned to expect shortages during the winter, as well as extras – like butter, cheese and ice cream – in the summer.
So if you find yourself seeking the taste and health benefits of black-market milk but don’t know a “supplier,” click here to start your search.
And don’t blame me. It’s all Nina’s fault.