Archive for December, 2012

Do they wobble to and fro?

I was in fourth grade when I first heard a racy alternative version of Do Your Ears Hang Low, and it apparently made a lasting impression. After years silently filed deep in my subconscious, it was the first thing that popped into my head when I met Peggy.

I’d consider Peggy a testament to the hard work of dairy breeders. She can’t move much faster than a brisk walk with those pendulous udders, but can produce ten gallons of 5.5% fat milk a day at her peak.  She’s also generally very well mannered, and only shits all over the dairy if her protein intake gets too high. Suzie, on the other hand, does it purely out of spite.

Can we have an honest conversation about cow’s milk?  If you drink the stuff, you should probably know that there’s fecal matter in it. If you’re buying raw dairy products, there’s straight up fresh poop in your milk.   I recently decided to add a second filtering step to our bottling process and have caught some fascinating things that were presumably finding their way into the final product before that second filtering. Like a giant scab, multiple flies, a spider, bits of hay, and, of course, poop chunks.  If you’re buying raw, and you wouldn’t be comfortable licking a cow, make sure you personally witness how that milk is gathered and bottled, because it’d be really, really easy to skip a few of these rather time-consuming sanitizing procedures. Thankfully, if the cows are grass-fed and healthy, all that poop and a few scabs are probably pretty good for you and your gut flora, all things considered. If the cows aren’t in perfect health or are consuming a grain-heavy diet, there might be some seriously scary organisms lurking in your cream  (like the dangerously acid-resistant E.coli 0157:H7).

If you’re buying pasturized milk, those tiny poop particles are cooked enough to be devoid of microbial life, but they’re definitely still in there. Along with some pus and blood, maybe some synthetic hormones, and chlorine residue.  Cows milked with machines (all but a very rare few) are definitely given a lot less opportunity to foul the milk by washing their hooves in it and unleashing liquid feces in close proximity. I can only imagine how disappointed our cows would be to lose out on the poignancy of a really impressive shit spray (there are poop bits decorating the dairy walls well above the 8′ doorway). On the other hand, mechanically milked cows, especially those in large, commercial dairies are more likely to go longer with unnoticed and untreated cases of mastitis, and thus the extra pus. And blood (cooked to 161 for 15 seconds though, so you know, yay – extra protein).

Another thought I feel I must share for the milk drinkers. Though a very small minority of dairy cows have lovely lives, enjoying green pastures with their sisters, and nibbling crimped oats while they’re gently milked by loving handlers, most dairy animals really have a pretty rough life. Buying your milk from a farmer you trust to treat those cows right is well worth the extra money, and avoiding all that potential pus/blood/bleach/really-freaky-strains-of-e-coli is so much better for you and so much more delicious!