Milk Is Going The Wine Route



​The increasing interest in artisanal foods is opening up all kinds of opportunities in farming that could hardly have been predicted even a few years ago. Who would ever have thought a good market for small, backyard hen coops would open up. Or hops and malting barley farms starting up close to craft breweries? Or cricket flour discussed as a practical new food?

The controversy over fats and cholesterol has contrarily opened new specialized farm markets for what I like to call artisanal milks. During the scare about cholesterol, Jersey and Guernsey cows, known for milk high in butterfat, declined in number and Holsteins, with less fat in their milk, increased. (A neighbor who milked Jerseys told me once that he kept a Holstein in his herd in case he had to put out a fire.) Then slowly, the attack against saturated fats subsided to the point where books singing their praises popped up all over. People started looking into dairy products with a more discerning eye. Consumers discovered what dairy farmers have known all along: milk is not a generic product, but encompasses many versions with varying tastes. Jersey milk tastes different than Holstein milk. Cow milk tastes different than goat, horse or sheep milk. When we went from milking by hand and cooling in tubs of well water to machine milking with the milk flowing directly from the cow through a pipeline into a cooling tank where its temperature was lowered rapidly, the taste improved markedly. Cows out on fresh green grass after a winter on hay and grain give milk with a different flavor that takes some getting used to. Milk from cows eating mostly corn silage tastes different than that from cows eating hay and grain. Homogenized milk tastes different than un-homogenized, pasteurized different than raw. Fresh from the cow, milk tastes different than after it is cooled. Even the kind of plants in the pasture can change the taste.

​All this opens up a land of opportunity for dairy farmers just as the multiplication of vintners did for grape growers. Heavy cream is rarely available in regular supermarkets except as homogenized, pasteurized whipping cream, so local farmers with their eye on the market cater to new demands by adding Jerseys and Guernseys back into their herds and offering customers their own versions of heavy cream. Some customers want milk with the cream still on top, so local dairies specialize in non-homogenized production to provide them. Some consumers decide that they want unpasteurized milk. This takes some doing since unpasteurized milk in many areas is still as illegal as bootleg whiskey. But where there’s a will, there’s a way and bootleg milk is now legal in some states if you follow all the rules. Some innovative dairies have found success in simply going back to the older, slow-heat way of pasteurizing milk because some customers prefer its taste to flash-pasteurized milk. When I heard milk aficionados here in Ohio arguing about which slow-pasteurized brand has the better taste, Hartzler’s or Snowville’s, I figured we were in a new agricultural era.

​Another fascinating development in the milk business is about milk with the A1 protein in it versus milk with A2 protein. (An excellent rundown on the subject appeared in the Cleveland Plain Dealer of Feb. 10, 2016 by Debbi Snook, Section C. Also Chelsea Green publishes “The Devil in the Milk” by Keith Woodford which thoroughly covers the subject.) Although science hasn’t proved it and there is a lot of controversy about it, A2 milk, most often coming from Guernsey cows although some individual cows in other breeds may produce it too, is better for you, especially if you are lactose intolerant, say some consumers. They don’t care if science has not yet made a decision; they justify their position because they love the taste of A2 milk. According to the article cited above, a yogurt maker in Cleveland, Adrian Bota, has been using A2 milk, from a small Amish milk processor, for about five years and is so convinced of its benefits that he has gone into the dairy business himself, selling an A2 milk under his brand name, Origin.

​I can imagine a future where milk lovers gather at a milk bar and discuss various kinds of Holstein Blanc, Jersey Chablis, and Guernsey Bordeaux. They pour daintily into their milk glasses, sniff elegantly, and earnestly argue over whether or not Kentucky Golden Guernsey exhuming flinty hints of the red clay terroirs upon which the cows graze is not better than Holstein blanc, with a light-bodied personality suggesting the sunny, slightly manury air that the cows breathe as they walk to and fro over California dry lots. Personally, I prefer slow-pasteruerized Lake Erie Jersey with its lean, tight, strongly mineralized flavor. What about you?

P.S. I just can’t resist passing this tidbit along, underscoring just how small our planet is. Last week I mentioned how a golf course in my county is being plowed up for corn and beans. Just this morning (March 28), the news is reporting that China recently bulldozed two golf courses for farm crops.


I think you will find there are several European countries where it is illegal to buy raw milk too. Fortunately not here in Latvia, although I wouldn’t like to be absolutely certain on that. I buy raw milk and that’s all I need to know. I’m looking forward to tasting the milk from the first weeks of being out on pasture in about a month’s time

I chuckled at your reference to the market for backyard coops. Just 10 years ago it was nearly impossible to find them. I recall a classified ad in the back of Mother Earth News, but that was it. Nowadays you can buy them in grocery stores. Amazing.

I like Almond Milk so that thought conjures up other types of milk being dispersed at the milk bars. I’m off of all dairy to include all other dairy products w only very occassionally eating a yogurt or an ice cream, but looking for alternatives in these types of products also. We live in a small NM town & non animal options are not available yet.

I was raised on fresh milk. But now, being that all you can get is homogenized milk, I can’t drink milk anymore.

I milk my Toggenburg goats. I have 1 buck and 3 does. It’s the best milk ever. I drink it raw. And also let it sit on my kitchen counter to naturally clabber. Delicious with its own natural probiotics. My cats love it too. I live in the mountains so goats work well here. And they are my friends.

The A1-A2 debate is growing more complicated as more work is being done on the subject. As more cows are being tested, it is becoming more and more obvious that the early breed correlation assumptions are not correct. Many Jerseys are A1/A1 or A1/A2, while at least one large Holstein dairy tested and found that the majority of their cows were A2/A2. Early on, it was assumed that “heritage” breeds would be all A2/A2, but it they have turned out to be all over the board as well. This has caused some really interesting dynamics in the Dexter world, as some breeders scramble to make the breed A2/A2 “pure.”

Of course, opinions about it are all over the board as well–it’ll be interesting to see what is uncovered as time goes on!

Dont know much about milk. Around here the old farmers who had milk cows said the new dairy inspector they had was a horses ass and most of them got out of dairy.The one dairy farmer I couldnt remember any cows,etc My grandparents had a couple of cows off and on. Since most of us learn from our parents on what foods to like and dislike I never got to have real fresh whole milk. She never cared for the globs of butter or cream in it. Plus her dreaded enemy growing up was the de lavel cream seporator that she had to use and maintain and wash.Lots of little numbered disks that would fall all over the place. She’s 72 and you can still see her facial expressions change w3hen you talk about the milk and cream seporater. lmao

@ Jan Steinman: You find it ironic that people can buy a gun but not raw milk (much less its products – cream especially) – me too, but what about cigs and booze?!! Those two things are still legal (not that I’m bitching because the minute you bitch about something you lose it – and I don’t want ANY item to be banned no matter what it is). Look at the transitional steps (read: decades of fights) liquor had to go through in order to become legal but now it’s legal all over the world. Raw milk is legal almost everywhere in the world, without reservations, except in the USA and Canada. It speaks to the ignorance of the overweening guvmint nanny agencies we have produced. You’d think our guvmint would have learned from the booze deal, but no.

Those “snoop” agencies exist because people wanted nannying (it’s that see something say something mindset that happened long before it was a *watch phrase* from our protectionist, PC nanny-Staters) and now we must deal with what we’ve created.

If it makes you mad that we’re nannied to death, we’re on the same side. [=) I smell one helluva revolution coming on, don’t you?

Jan, the cow share method is pretty common here in far northern California, although you can still buy raw milk in stores some places (at $17 a gallon!). I for one will be really glad when Maybelle freshens in May. My grandkids are well aware of the difference between store-bought milk and “Maybelle milk” in terms of taste and health benefits; they boast to their class mates about having a milk cow…

bootleg milk is now legal in some states if you follow all the rules

Although sometimes cited as a civilized country, Canada is one of only a few countries that has an outright ban on the sale or distribution of unpasteurized milk.

However, there is a loophole they dare not plug without inciting the civil libertarians: it is still legal to consume the unpasteurized milk from an animal you own.

(This raises a quandary: what if you need a break, and your neighbour, who also owns a cow, offers to milk yours in exchange for her milk if you’ll do the same when he needs a break, making the two of you criminals for arranging to get more than twelve hours away from the farm!)

The Canada Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantees us the right of association, or the right to do anything collectively that one has the right to do individually, so a group of raw milk enthusiasts can join in the ownership of a dairy animal, and all enjoy the illicit substance she exudes. They can even hire someone to do the milking and to take care of the animal for them!

This hasn’t been fully tested in the courts yet, but such “herd shares” are spreading like wildfire. Ours has over a hundred shareholders.

I find it ironic and sad that in some US states, one can walk into a gun shop and purchase something designed for no other purpose but to kill other people, but one cannot purchase fresh, unpasteurized milk.

Gene, Holstein is the dairy equivalent of Thunderbird. Yuuuchh!! My wife forwarded me an article from Mother Jones the other day. She headlined the post “I now know why you don’t like Holsteins”. The story (12 March 2014) is about the A1/A2 proteins and their effect on health. The Readers Digest version: Holsteins are an A1 cow and our hero Jerseys, Guernseys, Brown Swiss, etc. are all predominately A2. The A1/A2 issue hasen’t popped up in the U.S. much, but folks in Europe and Oceania seem to be well aware of the difference that genetics can have on the Quality of their dairy products.

We are fortunate in Pennsylvania to be able to purchase raw milk for human consumption at the farm and in groceries. Raw milk cheeses are available in dozens of stores in my County. I have been drinking raw goat milk from a dairy in the valley south of us. It is in the family run grocery in my valley and in the Wegman’s in the big town to the west. They often sell out. Life is good.

Good piece! We work a team of molly mules and had one of our CSA members ask, “So do you milk them too?” I responded, “You can try, but I don’t think either party would be too happy about it.”

Nothing better than the feel of raw Jersey milk on your lips. Better than any lip balm from those fancy boutiques!

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