Category Archives: raw milk

Milk Kefir Recipes

milk kefir and raw milk

Raw milk (L) and kefir (R)

Milk kefir: Milk that has been cultured (fermented) into a thick, creamy, tangy-sour, probiotic-filled smoothie.

Most people don’t know what milk kefir is, but with the growing movement towards whole foods and probiotics, kefir is coming into more public awareness. So much so, that it can now be bought in the dairy aisle of most grocery stores.

Lifeway ( makes kefir in a variety of flavors and styles (low fat, whole milk, Greek, “green”), all containing pasteurized milk. My preference is for raw, unpasteurized milk because of all of the nutritional benefits (see my post on raw milk) that end up being killed by pasteurization. But you would have to culture your own raw milk in order to have raw milk kefir. If you are willing to make it yourself, it’s very easy. Continue reading

What’s the big deal about raw milk?

jars of raw milk and  raw milk kefir

Jars of raw milk (L) and raw milk kefir (R). Click on the image to see about 2″ of cream on top of the milk.

Ironically, I live in a state where the sale, purchase, growth and consumption of marijuana is legal, but raw (unpasteurized) milk and other dairy products are not. Federal laws prohibit both. If the federal government wants to make trouble, it can and will raid either one of these operations. But more often than not, it’s the dairy farmers, usually Amish, that have their farms raided, at gunpoint, their dairy products destroyed and businesses shut down. The farmers are charged with state or federal crimes and off to court they go. Hopefully the FTCLDF steps in.

Why? Federal law says:

“No person shall cause to be delivered into interstate commerce or shall sell, otherwise distribute, or hold for sale or other distribution after shipment in interstate commerce any milk or milk product in final package form for direct human consumption unless the product has been pasteurized or is made from dairy ingredients (milk or milk products) that have all been pasteurized…” 21 CFR Sec. 1240.61

photo of cows

Meeting the cows at Johnson’s Acres.

Most states have found a way around the federal law, by technically not selling raw dairy products. Such as, here in Colorado, I was able to purchase a share in a dairy herd. I have a written and signed contract. A dairy farmer boards my fraction of a cow for a monthly fee. I am not buying milk; I am paying to board cows. Any milk produced by my cow is legally mine to consume. Your state raw dairy laws can be found here.

Why was raw milk outlawed?

According to the US Food and Drug Administration, the CDC reports that unpasteurized milk is 150 times more likely to cause food borne illness than pasteurized products.  And between the years 1993 and 2006, more than 1500 people in the US became sick from consuming raw dairy products.

But, a rebuttal from says:

“Based on data in a 2003 USDA/FDA report: Compared to raw milk there are 515 times more illnesses from L-mono due to deli meats and 29 times more illness from L-mono due to pasteurized milk. On a PER-SERVING BASIS, deli meats were TEN times more likely than raw milk to cause illness (Interpretive Summary – Listeria Monocytogenes Risk Assessment, Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, Sept. 2003, page 17).”

I can’t help but recall that over the past several years, reports of wide-spread food borne illnesses in the US have been due to contaminated meats, fruit, vegetables and pasteurized ice cream — with not one mention of raw dairy products. Do I smell bias?

What’s wrong with pasteurized/homogenized milk?

calf photo

A healthy calf being fed raw milk right from the source!

Pasteurization destroys enzymes, diminishes vitamin content, denatures fragile milk proteins, destroys vitamins C, B12 and B6, kills beneficial bacteria, promotes pathogens and is associated with allergies, increased tooth decay, colic in infants, growth problems in children, osteoporosis, arthritis, heart disease and cancer. Calves fed pasteurized milk do poorly and many die before maturity. Raw milk sours naturally but pasteurized milk turns putrid; processors must remove slime and pus from pasteurized milk by a process of centrifugal clarification. Inspection of dairy herds for disease is not required for pasteurized milk.”

Homogenization is a process that breaks down butterfat globules so they do not rise to the top. Homogenized milk has been linked to heart disease.”

Many studies have linked consumption of pasteurized milk with lactose intolerance,  allergies, asthma, frequent ear infections, gastro-Intestinal problems, diabetes, auto-Immune disease, attention deficit disorder and constipation. During a period of rapid population growth, the market for fluid pasteurized milk has declined at 1% per year for the past 20 years. Fewer and fewer consumers can tolerate pasteurized (and ultrapasteurized) milk (Don’t Drink Your Milk, Frank Oski, MD, 1983).”

cow2Benefits of Raw Milk

Raw milk (ideally–check your sources) comes from dairy cows that have not been genetically engineered to produce more milk than their bodies would normally produce. Real “old fashioned” cows are naturally healthy, exist on a diet of pasture grass and do not need to be pumped full of antibiotics or growth hormones. The milk produced is nutrient dense, with high levels of fat-soluble vitamins, fatty acids and other nutrients.

Many people who are lactose intolerant (80%+) have no problem digesting raw milk. It’s thought that enzymes contained in raw milk help break down the lactose. The enzymes are destroyed by pasteurization.

There is substantial evidence that consumption of raw milk during childhood may protect against asthma, allergies and other immune-mediated diseases.

Research suggests that raw milk contains antimicrobial components that are absent in pasteurized milk—pathogens intentionally introduced into raw milk tend to die off.

Raw milk is produced by small, local dairy farms which are focused on sustainability. This is better for both community and the environment, not to mention the health and humane treatment of the cows vs. the mass production of milk by “factory farming.”

More detailed information and references for the above statements can be found here:

It’s a Personal Choice

Not actually ever having liked milk, I decided to give raw milk a try since I’d read so much about its benefits.  And being told I cannot do something is always incentive. Surprise! I not only like raw milk, my body craves it! I make my own (cultured) kefir, which I drink and use in various recipes (that will be another post, another day) instead of buttermilk or sour cream.

I found (through the web site) a dairy farmer, Kenny Johnson of Johnsons Acres, who sells herdshares, provides raw milk to the shareholders and is passionate about responsibly producing the raw milk that he feeds his own children and countless other people. I drove out to see his operation in person. He has a pasture with happy, healthy, grazing cows and a milking barn that absolutely sparkles with cleanliness, a sterilization machine for the half gallon jars and plenty of refrigeration.

The jars of milk are delivered weekly to distribution centers (volunteers’ houses) throughout the Denver area. I drive to the distribution house in my area, covertly let myself into the garage and their raw-dairy-only refrigerator—and trade my washed, empty milk jar for a full one.

Do your homework!

If you decide to try raw dairy for yourself, I highly recommend that you:

• Make sure the dairy farm is reputable and doing everything possible to produce sanitary and high quality products. I would not buy from a ranch that I could not visit in person. There is nothing better than personally meeting the farmer who you will trust to produce a safe and high quality product.

• Meet the cows! Make sure the cows are real, old-fashioned dairy cows and not the “modern” Holsteins, bred to produce 3x the amount of milk than the norm. These would include Jerseys, Guernseys, Red Devons, Brown Swiss, Milking Shorthorns, Dutch Belted and, older genetic lines of Holsteins. Check their living conditions and observe whether they look happy and healthy.

• Ask what the cows are eating: they should be pasture-fed on grass, with dried grass/hay supplemental feeding in the winter, for the health of the cow and the highest quality, most nutritious milk. Cows are supposed to eat grass. No gmo or non-organic grains! No antibiotics, they should not be necessary! No growth hormones!

• Inspect the milking and processing barn. They should be clean and probably smelling a bit like Chlorox.

Use your common sense (and intuition) to decide whether you want to buy raw dairy products from one farmer or another. And remember that you do have the right to choose to consume raw dairy products. Or anything else for that matter. I can do without the marijuana. 🙂

Polyface Farms, Farm to Consumer Legal Defense Fund

A few short weeks ago I won a raffle. It was the first time in my life that I’d won something. The raffle was for a trip to Staunton, Virginia for the Farm to Table Legal Defense Fund‘s annual Food Freedom Fest. Included in the activities were dinner with bloggers Jenny McGruther from Nourished Kitchen and Sarah Pope from the Healthy Home Economist, a full day of speakers explaining the Defense Fund’s cases and a full day’s tour of Joel Salatin’s Polyface Farms.

Thursday Dinner with the Bloggers

Jenny, Sarah, Me

Thursday night’s dinner at Zonodoa with Sarah and Jenny was a real treat. It was so thrilling to meet two very well-known and successful bloggers that spoke my language! We talked a little about real food and enjoyed a delicious and healthy meal in an elegant but comfortable setting. We parted company early—tomorrow was going to be a big day of speakers, discussions and updates regarding the defense of farmers’ basic right to farm.

Friday Farm to Consumer Legal Defense Fund Presentations


Prior to that weekend, I’d been only slightly familiar with governments’ (Federal, State and local) heavy-handedness with farmers’ rights. I’d heard about how some large corporations were using their money and clout to get their own way to protect their financial interests.  I’d also heard about armed raids on dairy farms for selling raw (unpasturized) milk and FDA’s position that we have no rights to choose what we consume unless they GIVE US PERMISSION: “Plaintiffs’ assertion of a ‘fundamental right to their own bodily and physical health, which includes what foods they do and do not choose to consume for themselves and their families’ is similarly unavailing because plaintiffs do not have a fundamental right to obtain any food they wish.” Oh, just tell me I don’t have the right to make my own decisions about my body and my health, and you will light a fire under me that will be seen from outerspace!

The  information conveyed that Friday by a wide variety of speakers, lawyers, senators, representatives and farmer/victims, was a real eye-opener for me. They spoke of raids on food clubs where ALL the beautiful, organic, locally grown food was confiscated and dumped in landfills because some raw milk was found on the property. Farm animals being confiscated and destroyed without testing for a disease they “may have” had (they didn’t), then additional litigation on conspiracy charges when that didn’t hold up in court. Businesses being closed due to never ending bureaucratic red tape based more on principle than law. The USDA’s recent solicitation to carry sub machine guns (what?) for their raids on farms.

Just one example of who is fueling the fire: “… raw milk in particular has drawn a lot of regulatory scrutiny, largely because the politically powerful dairy industry has pressed the government to act.”

Downtown Staunton

All of the cases and stories were presented in a matter-of-fact manner, with stats to show the progress that the Legal Defense Fund has made since its inception on July 4, 2007. The stories flat out flabbergasted me, but the sincerity and positive attitudes of all of the speakers were very encouraging. I ended up Saturday’s lectures with an even greater appreciation and respect for the real farmers in this country, who just want to provide us with healthy, unadulterated, real food and not be forced to cave in to the depraved ideas being accepted by the general public (with our government’s blessings) as the acceptable production of food. I left the lectures feeling informed and wanting to become involved in some way to further the cause that Legal Defense Fund represents. There was a block party and BBQ Saturday night in downtown Staunton. I was tired and it was kind of loud (a sure sign of being over-tired for me) so I stayed for a while and then trekked back to my room at the hotel. My tomorrow (Saturday) was to be spent at Joe Salatin’s Polyface Farms.

Broilers on the range.

Saturday at Polyface Farms

While my Maps printout said Polyface was only 20 minutes away from my hotel and the directions seemed straightforward enough, I have to admit I was not sure I was going where…and when…I was supposed to. But luckily my phone was still getting some bars and even though I was the only person on the back country roads at the time, I put my faith in my phone and found my way to the farm. During the last 5 minutes of my trip I ended up with a few cars following my every turn. Later I found out that many people had become totally lost and arrived at the farm as much as an hour late.

Free range turkies


Sprinklers of runoff water

Polyface is, to me, a picture-perfect farm. Virginia is so beautifully green and lush and this farm is a perfect example. There’s the house, small store, an outdoor covered area for meeting and eating, a few hoop houses, some gardens and then those gorgeous acres and acres of grassy hills. We had a Polyface breakfast and then were loaded onto two hay bailed trailers. We spent the better part of the hot, sunny day visiting various areasof Polyface.The smaller, cleverly designed chicken tractors are reserved for the broiler chickens. Moved daily, the chickens have access to meal food and water and also some sun, shade and pasture for foraging. Ducks, turkeys and laying hens also have portable grazing areas with easily moved electric fencing. The fences are to keep predators out. Pigs have the same fencing, but their free range areas include trees that provide them with shade and acorns and lots of places to root around. Cattle are moved from pasture to pasture daily, so they don’t overgraze the land. Snow melt-off that would have only flooded the land and been wasted is collected in ponds, to be used during the summer to water thirsty land. Winter accommodations for the cattle provide later forage for pigs, which in turn provides manure to fertilize the land grazed during the summer.

The entire farm is an economical and balanced ecosystem that supports itself, without the need for any artificial fertilizer, seeding or feeding. It’s all so NATURAL. The question of the day was “why doesn’t everyone do this?”

Hog heaven

After our enjoyable tour of the farm, we were treated to a Polyface lunch. At the end of our lunch, a few more speakers came up to talk about food and farming. Joe Salatin brought a few of his substitutes for hired help: young farmers-to-be that spend time at his farm as interns and apprentices, learning his methods and bringing his wisdom back to their home states to carry on hisnatural farming techniques.Seeds of change for a better future. The young speakers were all very enthusiastic and passionate about being a part of change in this country.

I left Polyface Farms that day full of hope that the small farms in this country, and informed and involved consumers, will turn the direction of our food producing practices away from destruction of the land, nutrition, and mistreatment of animals, to cooperation and harmony with nature. Wow, what a beautiful alternative.