Anyone who wrote book reports on Louis Pasteur in middle school may have thought that raw milk was a thing of the past; those people would be wrong. Raw milk has made a comeback among some environmentally aware foodies, despite what many contend are health risks.
Slow Food Vassar provides an opportunity for Vassar students to get raw milk. Shunpike Dairy in Millbrook, N.Y. is the supplier of the Vassar Raw Milk Co-op, a program in which students can pay to be provided with raw milk from this local farm. Students can purchase gallon jars of raw milk for $16, half-gallon jars for $6, and quart jars for $4. The milk is delivered on a weekly basis.
The program is relatively new. “I started the co-op in February of last year. It ran weekly from then on,” wrote Program Coordinator Jacob Greenberg ’14 in an emailed statement. The co-op is open to anyone who signs up, and has about a dozen members this semester.
The co-op was not Greenberg’s introduction to raw milk. “I drank raw milk, raw goat’s milk actually, for the first time on the Kern Family Homestead, in North Fork, Calif., where I worked during winter break my freshman year as part of the WWOOF (World-wide Organization of Organic Farms) program,” he wrote. “When I returned to Vassar, I desperately wanted more and began researching for local dairy farms in the area.”
A question that may come to mind, however, is why someone would choose to drink raw milk. “I love raw milk: It’s delicious, healthful and unprocessed. Drinking it supports local dairy farmers who employ sustainable, traditional and ethical farming practices. I like knowing that the cows that produced my milk were not fed genetically modified corn or antibiotics and that they lead good lives (not confined in feedlots with concrete floors) but free to graze nutritious pasture,” wrote Greenberg.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has a different opinion. According to the FDA website, raw milk is not safe for consumption. “The FDA and other health agencies such as the Centers for Disease Control and organizations such as the American Academy of Pediatrics agree that raw milk is unsafe because it can contain disease-causing pathogens,” the website states.
“As a science-based regulatory agency, the FDA looks to the scientific literature for information on benefits and risks associated with raw milk. While the perceived nutritional and health benefits of raw milk consumption have not been scientifically substantiated, the health risks are clear,” the website claims.
The FDA does not advise drinking unprocessed, unpasteurized and non-homogenized milk. The sale of raw milk is illegal in some states. In New York, its sale is legal on farms, so long as the farmer has a license from the state Department of Agriculture and Markets. “The closest farm that legally sells raw cow milk is Shunpike in Millbrook,” Greenberg said.
Greenberg defended the milk from Shunpike: “Raw milk is only drinkable from pastured (grass-fed) cows. These are cows are not fed antibiotics or given hormones, and are kept on their natural diet of pasture. They eat grass and dried silage in the winter and are on pasture the rest of the year. This milk is perfectly safe (more so than pasteurized milk, actually).”
Greenberg added, “Raw milk is not drinkable (and therefore must be pasteurized), when the cows are fed genetically modified (GMO) corn, grain and animal and factory by-products. This makes their milk toxic and undrinkable. From the unnatural feed, their stomachs become acidic (whereas pastured cows’ stomachs are neutral) and those chemicals leech into the milk. Pasteurization also turns milk into a commodity, and allows for the industrialization and consolidation of the dairy industry, thus putting small farmers out of work and damaging local economies.”
Students can find more information about the co-op and about raw milk through Slow Food Vassar’s website. They will also find an article by Greenberg detailing even further the facts and statistics behind raw milk. Taking into account both the FDA’s and Greenberg’s personal perspectives, students can make an informed decision to participate in the co-op. Slow Food Vassar meets on Wednesdays at 8:30 p.m. in the Faculty Commons.