Mindless fear

A few years ago, I toured a dairy.  I got there at milking time and was impressed by one  thing above all others:  how dirty the cows were.  Their udders were covered with mud and fecal matter.  Some of them were bleeding from having stepped on their own udders (ouch!).  I carry this image in mind whenever I read about those people, apparently growing in number, who are so frightened of our industrial age that they want to turn their backs on pasteurization and embrace the risk of pre-Pasteur diseases.

17 Responses

  1. If people want to drink raw milk, I’ve got no problem with that. It’s when they try to _make_ everyone else do the things they approve of that I get very cross indeed. If vegans want to eat like rabbits, go ahead. If teetotalers want to avoid alcohol, they may do so. But when people like that decide that nobody else should do things they don’t like, that’s crossing the line.

    I don’t happen to like zucchini. That doesn’t mean I firebomb the homes of zucchini growers, picket produce stands selling the stuff, and pressure my state legislature to ban it. I just don’t eat it.

  2. Most people would be horrified to know that unpasteurized milk was a leading vector for childhood morbidity and mortality at the turn of the 20th century. And it wasn’t just milk – foodborne illness in general was a leading cause of death.http://www.tenement.org/Encyclopedia/diseases_marasmus.htm

    People just didn’t live that long in the pre-industrial age.

    However, if these Darwin Award contenders (http://darwinawards.com/darwin/) insist on pursuing their Utopian fantasies, it would be nice if they could leave their kids out of it instead of subjecting them to what could only be termed child abuse at best and manslaughter at worst.

  3. […] [Discuss this with Bookworm over at Bookworm Room…] Share Article dairy, cows, pasteurization    Sphere: Related Content | Trackback URL […]

  4. I didn’t get the feeling that most of the raw milk crowd is “afraid” of the pasteurized product….just that they like raw better. Their right, it seems to me. I have a vague memory of drinking milk warm from the cow when I was about five – we lived on the grounds of the State Hospital, and one of the recovering alcoholics was baby-sitting us and took us down to the milking barn. Don’t think I’ve done it since, though I’ve had my chances.

  5. Trimigistus has it right; since when do we have to cowtow (forgive the pun) to everyone with a trendy personal preference? Modern “progressives” seem to think they are so moral, so brilliant, so informed, that their views ought to prevail over eveyone else’s. They are nascent totalitarians.

  6. The richness and fullness in taste these people are describing probably comes from the cream which is separated in the pasteurization process.I grew up on a dairy farm. When we milked a part of the process was using an antibacteria wash to clean the udders.At that time milk inspectors could drop a grade of milk if sanitary conditions were not met.Grade systems went from A to B to C and each grade paid a different rate.Times have changed and with the reduction of dairy farms I wonder just how many inspectors are left. Usually my Dad was forewarned of upcoming inspections, but then again they also just might show up at any time.

  7. Pasteurization is a good thing considering that you have no idea where your milk comes from. Everyone should have the right to have access to pasteurized milk if they so desire.

    On the other hand, although dirty cows are not very appealing to our sanitation obsessed society, the danger of raw milk is overstated. My best friend in high school grew up on a dairy, and his family drank raw milk from the storage tank without ill effects. The cows were hosed down with cold water from a garden hose.

    My family had one or two milk cows off and on. We washed the equipment and the udders with hot soapy water.

    My father grew up before such niceties were a concern. At the time, during the depression, they rinsed the bucket with cold water and up ended it over a fencepost to dry.

    Raw milk is perfectly safe under most conditions. Of greater concern is the industrialization of food production, where a small contaminant affects a vast amount of food distributed across the country.

  8. I grew up on my grandad’s farm and when my dad came home from the war and we moved in to base life it took a very long time for me to eat store food and drink store milk,eat store eggs,store butter. It was bad stuff.

    As teens my friends and I always worked on some ones family farm in the summers. We worked one year on my friends uncle’s dairy farm. It was squeaky clean from top to bottom. So were the cows. The equipment was clean everytime it was used. I’ve never seen one like you are discribing.

    May you should try another one and you might be surprised. I would hate to have you think all of them were like the one you went to. I can tell you when you walk into a barn and the floors are cleaner than the ones at home it is pretty amazing. You just want to know how to get yours that way. Sorry you had a bad experience like that. Try tasting while you are there you might be surprised. Don’t forget the butter or cheese.

  9. Just to clear something up I’m not one of these eco-nuts. I just had good times as a kid. I even had my milk,eggs and butter delivered from a local dairy after I got married. My thing is eat,drink and what ever makes you happy. I agree with the above comment even if I don’t like something I’m not going to blow something up. I am not a big fish person but if you like it, great. Each to their own. But some of the stuff the vegamore crowd eat wouldn’t be in my house.

  10. It is possible to overdo the idea of a completely germ free environment. There is some data suggesting that kids exposed as infants to allergens may have less allergic responses later on. Read “The Bunny, And The Baby, And The Profilactic Pub”, a poem I think by Thurber from the 1930s.
    But Danny is right. Almost no one alive in 2007 knows of or remembers the hedious mortality rate from raw milk in the pre-pasturised era. Just like they don’t recall the death and damage from polio, pertussis, small pox, and all the other diseases we have virtually relegated to historical footnotes. At least in America.
    The taste I am sure is great. If someone wants to drink it, That’s their choice. But the bottle of raw milk should have a warning label on it, just like a bottle of good scotch has, and the imbiber should not be allowed to sue for failure to be told the raw milk is associated with diarrheal disease. One must be responsible for themselves.
    Al

  11. I read the article Book linked to. The people in the article are convinced that raw milk is superior to the processed product. They seem to have a reasonable point, if debatable.

    In no way did I see that they wanted to ban the processed product and force everyone back to the raw product. Quite the opposite! Many advocates of processed milk are the ones who want to shut the raw milkers down.

    These people are (or should be) well aware of the potential dangers as pointed out by advocates of processed milk. I have no problem with them doing so. Nor with them feeding their children in a manner they are convinced is superior.

    In contrast, I do support government regulation on vaccinations, because I find the anti-vaccination arguments unpersuasive; and the evidence across the world is that vaccination works. I do suppose that is a violation of my general libertarian philosophy, and my belief that parents, not government nor government schools, should control every non-abusive aspect of their childrens’ lives.

  12. A lot of it, as I seem to recall, simply has to do with storage and access. I grew up farming, never had a glass of pasteurized milk until I was having lunch at school, and never noticed. If you had a cow, you milked her, and most of what she produced was consumed on the spot, by you and those with whom you shared the milk. (A good cow in those days would produce between three and four gallons a day – a lot for one family of four, but shared between half a dozen households, not so bad.)

    But you didn’t store raw milk – you drank it. Nobody kept it: everybody knew it wouldn’t keep. Pasteurization, along with bacteria removal, helped with that: getting it to market. Pasteurization was of course already the norm (I’m not THAT old!) but this was farming country, and there were lots of “family” cows that provided for their owners – though their product didn’t go to market. The milk was consumed raw. I never heard of a case of ungulent fever in the neighborhood, either.

    Hmm… taste difference. Not really huge, as a matter of fact. I have some cousins who dairy-farm, and when there we still drink it raw all the time, but I haven’t been there in a couple of years now, and my memory isn’t throwing anything major as regards taste at me.

    I think some of this comes back to the old, and probably valid, theory that cooking tends to destroy a lot of the nutrition content of foods. A steak closer to the raw end than to the charred end loses less in the process, or at least there are those who say so.

    It is possible to do too much of a good thing. We routinely process things we might utilize away, and Al is not the only person to encounter the concept that the way you develop immunities is through exposure. (After all, what is the allergy-immunization process but sustained and controlled exposure?)

    Any cow that stepped on her own udder, by the way, is one seriously old cow! The cow beside her in the byre may step on her, particularly if they were lying down and then scrambling to get up – that happens all the time; but if her udder’s sagged to the point where she can step on it herself – whew! She’s just about done anyway.

  13. Mike,
    The impression I got from the article was that it was the regulators who seemed to be most concerned about people drinking raw milk. It’s understandable, they’re charged with keeping the food supply safe.
    If you want to expand the discussion into vaccinations, this string could become years long. It is lively topic at pediatric conferences. Vaccinations have saved more lives than all other medical interventions combined. Vaccinations are the most effective and efficient method of protecting life. And there are people out there who scream, holler, and foam at the mouth about the evils of giving kids shots. And there are lawyers who have made lots of lettuce convincing a jury that the manufacturer and the doctor where practicing bad medicine.(sorry, DQ)
    The question as to who has the final say in whether the kid gets the shot can raise the blood pressure. There are docs who would pass a mandatory vaccination law. They believe that they know better than the non-professional. I am uneasy with that position, partly because some vaccines have been recalled for various reasons. At the same time, when a parent refuses a flu shot for their ten month old, I unavoidably get mad, though I try not to show it. The morbidity and mortality rate of kids under two from the flu is the same or greater than the over 65 crowd. My public position is that I’m not God. I don’t have perfect knowledge. So I give the parent all that I know about the particular disease and vaccine, and let them decide.
    It usually gets the message across.
    Al

  14. I guess I’m a little sensitive to this because I knew a gal who almost died from drinking raw milk. I’m forgetting the name of her illness, but it was one that comes only from raw milk. I also know that, while pasteurization kills some vitamins, the fact is that our body doesn’t absorb all the vitamins in raw milk anyway.

    I’m truly not a crazy germophobe, but I do feel that the industrialization of milk production means that things are mixed together — and the greatest number of people are therefore most safe if pasteurization is the standard.

  15. I drink about a gallon or two of whole milk every week.

    People are trying to make themselves connoisseurs by joining the clubs and all that jazz. If these people are dumb enough to want to die because of a fashion statement, then my blessings to them.

    I drink milk because the high heated versions aren’t impure like water that is contaminated. And if I’m going to be buying bottled water, I might as well buy milk and get the high dose of vitamins and protein. The protein is very important, and also it is a miniature Adkins diet. Been doing this for many years since I was a child. I didn’t even know about the diet until I heard people talking about it on the net.

    There seems to be this hunger for “natural” products. I can sympathize if not always approve.

  16. Book,
    I live in the city and I would NEVER attempt to drink raw milk. I rely on my pasteurized milk being good two weeks after I put it in the fridge. Those drinking raw milk are increasing their risk. I think people have the right to increase their risks if they choose… even though some, like your friend, lose the bet. I’m glad she made it.

    I’m not interested in risk-free living, though I strongly believe in caution and prudence. My toaster need not say “This appliance does not accept forks.” A twelve foot ladder and a warning sticker that says “Please do not do handstands on the top rung of this product” are not a necessary combo.

  17. I meant to say, I’m glad she survived the failed risk, not that she made the risk itself.

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