Reluctant dairy queen

Shortly after I stopped eating meat five-and-a-half years ago, I also eliminated almost all animal products from my diet.  I traded in cow’s milk for soy milk, and stopped buying eggs, cheese, and other dairy products.  To make this manageable, I never set a hard and fast, “Thou shalt not eat any animal products” rule, so if you offered me a nice homemade baked good, I enjoyed it, knowing full well that it had eggs in it.

I was a bit more stringent with the dairy, especially avoiding cheese and other fatty dairy products. My dairy avoidance was due, in part, to some anti-dairy explanation of milk as, “Filtered cow’s blood.”  Scientifically, that may be true, in a sense, but stating it as such shows some definite anti-milk bias.  Though if you want to talk about bias in the dairy industry, the pro-milk studies funded by dairy associations would be a better starting point.  I digress.  (I have other issues with/questions about milk, both on the environmental and health fronts, but I’ll save those for another day.)

Time passed, and my not-so-hard-and-fast rule turned into a less-hard-and-fast rule, and next thing you know, I’m writing posts like this one.  Since writing that post, we continue to purchase raw milk, though we switched to another local dairy, Greenwood Farms, because they sell certified raw milk, meaning they test their milk regularly and comply with stringent standards.  For all I know, Lavy Dairy’s milk MAY meet those same standards, but I do kind of like having the assurance.  Greenwood Farms milk does have a couple of downsides: 1) It costs more than 3 times (!) as much as the certified organic milk from Lavy Dairy and 2) Greenwood Farms uses standard plastic (read: non-reusable) milk jugs.  On the upside, they offer pick-ups at Tower Grove Farmers’ Market, which, compared to driving to Silex, MO, is almost as good as home delivery.

Although freezing milk, which we did with our large Lavy Dairy purchase, does not ruin it, it does change it a bit, and we prefer to avoid that with our premium-price product.  However, for two people who don’t actually drink milk, consuming a gallon of the stuff before it goes bad presents a bit of a challenge (it seems to stay good for about 10 days, which is similar to the point when pasteurized milk goes bad).  We plan to experiment with cheese making, but we don’t have the cultures and vegetable rennet.  In the meantime, we’ve been making yogurt and ice cream.

After several edible but imperfect yogurt attempts (flavor not quite right, too thin, strange consistency), I remembered that we had a yogurt maker growing up.  A quick call to my mom confirmed that said yogurt maker still existed, plus two others that my parents acquired at garage sales over the years, all sitting in the basement, quite neglected.  While I certainly was not about to go out and buy a yogurt maker, I happily adopted one of my parents’ trio.

I greeted the new appliance with some suspicion, since it just barely felt warm when I plugged it in to preheat it.  After about seven hours, I very skeptically opened one of the yogurt containers to find . . .  perfect yogurt!

What with the milk, homemade yogurt and ice cream, and local cheese purchases, I somehow find myself eating dairy (often a relatively small amount that wouldn’t count as an official “serving”) at least once a day, if not more.  I’m not sure how I feel about that.

Milk!

Several weeks ago, a friend turned us on to the milk from Lavy Dairy Farms in Silex, MO, just north of St. Louis.  Their listing on the Local Harvest website (linked above) reads as follows:

“The Lavy Dairy Farm is a certified organic Grade A licensed dairy. Family owned and operated. We sell quality organic raw milk. Our cows are cross bred for high protein and butterfat.”

Not only is their milk organic and local, the cows are pasture-fed (except in winter).  We finally visited in-person on the way home from Iowa yesterday.  For the amazing price of $3/gallon, we left with four gallons of beautiful milk.  Until we found the Lavy Dairy Farm, the lowest price we’d seen for this product (local, organic, pastured milk) was $10/gallon.

Now here’s the part that gets me.  They produce more milk than they sell directly to customers (like us), so every other day, a big truck comes to empty their milk tanks.  Due to the low demand for organic milk, they cannot get on an organic pick-up route at this time.  Their amazing milk that comes from cows tended with such care gets mixed in with all the other milk from factory-farm dairies!  Such a tragedy.

I don’t have exact numbers, but some quick peeking at milk commodity prices indicates that they make a mere $1 (rough average) per gallon on milk that they sell on a large scale.  They can sell their milk directly to customers (like us), but not directly to stores or at farmers’ markets because it is unpasteurized.

If you’re not sure that buying local food makes a difference, this proves that it does.  In this case, even selling at the bargain price of $3/gallon, the farmer makes $2 PER GALLON more when selling locally.  The Lavy Farm, and countless others like it, require [more] customers who value high-quality, healthy food produced in an environmentally-conscious manner.  Vote with your dollars!

I had my heart set on seeing some calves (and posting some adorable pictures here), but that was not to be. Due to the ever-present rain, we didn’t get to see as much of the farm as we hoped yesterday, but that just leaves something to look forward to on a future milk run!