got (Local) milk?
Dairy products take first prize for the food group that caused me the most angst during the past few years as I converted my diet to local and real foods.
Well, for starters, this is the food group for which I have had the most difficulty finding local sources. I’m not sure why this has been the case…perhaps it’s because certain local milk products cannot legally be sold in stores or at farmer’s markets in Nebraska, making them slightly elusive.
Dairy is also the one food group for which converting to local products presented me with a choice that I was not even close to being informed enough to make: raw vs. pasteurized milk!
If you have no idea what I’m talking about, just hang in there. Three years ago, I didn’t know the difference, either, which is why I’m bringing you this article—in hopes of making things a bit easier on some of you.
Raw vs. Pasteurized Dairy
There are a variety of local dairy products available in our area. They vary widely in terms of whether they are pasteurized, raw, and/or homogenized. So let’s make sure we are all clear on what these terms mean…
Pasteurized milk - milk that has been heated to a temperature hot enough to kill living organisms (i.e., bacteria), essentially sterilizing the product. All milk available at stores in Nebraska has been pasteurized, as required by state law.
Raw milk – milk that is unprocessed and never heated. This is the opposite of pasteurized milk.
Homogenized milk - milk that has undergone an additional process to break up the fat particles so that they are uniformly small and evenly distributed (i.e., the fat/cream won’t rise to the top like our grandparents were accustomed to). Raw milk is never homogenized. Pasteurized milk may or may not be homogenized, and there are no laws requiring homogenization. A few pasteurized brands commercially available in the Omaha area are not homogenized, but most are.
Is Your Food Freedom at Stake?
As some of you may realize, raw milk has stirred up quite a bit of controversy in recent years, even appearing in mainstream media from time to time, as in these articles in the Washington Post and Wall Street Journal.
According to the FDA, raw milk is dangerous and unfit for human consumption. However, there are many who vehemently disagree with this conclusion (for example, Mark McAfee, an organic dairy farmer in California, who recorded a video lecture about why he supports raw milk). The Weston A. Price Foundation has even started a campaign for raw milk, arguing that pasteurized milk is harmful to our health and that raw milk is “nature’s perfect food,” capable of preventing and treating many illnesses.
As of 2007, only 26 states allowed some form of raw milk consumption. Currently in Nebraska, all milk that is sold commercially must be pasteurized. By law, raw milk may not be sold in stores in our state. In some states, like California, you can legally purchase raw milk at the grocery store! In Nebraska, if you wish to purchase raw milk, you must do so directly from the farm. In some states it is illegal to sell raw milk at all. For example, in Iowa, you can visit a farm all you want, but you’d better not purchase raw milk there. Produce raw milk for your own family in states like Iowa? No problem. Sell it to your friends and neighbors? Not advised.
Milk is more controversial than you may realize. Sometimes raw milk farmers are even harassed by public health officials. Regardless of the safety debate over raw milk, many farmers and consumers are outraged that our food freedom is being compromised. They insist that educated consumers should be allowed to purchase the foods they want, and they are appalled that people are being stripped of this freedom in many states.
As mentioned above, there is much disagreement about the pros and cons of pasteurization. If you’re a milk drinker, I highly recommend that you research the issue thoroughly and come to your own conclusions. Talk with your local farmers and utilize the plethora of information available on the web; the many hyperlinks included in this article are a great place to start!
Meet Your Local Farmers!
Are you thirsty, now, and ready to get yourself some local milk?
I’ll conclude here by allowing several local dairy farmers to introduce themselves to you. This is not a comprehensive list of dairy providers in the Omaha area. I was unable to reach some of the farmers, and some raw milk farmers prefer not to be mentioned publicly for fear of being harassed by public health officials—even though they are doing nothing wrong. If any of you know of other local sources of pasteurized dairy or of any raw dairy farmers who would like to be mentioned, please feel free to provide that information in the comments section at the end of this article.*
*Please note that many of these farms do sell other products (meat, eggs, produce, etc.), but due to space considerations, only dairy products will be discussed in detail. Please see their individual websites for more information about additional foods they might produce.
Branched Oak Farm is a certified organic dairy farm 16 miles northwest of Lincoln in Lancaster County. They produce raw milk, raw cream, pasteurized yogurt, and raw and pasteurized cheeses (Gouda, Camembert, Quark, Mozzarella, Sonnenburg, and Cheese Curd). read more …
Kvam Family Farm is a 40-acre farm located in rural West Point about 80 miles from Omaha. They make Milk, Farm Fresh Eggs, Raw Honey, Pastured Poultry, Grass Fed Beef and Natural Pork. read more …
Chisholm Family Farm is located at 6205 West Claire Avenue in Lincoln, Nebraska. They produce Grass Fed and Finished Beef, Soy-Free Pastured Pork, Soy-Free PoultryGrass-Fed and Finished Lamb, and Grass-Fed Milk and Cream. read more …
Jisa’s Farmstead Cheese Plant is located near Brainard, Nebraska (2653 Q Road). The dairy is available for tours by request. They make all their cheese from Wholesome Grade A pasteurized milk. read more …
Clear Creek Organic Farms in Spalding, NE won the 2010 Nebraska Sustainable Agriculture Society Sustainable Farmer of the Year award. They make 10 different flavors of cheese, farm milk and cream, and grass fed beef. read more …
ShadowBrook Farm and Dutch Girl Creamery produce Artisan goat cheeses. They make both raw milk and pasteurized cheeses and will soon be adding pasteurized goat yogurt and goat milk to be sold at stores and farmer’s markets in Lincoln and Omaha. read more …
That’s a lot of dairy! What are your favorite local dairy producers? Why do you choose to buy local over the products found in the big chains?
Watch as our illustrious food columnist, Christy Pooschke gets up close and personal with a dairy cow at Kvam Family Farm.