Mmmmmm, fresh milk straight from the farm. Creamy, yellow milk, inspected and certified as sanitary, from happy, organic, grass-fed Jersey cows. No heat to kill the healthy bacteria and enzymes. No homogenization to break up and redistribute the fat molecules. Just pure, whole milk, from the hand of a farmer I know. (Don't even try this with milk from industrial dairies!)
If I lived in 28 states, that would be the end of the story. I'd have what more and more people are considering an elixir of health, brimming with lactase-producing enzymes to break down milk's sugar, lactose, plus omega-3s, healthy bacteria whose benefits are still being discovered, and the fat-soluble vitamins A and D.
Five more states, however, including Georgia, do not allow the sale of unpasteurized milk for human consumption. And so I end up on the wink, wink road to what is legal--the sale of raw milk labeled as Pet Milk, for which people are lining up at farms and farmers markets all over the state.
As for the rest of the states, some of them allow what is called "cow shares," where people pay for part of a cow because they are allowed to consume the milk from cows they own. The remaining states don't allow the sale of raw milk at all. Click here to find out the legal status of raw milk in your state, as well as where you can find it.
This is a very fascinating issue to me. A year ago, I didn't even know this issue existed. Now, as I research raw milk more and more, and find increasing references to it in books and articles (most notably, in Nina Planck's quite shockingly interesting book Real Food, although there is also a great Washington Post article that you might find illuminating). Turns out that good ole' Louis Pasteur and his life-saving pasteurization process did certainly do a great service back in the 1930s when inner-city children were dying from diseases gotten from milk from filthy inner-city distillery dairies. But pasteurization was never intended for farm-fresh milk outside the city. It wasn't until the 1940s that pasteurization was required for all milk. Hmm, let me see. 1940s. That was about the time of the repurposed WWII nerve agents being used as pesticides, wasn't it? Again, my generation may not realize that the food processes with which we grew up, and which we somehow think of as normal, are only 50 or 60 years old.
Anyway, I'm not so sure how I feel about the raw milk yet. I don't love the "not for human consumption" label staring me in the face when I open my refrigerator (it is legal to use it for human consumption, by the way, so you won't get in any trouble if you choose not to limit its use for your cat, although, gosh, your cat would be happy if you did!). I don't like that if I were one state over, in South Carolina, this exact same milk would be legal on the farm and in some retail locations.
I think this issue is going to get more press and notoriety in the upcoming years. If you don't know about raw milk yet, do some research on it. It is truly food for thought. If you do know about it, weigh in (or "whey" in!) with some comments! Tell us what you know and let's put the winks aside and get real eye-opening conversation going!