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Munchies

Getting Real About the Fear Behind Raw Milk

Lately, there's a rising fear in food—people have developed a strange aversion to anything that isn't shrink-wrapped with a barcode on it. But when the issue behind raw milk bubbles to the surface, the cheese world is swimming in a sea of it. Here's...

by Charlotte Kamin
Feb 24 2015, 3:00pm

You can eat nothing but twigs and grapes and be considered healthy. You can omit chewing altogether, choosing instead to drink all of your substances and be thought of as a progressive nutritionist. You can ignore sugar, kill caffeine; slaughter gluten. There are a lot of dieting trends out there.

But it's the climate of fear in food that has risen substantially in the last few decades. People have developed a strange aversion to anything that isn't shrink-wrapped with a barcode on it. Sure, there are people who understand that a steak is great—the kind that comes from a cow who grazes on grass and lives in fresh air versus its pumped-up-with-antibiotics cousin.

Yet in this rise of contradicting hysterias, there has been a movement towards raw foods, and the cheese world is chock-full of them. We're swimming in both the raw and pasteurized stuff. We have already established that you take milk (cow, sheep, goat, buffalo, whatever), add enzyme and rennet, and then heat the milk up to start the chemistry spectacular that is turning liquid into solid.

To quickly refresh your mind: Pasteurization is the process of heating up milk to the range around 140-165 degrees Farenheit for 15-30 seconds. You see, Monsieur Pasteur discovered bacteria a long time ago and then discovered how to kill them. In 'Merica, we love to do things fast, like scalding the shit out of milk to ensure those germs are long gone.

The FDA is even currently trying to ban raw milk cheeses in the US—the stuff that is both made AND imported. Pasteurized milk tastes like crap in my humble cheesemonger opinion, and it gets boosted with flavor by way of sugar. And when you pasteurize something, you also kill a lot of the nutrients and have the need to add things back in, like calcium and vitamin D. Cheese that is made with pasteurized milk is not all bad, though, just like cheese made from raw milk is not all good; this has everything to do with the cheesemaker. At the core, I'm concerned about the fear of raw milk.

Cheese is a living being, and thus needs to be handled with care. The Big-Ag system does not have the time to handle with care, so they would rather omit. In the last eight years, there have been three instances in which people have gotten sick from listeria. The milk WAS pasteurized and probably handled incorrectly—like in and out of hot and cold temperatures—or fondled in a facility that processes raw chicken, or someone pissed in the vat. Who knows.

So while people are dying from spinach that's been growing on giant industrial farms with irrigation systems that are filled with an overflow of septic tanks, the FDA is busy shining their lights on small cheese makers. Quinoa is the super food, but not after you bleach the shit out of it to meet the USDA's guidelines for products coming from South America. If you love raw food and the latest food trends, come get some unpasteurized cheese while we can still get it in this country.