Milk in the Raw
Author and food activist Nina Planck was raised on a family farm in Virginia, where she learned to appreciate "real," traditional foods. She worked as a reporter for TIME Magazine and wrote speeches for the U.S. ambassador to London before opening the first farmers’ markets in London. Today her company, London Farmers’ Markets, runs fourteen markets. She is the author of two books: "Real Food: What to Eat and Why," and "Real Food for Mother and Baby: The Fertility Diet, Eating for Two, and Baby's First Foods."
Planck is a Big Think Delphi Fellow.
Question: Why are you such a \r\nbig fan of\r\ndairy?\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n
Nina Planck: \r\nI’m a\r\ngreat fan of dairy products for humans, in general. But dairy is a very \r\ncomplex\r\nfood socially and nutritionally and culturally and so it requires a \r\nlittle\r\nbit… that statement requires a\r\nlittle bit of unpacking. Many,\r\nmany cultures thrive on dairy products of all kinds. The\r\n best dairy products are traditional, so they come from\r\ngrass-fed cows. The milk is\r\nun-homogenized. The milk is\r\nideally unpasteurized or raw because there are many heat-sensitive \r\nnutrients in\r\nmilk and then those dairy products are often prepared in traditional \r\nways, so\r\nusually fermented or cultured, made into cheese or yogurt or butter, \r\nwhich is\r\nreally just removing everything but the fat, ghee, which is truly \r\neverything\r\nbut the fat. So we start there. The\r\n best dairy is traditional and is\r\noften prepared in a way that makes it more digestible for people who are\r\n not\r\naccustomed to consuming fresh dairy products in adulthood. \r\n\r\n\r\n
So\r\n it has been\r\nsuggested that many people are lactose-intolerant. This\r\n isn’t really accurate. What we’re actually \r\ndescribing is in adulthood we stop\r\nproducing lactase, the enzyme which helps us breakdown fresh milk. We’re all born producing lots and lots\r\nof lactase because we are mammals and we’re breast-fed traditionally. \r\nSo in a\r\nfew cultures the adults carryon producing this enzyme, which allows them\r\n to\r\ndigest fresh milk, but particularly if they lived in hot cultures they \r\nweren’t\r\nable to keep fresh milk from spoiling hence, the production of yogurt \r\nand other\r\nthings to keep fresh milk around for more than a day or two. So if you \r\nhave a look\r\nyou can find actually the ability to continue to produce lactase in \r\nadulthood\r\nhas arisen as a genetic capacity, as a competence of the human body in \r\nmultiple\r\nplaces in human history, so lots of people can produce the lactase to \r\ndigest\r\nfresh milk and a number of those genetic mutations, for that is what \r\nthey are,\r\nhave occurred in Africa as well. \r\nSo the idea that I’m Asian or I’m African, of African or Asian \r\norigin,\r\nand I can’t digest milk is simply untrue. \r\nThat said, there are cultures who thrive without dairy products \r\naltogether. There are some in Asia. And it is \r\nquite possibly to feed a human beautifully without consuming any\r\ndairy products. So the question is where to get the nutrients dairy \r\nproducts\r\ncontain. In the historic,\r\ntraditional fairly recent American diet dairy products are just flat-out\r\n one of\r\nthe best sources of fat-soluble vitamins A and D and of calcium. They’re a beautiful, beautiful,\r\nbeautiful balanced recipe for protein, fat and carbohydrates, which is \r\none of\r\nthe reasons I love milk for children and pregnant women and nursing\r\nmothers. And you can, if you need\r\nto, get these nutrients somewhere else, so the place to get them if you \r\ndon’t\r\nthrive on or care for dairy products in bone broth for the calcium and \r\nother\r\nminerals, so chicken soup, beef broth, veal stock. And the vitamins A \r\nand D\r\nyou’ll get from seafood and pork products, egg yolks too.
Question: Is it really safe to\r\n drink raw,\r\nunpasteurized milk?\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n
Nina Planck: \r\nWell\r\nthe first thing to understand about the FDA is that the USDA and FDA and\r\n other\r\ngovernment institutions are very critical of traditional foods. Without actually applying objective\r\nstandards to how those traditional foods might be prepared in a safe and\r\nhealthy and hygienic manner and so all their numbers on raw milk are\r\ndubious. There are a number of\r\nfood borne contaminants and illnesses, which are pose a much, much \r\ngreater risk\r\nto you and me statistically than the consumption of raw milk.\r\n
That said, if you choose to consume\r\ntraditional foods such as raw fish, which I eat, or raw milk, which I \r\ndrink and\r\nmy whole family drinks – including our children – you need to be \r\nabsolutely sure\r\nof the source and find someone who cares a great deal about traditional \r\nmethods\r\nof production and hygiene. So why\r\ndo we drink raw milk even though there is a small chance we’ll get sick? Well I find first after doing all my\r\nresearch that I trust the traditional food chain more than I trust the\r\nindustrial food chain. There are a\r\nnumber or risks from eating industrial food and I try to minimize and \r\navoid\r\nthose risks too. We drink raw milk\r\nsimply because it’s got more good food in it, so there are a couple of \r\nheat-sensitive nutrients in raw milk, which are of interest. One is heat-sensitive vitamins. Some\r\n of the B vitamins are damaged by\r\npasteurization. Another is that\r\nthe fats are rather delicate in milk. \r\nThe omega-3 fats are sensitive to heat and there will be omega-3 \r\nfats in\r\ngrass-fed milk and so it’s nice to preserve those. Another\r\n is enzymes, which help you digest the other\r\nnutrients in milk, so here are some enzymes which are deactivated or \r\notherwise\r\nsomehow limited after pasteurization. \r\nLipase, which helps you digest lipids or fats. Phosphatase, which\r\n helps\r\nyou absorb calcium, a key nutrient in milk, which is why raw milk \r\ncontains more\r\navailable calcium. And our old friend lactase, the enzyme that helps you\r\n digest\r\nlactose, the basic carbohydrate in milk and there are tons of milk \r\nsugars, but\r\nlactose is the big one, is damaged by pasteurization. So I have met not a\r\n few\r\npeople who say they were doubled over from gut pain when they drank milk\r\n and\r\nconcluded they were so-called lactose-intolerant, who drank fresh, \r\nclean, raw milk\r\nwithout any trouble. Well, it\r\ncontains plenty of lactase.\r\n\r\n\r\n
Question: What's so great \r\nabout organic\r\neggs?\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n
Nina Planck: \r\nThere\r\nis a lot to understand about real eggs and industrial eggs and there is a\r\n vast\r\ndifference between them. That said, I want my bumper sticker to be that \r\neggs\r\nare real food and everyone should eat real food because they are also a \r\ngreat\r\nfood. A whole fresh egg – that is\r\nthe yolk, the white inside the shell – they’re a great frugal real food.\r\n So if\r\nyou’re anywhere near the poverty line eat eggs anyway wherever you can \r\nfind\r\nthem, just don’t eat some kind of fake egg or re-engineered and \r\nreassembled egg.
So now what is the best egg? An \r\nindustrial egg comes from a\r\nchicken. She is in a little cage\r\nwith some other chickens. There are… \r\nI have been on chicken farms where the farmer was boasting the he\r\n put\r\nonly three hens in a cage, which actually permits nine. The\r\n chickens were still on top of each\r\nother. She never goes\r\noutdoors. Artificial light tells\r\nher little ovaries when to lay an egg and she is fed chickenfeed that \r\nmay\r\ncontain other animal parts. It may\r\ncontain plate waste or parts of pigs or cattle or other chicken. And \r\nthat is\r\nbecause the chicken is an omnivore. \r\nShe can’t live on grass and plants alone. She\r\n needs some protein. She needs some bugs. \r\nShe needs some corn and other grain and her eggs are – in \r\naddition to\r\ncausing suffering to the laying hen herself – her eggs lack the rich \r\nvitamin A\r\nthat she would get from eating the beta-carotene in grass and they lack \r\nthe\r\nomega-3 fats, which she would get from eating worms and bugs if she were\r\nactually running around.\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\nSo,\r\n then we have\r\norganic eggs, which are typically fed vegetarian feed. That\r\n is a good thing because they’re\r\nnot eating other ground up animals. \r\nIt’s a bad thing because chickens really do want to be outside \r\nand if\r\nthey had been outside a little they would have eaten a worm. They wouldn’t be strictly\r\nvegetarian. You might find a free\r\nrange on the label with or without the term organic. She’ll\r\n be eating organic feed, so there are no pesticides in\r\nher feed, which is a good thing. \r\nIf you see the term "free-range" this merely means that she is \r\nnot caged\r\nand there is a wide range of actual practices, which attach to the label\r\n "free-range." So "free-range" is better, but not necessarily great. It doesn’t mean necessarily that she\r\ngoes outside and so the happiest hen with the healthiest eggs for you is\r\n a so-called "pastured hen" and it means that she goes outside and in \r\nthe dead of the\r\nwinter they can send them outside too. \r\nThere is not a lot to eat out there in say upstate New York, \r\nwhich is my\r\nregion in the dead of winter. I\r\nknow farmers who throw alfalfa sprouts and other things over the side, \r\nso their\r\nchickens are getting some greenery. \r\nScratching in the dirt is what chickens love most of all and \r\nthey’ll do\r\nit even in the snow, so look for the term "pastured" if you can.
The farmers' market pioneer explains why she and her family drink unpasteurized, unhomogenized milk, and why the rewards outweigh the risks.
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