Milk in the Raw

Question: Why are you such a \r\nbig fan of\r\ndairy?

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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

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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.

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Question: Is it really safe to\r\n drink raw,\r\nunpasteurized milk?

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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.  

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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.

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Question: What's so great \r\nabout organic\r\neggs?

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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. 
\r\n

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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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Kosovo land swap could end conflict - or restart war

Best case: redrawing borders leads to peace, prosperity and EU membership. But there's also a worst case

Image: SRF
Strange Maps
  • The Yugoslav Wars started in 1991, but never really ended
  • Kosovo and Serbia are still enemies, and they're getting worse
  • A proposed land swap could create peace - or reignite the conflict

The death of Old Yugoslavia

Image: public domain

United Yugoslavia on a CIA map from 1990.

Wars are harder to finish than to start. Take for instance the Yugoslav Wars, which raged through most of the 1990s.

The first shot was fired at 2.30 pm on June 27th, 1991, when an officer in the Yugoslav People's Army took aim at Slovenian separatists. When the YPA retreated on July 7th, Slovenia was the first of Yugoslavia's republics to have won its independence.

After the wars

Image: Ijanderson977, CC BY-SA 3.0 / Wikimedia Commons

Map of former Yugoslavia in 2008, when Kosovo declared its independence. The geopolitical situation remains the same today.

The Ten-Day War cost less than 100 casualties. The other wars – in Croatia, Bosnia and Kosovo (1) – lasted much longer and were a lot bloodier. By early 1999, when NATO had forced Serbia to concede defeat in Kosovo, close to 140,000 people had been killed and four million civilians displaced.

So when was the last shot fired? Perhaps it wasn't: it's debatable whether the Yugoslav Wars are actually over. That's because Kosovo is a special case. Although inhabited by an overwhelming ethnic-Albanian majority, Serbians are historically very attached to it. More importantly, from a legalistic point of view: Kosovo was never a separate republic within Yugoslavia but rather a (nominally) autonomous province within Serbia.

Kosovo divides the world

Image: public domain

In red: states that recognise the independence of Kosovo (most EU member states – with the notable exceptions of Spain, Greece, Romania and Slovakia; and the U.S., Japan, Turkey and Egypt, among many others). In blue: states that recognise Serbia's sovereignty over Kosovo (most notably Russia and China, but also other major countries such as India, Brazil, Mexico, South Africa and Iran).

The government of Serbia has made its peace and established diplomatic relations with all other former Yugoslav countries, but not with Kosovo. In Serbian eyes, Kosovo's declaration of independence in 2008 was a unilateral and therefore legally invalid change of state borders. Belgrade officially still considers Kosovo a 'renegade province', and it actually has a lot of international support for that position (2).

The irony is that on the longer term, both Kosovo and Serbia want the same thing: EU membership. Ironically, that wish could lead to Yugoslav reunification some years down the road – within the EU. Slovenia and Croatia have already joined, and all other ex-Yugoslav states would like to follow their example. Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia have already submitted an official application. The EU considers Bosnia and Kosovo 'potential candidates'.

Kosovo is the main stumbling block on Serbia's road to EU membership. Even after the end of hostilities, skirmishes continued, between the ethnically Albanian majority and the ethnically Serbian minority within Kosovo, and vice versa in Serbian territories directly adjacent. Tensions are dormant at best. A renewed outbreak of armed conflict is not unthinkable.

Land for peace?

Image: BBC

Mitrovica isn't the only area majority-Serb area in Kosovo, but the others are enclaved and fear being abandoned in a land swap.

In fact, relations between Kosovo and Serbia have deteriorated spectacularly in the past few months. At the end of November, Kosovo was refused membership of Interpol, mainly on the insistence of Serbia. In retaliation, Kosovo imposed a 100% tariff on all imports from Serbia. After which Serbia's prime minister Ana Brnabic refused to exclude her country's "option" to intervene militarily in Kosovo. Upon which Kosovo's government decided to start setting up its own army – despite its prohibition to do so as one of the conditions of its continued NATO-protected independence.

The protracted death of Yugoslavia will be over only when this conflict is finally resolved. The best way to do that, politicians on both sides have suggested, is for the borders reflect the ethnic makeup of the frontier between Kosovo and Serbia.

The biggest and most obvious pieces of the puzzle are the Serbian-majority district of Mitrovica in northern Kosovo, and the Albanian-majority Presevo Valley, in southwestern Serbia. That land swap was suggested previous summer by Hashim Thaci and Aleksandar Vucic, presidents of Kosovo and Serbia respectively. Best-case scenario: that would eliminate the main obstacle to mutual recognition, joint EU membership and future prosperity.

If others can do it...

Image: Ruland Kolen

Belgium and the Netherlands recently adjusted out their common border to conform to the straightened Meuse River.

Sceptics and not a few locals warn that there also is a worst-case scenario: the swap could rekindle animosities and restart the war. A deal along those lines would almost certainly exclude six Serbian-majority municipalities enclaved deep within Kosovo. While Serbian Mitrovica, which borders Serbia proper, is home to some 40,000 inhabitants, those enclaves represent a further 80,000 ethnic Serbs – who fear being totally abandoned in a land swap, and eventually forced out of their homes.

Western powers, which sponsored Kosovar independence, are divided over the plan. U.S. officials back the idea, as do some within the EU. But the Germans are against – they are concerned about the plan's potential to fire up regional tensions rather than eliminate them.

In principle, countries consider their borders inviolate and unchanging, but land swaps are not unheard of. Quite recently, Belgium and the Netherlands exchanged territories so their joint border would again match up with the straightened course of the Meuse river (3). But those bits of land were tiny, and uninhabited. And as the past has amply shown, borders carry a lot more weight in the Balkans.

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