What’s The Deal With Dairy?

A new year has begun which means many people are jumping into the confusing world of health, diets and nutrition. We, at the market, would like to take this opportunity to highlight a controversial product being sold on Saturday mornings-dairy.

We have long heard about the health benefits of dairy products. However, the milk we drink and the cheese we eat today is vastly different than 60 years ago. Until we standardized how we processed milk in the 1930s, food-borne illness caused by dairy (and other animal products) were more common than they are today. The milk that was causing these illnesses came from farms that looked more like factories and, in trying to keep up with industrialization, kept the cows closer together in dirty cages and used grain to feed them instead of grass. At the same time, our populations were growing and moving from the country into cities. The distance between us and milk grew but the self-life of milk did not increase until we started to use pasteurization.

Pasteurization is simply heating up the milk to kill the bacteria that causes it to spoil faster and spread a food borne illness. Pasteurization was first used in the production of alcohol but was eventually applied to milk. Milton Joseph Rosenou established the standards for milk pasteurization in the early 20th century. There is low-temp milk which is heated to 140 °F for 20 minutes, High-Temp, Short-Time (HTST) is heated to 161 °F for 15 seconds (this the industry standard) and Ultra-High Temp (UHT) which is heated to 284 °F for four seconds– at this point the milk is sterilized, not pasteurized, and kills everything in the milk.

While we need this kind of standardization at the industrial level because it is the only way for large dairy factories to keep profits up and milk safe, we lose the actual health benefits from milk processed in this way. When you drink conventional milk most nutrients have been added back in, there are no beneficial enzymes and all that is left is the hard to digest fat and proteins. You also have to worry about the over-use of antibiotics, which is quite common in any conventional animal product.
At this point, you might feel a bit frustrated. You want good, healthy dairy products but where do you go and how do know it’s safe? Look no further than the Waco Downtown Farmers Market!

Here at the market all our vendors and their products come from a 150-mile radius making everything as local as can be. So you can feel safe drinking low-temp milk, which still hangs on to the beneficial nutrients, enzymes and beneficial bacteria like lactobacillus acidophilus unlike it pasteurized counterpart. Lucky for us, Richardson Farms has just started bringing low-temp milk to the market!

You can also find good cultured cheese at the Brazos Valley Cheese Shop. They make cheese the old way, by adding certain enzymes and bacteria to milk, which causes the milk’s primary proteins — caseins — to coagulate. The clumps that form are called curds, and the remaining liquid, called whey, is drained from the curds. When the whey is drained away so is much of the lactose. What little lactose is left in the cheese further diminishes as it ages. Yes, folks, if you are lactose intolerant you can eat aged, hard cheeses with no discomfort.

If all this concern about dairy has you worried about other animal products, there are also a number of vendors who sell grass fed, free range beef, pork, chicken and eggs. One of the best perks about shopping at the Farmers Market is that you can talk directly to the farmer and learn about every aspect of the product you are buying. So stop by the Waco Downtown Farmers Market this Saturday and celebrate being able to make healthier, more educated choices.

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