A couple of little-known facts about me are about to be revealed. First, few people, other than my mom and my husband, know that I am a terrible liar. When confronted, my eyes get all twitchy, I start hyperventilating and before I know it, I have to blurt out the truth. Even if I try, those who know me can tell by the tone of my voice that I’m lying. So, as you can imagine, I try not to be in situations that force me to do so.
This brings me to my next revelation: I’ve broken the law and I may even, by the end of this column, be encouraging others to do the same. Speeding ticket? Nope. Littering? Never. What did I do? I drank raw milk. And I liked it.
To put some context around this scandal, since March of this year, I found that I was unable to consume any dairy products, not even the locally-sourced organic milk from Avalon. Instead, my alternative is imported soy, almond or hemp, usually packaged in awful, one-time-use cartons.
For me, to not be able to eat dairy products is a pretty big deal. I’ve been a vegetarian for over 25 years and dairy products made up a huge portion of my protein intake. I’ve had to say good-bye to a whole range of foods, including most Italian dishes (pesto without parmesan?), creamy desserts, and most Mexican meals, apart from rice & beans. The food I miss the most, however, is masala chai – the milky, spicy tea that I drink almost daily during the winter.
After hearing about my distress, a friend offered to deliver some raw milk to see if I would tolerate it. If you haven’t heard of “raw milk” it’s basically what all milk was prior to the 1950’s: unpasteurized and full cream. Health Canada views raw milk as a health hazard, citing the fact that it has the potential to carry TB, salmonella & E. coli. It’s illegal to sell it or even give it away.
But, after trying it for breakfast three days in a row without the subsequent tummy trouble, I’d much prefer to drink raw milk from a local cow than import a non-dairy replacement from thousands of miles away. It just doesn’t make sense to attach all that carbon onto my diet so that I don’t have to take my cereal dry. And, knowing that there are risks associated with drinking raw milk, you would think that I, as an adult, should be able to make that decision.
But, apparently not. Health Canada, in all of their wisdom, okays the sale of tobacco in Canada, with all its related health costs, but refuses to allow consenting adults to purchase unpasteurized milk. So, people like me who cannot tolerate any dairy other than raw, have to pretty much break the law in order to do so.
There are now a number of cow-shares across the country. When you become a member, you purchase part of a dairy cow. Milk is a “dividend” from owning the share. Recently, “Home on the Range” was found in contempt of court for distributing milk this way. So, the raw milk movement has really moved “underground” and unless you already know someone who’s already accessing the milk, it’s almost impossible to find.
But, I’m hoping that when ordinary folk, like you and me, begin speaking out, it’ll make a difference. In the meantime, I totally admit that I drank raw milk and I hope to be able to do it again!