Dear Sally Fallon,
MANY thanks for your wonderfully informative publication and for all your efforts to increase our awareness and improve our health. For the past 10 years I’ve been running a small raw=milk dairy in northwestern Connecticut. In 1995, mine was the first Connecticut livestock farm to become certified organic. Last year, thanks largely to the information you provide, I stopped feeding grain to my cows and it became a totally grass-based dairy.
Health and nutrition have long been my interest. I practiced macrobiotics for six year, studied clinical herbology with Michael S. Moore and was one of the first graduates from the Southwest Acupuncture College. As a dairyman with this rather unusual background, I’d like to share some observations and ruminations.
Oshawa – Price Peace Accord
Macrobiotics’ emphasis on eating whole regionally-grown foods in season and from one’s ancestors’ traditional diet still rings true to me, as does the macrobiotic condemnation of sugars and other sweets. These ideas seem to be in total accord with the tenets of the Weston Price foundation. It is only in the interpretation of these ideas that the two seem to diverge into opposite camps with Macrobiotics championing grains and decrying meant and dairy products while the Weston Price foundation glorifies meat and dairy and recommends grains only with much caution.
Enough is Enough
An often overlooked factor in the “weston Price diet” is the energy balance between acquiring and consuming food. The peoples Price studied needed to exert much more physical energy to acquire a smaller quantity of food than any of the privileged few who read “Wise Traditions”, (myself included). Too much of even the best food stressed the body and is therefore toxic. Our food is so easy to get that the real challenge comes in recognizing how little is enough.
Producing nutrient-dense food requires a tremendous amount of energy — not only great quantities of fossil fuel to feed, house, clean-up after and transport the animals which “grow” them but life energy as well. It takes a hen a full day to produce just one egg. To make 10 – 12 pounds of liver takes a beef animal its entire life of 2 years if conventionally raised — 3 or 4 if raised on grass only. A dairy cow lives for at least 2 years before she calves and starts producing milk. Right now, in the fall, on a diet of half fresh pasture and half dried grass hay, my jersey cows each produce about 2 1/2 gallons of milk a day. These 2 1/2 gallons contain enough fat to make slightly less than 1 pound of butter. Meat, milk, eggs, cheese, and butter are PRECIOUS substances and should be eaten sparingly and with immense gratitude.
Animal Appreciation Day
It is truly a miracle how these animals can convert rocky New England pasture into delicious, nutritious food. No amount of human and/or mechanical energy could convert this sod into a comparably sustaining completely vegetable food.
Traditional diets didn’t rely on refrigeration or long distance transport. As advocates of Weston Price’s work, we need to pay more attention to the seasonality of food; even milk, meat, and eggs.
Left to her own devices, a dairy cow will breed so that she calves in the spring. This way both she and the calf will have plenty of high quality feed to rebuild and grow with so they both will go into the following winter with plenty of vigor and stored nutrients with which to meet its harsh temperature and poorer quality feed. (Similarly, a hen will not lay eggs in the middle of winter unless subjected to artificial lighting.) Our modern eating habits push a farmer to breed her cows so they’ll calve in the fall. When children go back to school, we expect milk for our breakfasts and milk sales go up. This is completely backwards!
Milk quality changes dramatically throughout the year. In spring, when the cows first go out to pasture, the grass is fairly shouting with life. It grows faster than the cows can eat it — full of vitamins, full of enzymes, full of vitality. Cows eating this grass produce golden milk full of vitamins, enzymes, proteins and fat. T me, this milk is the ultimate “health food” and spring tonic. Traditionally, those of us living in the temperate zone would be downing it fresh and busily preserving this elixir as butter and cheese to help carry us through the following winter. The leftover skim, whey, and buttermilk would feed our pigs and chickens.
In the heat of summer, pasture grasses mature and slow in growth. (This last summer was so dry that, for a while, I needed to feed my cows mostly hay.) Milk from cows on summer grass (or hay) is pale in color with fewer nutrients. Supply drops a little but there is still plenty for a growing calf and several humans. In summertime heat, milk begs to clabber. This is the time of year to eat lots of yogurt and soft, fresh cheeses with their unique balance of enzymes and nutrients. Summer provides us with all kinds of green and growing vegetable sustenance as a direct source of the nutrients found mainly in Spring/Early Summer milk.
With autumnal rains, the grass greens up with new growth and the cows’ milk again becomes yellow with beta carotene. If we are operating on “cow” time, the cow is pregnant and much of her energy is going to feed the growing calf in her belly. She produces less and less milk and our consumption of fresh milk dwindles. Autumn provides us with root crops, squashes and more vegetable bounty to tide us over. Traditionally, late fall is the time to eat fresh meat, especially fresh organ meats, (probably including your cow’s veal calf from last spring). Animals have been eating well all summer and their meat is at it’s nutritional best. What isn’t eaten fresh in the fall is preserved for winter by salting, smoking, drying, or natural freezing.
With respect to the cows’ natural calendar, winter is not a time for drinking fresh milk (or for eating fresh eggs, tomatoes and lettuce). The cow all but stops producing milk and puts her energy into “growing” her unborn calf and maintaining herself. Whatever milk there is, is white and, while still good food, is relatively lifeless. Winter is the time to eat all the super food that have been put-by during the rest of the year; butter, cheese, jerky, hams, and grains. These dense fatty foods and carbohydrates supply the heat we need during this cold time of year. It seems to me that our nutritional needs must naturally correspond to the seasonal availability of different foods and we should eat accordingly.
What’s the Cents?
Working with the land, weather, and dairy cows to produce truly health-filled food is deeply satisfying. Every day I go to work in a place of incredible natural beauty knowing the work that I do enhances and helps to sustain that beauty. My work guarantees that I am eating the purest milk, eggs, yogurt, cheese, butter, meat, and honey that one can find. And because my work includes plenty of gentle exercise, my appetite thrives and I REALLY enjoy that food and the health it brings. My work provides intriguing mental challenges as well as time for contemplation. Daily, I interact with all kinds of people who are seeking my product. Plus every day while on the job I get to hang out with my pets. However, unless one is consciously evading war taxes, it is not an economically promising venture. I own no land but “lease” it for nothing from week-enders so they can get a tax break on their country get aways. Based on dividing how many bottles of milk I sell by the numbers of hours I work, I figure it takes me 1/2 hour to produce a 1/2 gallon bottle of milk. After farm expenses are paid, I earn $2.25/bottle of milk or wages of $4.50 hour. Your work has greatly increased the demand for good milk. But with economics like this, how can we encourage more people to truly take responsibility not only for their own health, but for their food in ways that heal and strengthen our communities and the earth?
Again, thank you for your good work!