Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Raw Milk: The Axis of Ag vs the Teat Party

A bottle of green-top (raw, unpasturised) milk...Image via Wikipedia
I am interested in going back and trying raw milk and seeing if my tummy can handle it.  Raw Milk has unadulterated animal fat bio-activators, which may lower the risk of asthma and allergies. I am lactose intolerant and not allergic so I might be able to try it. But I can't overdo it. When I went to France, one of the first meals I had was milk and a brie cheese sandwich.  Boy, did that roil my tummy!  They don't pasteurize milk or dairy products in France so the milk has all the microbes.  This time, I think I will be a bit more judicious about what my tummy can handle.

 However, I notice that I am stumbling into a battle.

Side 1:  The Axis of Ag(riculture):  the Cheese Makers Association, the Farm Bureau Federation and the Dairy Business Association who support pasteurized milk.

Side 2:  The Teat Party: Grass Roots Food Activists and Farmer Activists who support Raw Milk

Big Milk and Big Cheese against The Birkenstocks.... You know, pasteurization was invented for a reason -- to help guard against the spread of disease.... But, have we got too clever for our own good and not used Mother Nature to her best advantage?  Big Institutions are definitely betraying their trust these days.

 On the other hand, not everything Alternative is Good and it is definitely getting a bit stressful keeping up. The List of Goodness as defined today may not be the List of Goodness for tomorrow.

We've definitely lost trust in our institutions and are attempting to self-organize.   Depending on the group we are redefining truth.  Some  reach back into the scientific community and use more rigid standards of logic to define what the truth means to them.  Other  are substituting a psychological truth for an analytical truth.  Some of what's been going on with Big Milk and Cheese is faith in technology, institution and a desire to protect the institution and its brand.  At best, it is holding to conservative standards of science... which may not be a bad thing in and of itself. On the other hand, the Teat Party has a longing for more humanistic and less technological approach to food.  The Teat Party wants better tasting, healthier food that has a direct connection back to the natural source.  Its premise is that natural is better.  There are some scientific reports favoring raw milk.  Given the way that the Big Food and Government Agencies have betrayed the public trust by managing food safety through recalls after the fact instead of Big Food being good operators that are regularly checked on by a government auditor, you can see where the mistrust by the Teat Party comes from. The downside to the Teat Party is trying to draw the line between pure food, good practices and quackery.

So how to decide the merits as a lay person?  There is going back to taking some college courses in biology and chemistry and food science.  But who has time for that?  Traditionally, we rely on institutions to cut through all the mumbo jumbo and simply provide the products and reliable information.  But, when you undercut trust in institutions, where is the fulcrum upon which you base the lever of your argument?  We were taught how to construct logical arguments in 6th grade English:  Supposition, Evidence and Conclusion and how to spot logical flaws within arguments:  Appeal to Emotion, Nonsequitors, Ad Hominem (Personal) attacks.  Which is all very helpful if you are spending your time reading the journals and analyzing the study design and statistical information of scientific studies.  But, what if you don't have the time or background to do that?

So, you spend time on the Internet, trolling message boards to see where the crowd is going, ie Using the Wisdom of Crowds.   The problem with this approach is defining which crowd you belong to:  The Big Milk and Cheese crowd vs the Teat Party. If you are a Big Milk and Cheese, there are forums that will validate your use of pasteurized milk.  If you are a Teat Partier, there are forums that validate your use of raw milk.  Both forums cherry pick the scientific studies.   Picking your crowd often has more to do with your psychological and sociological makeup than it does on logic.  Comfort with well defined rules and appeals to father figures seems to point to joining one group over the other.

Another problem with Using the Wisdom of Crowds is that it seems to violate another piece of logic that we learned in 6th grade:  an appeal to popularity (Most people think...).   My crowd thinks this therefore, it must be true.  You know, the herd of lemmings runs off the cliff.  Remember, our Mothers told us not to always follow the crowd for good reason.

So, at the end of the day, you are left with self-experimentation.  Truth as it seems to me.  Will Raw Milk upset my tummy?  Will It Make Me Sick?

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