It’s been more than four years since I started serving our family organic fruits and veggies from an organic produce co-op, but making the switch to organic, free-range animal products (including pastured eggs and raw cow’s milk) took us a bit longer. Why? Because there’s less availability for the consumer, which makes it more difficult to find reputable sources. Now, however, when my kids reach for a glass of milk, they drink raw, non-homogenized, full-fat milk from a nearby local farm. When they eat meat, it’s the beef from a pastured cow who spent his life grazing grass in my uncle’s pasture. Eggs? They’re from a flock of hens tended by personal friends of ours. Our honey comes from a local beekeeper, and our wheat came straight from my aunt and uncle’s farm.
As I re-read that paragraph, I realize that it sounds like we’re living on a homestead in some rural area. But the truth is, we live smack dab in the middle of a major metropolitan area, and our little yard boasts less than a quarter acre. So how do we do it, and why go to the trouble?
Let’s start with the “why,” because there’s no need for the “how” if conventional options are comparable. First of all, let me start by saying that we’re not on the low-fat bandwagon. We certainly used to be, and my poor hubby despised skim milk, but now he gets whole milk, full-fat yogurt, real butter and more (within moderation, of course). Why did we make the switch? Because more research is beginning to show that maybe fat isn’t the villain we once thought it was, and all those so-called healthy vegetable oils (high in omega 6) may actually be causing harm. For more reading on the subject, click here to read thoughts from a heart surgeon, and check out some of the links listed in this informative post by Deliciously Organic.
Once I decided to switch from processed, low-fat proteins to their unprocessed, full-fat counterparts, I wanted to get the healthiest animal sources available. And study after study is showing that organic, pastured animals yield a more nutritious food product. Take eggs for example, a study done by Mother Earth News showed that pastured eggs contain four to six times more vitamin D, one-third less cholesterol, one-fourth less saturated fat, two-thirds more vitamin A, two times more omega-3 fatty acids, three times more vitamin E, and seven times more beta carotene than conventionally farmed eggs. Regarding beef, this article suggests grass-fed beef and dairy products are leaner, lower in omega-6 fats, and higher in beneficial omega-3 fats and conjugated linoleic acids.
As for raw milk, A Campaign for Raw Milk indicates that studies have shown that children who consume raw milk have greater resistance to disease, better growth and stronger teeth than children consuming pasteurized milk. Animal studies indicate that raw milk confers better bone structure, better organ development, better nutrient assimilation, better fertility and even better behavior than pasteurized milk. And when it comes to the safety of raw milk, evidence has shown that illness attributed to raw milk over an 11-year period was only less than .0001%. To put that into perspective, a 2003 government study suggested that deli meats are ten times more likely to cause food-borne illness than raw milk. Kind of makes you question your turkey sandwich, doesn’t it?
Apart from these studies though, our family has personally experienced some great results since switching to raw milk. My son has a grass allergy, and his legs break out in bright, red, irritated spots if he’s spent too much time in the grass. Since switching to raw milk, the rash on his legs has almost completely cleared. I don’t know if he had an unknown allergy or sensitivity to milk that was worsening the rash, or if the beneficial enzymes in raw milk have strengthened his immune system so that he can fight the grass allergy, but whatever the case, we’re believers. My niece has also experienced a respite from eczema since switching to raw milk. The poor girl would have a pretty bad eczema flare-up whenever she drank pasteurized milk, but she’s symptom free when drinking raw milk. When it comes to your own family though, don’t take my word for it. Read the studies and enter into a decision that’s best for you with thought and research. If you’re considering raw milk, I highly recommend browsing A Campaign for Real Milk.
Now that you understand the why, let’s move to the how. As I mentioned in the beginning, sourcing organic, free-range animal products is a bit more difficult than sourcing organic produce, but it’s certainly doable. Depending on your state’s laws, many of these products are available at local farmer’s markets. This option is great, because it allows you to ask questions directly of the supplier. You may even be able to find out about the existence of an egg/beef/raw milk co-op just by asking the right questions. And speaking of asking, sometimes a conversation with a like-minded friend can be the best source of information. Talk to others who eat a whole-foods, unprocessed diet to see where they source their animal proteins. And if you see that a restaurant serves food from local growers, ask about their suppliers. The supplier likely sells direct to the consumer, in addition to the restaurant. Before finding my source for raw milk and pastured eggs (which I discovered via word of mouth), I considered sourcing low-temp pasteurized milk from a dairy that supplies the milk needs of one of my favorite local coffee houses.
If these products aren’t available at your farmer’s markets, or conversations with friends don’t yield any results, check out the following site for extensive state-by-state lists of local, unprocessed, whole-foods suppliers:
If you happen to live in or near the Dallas/Fort Worth area, check out these local famers and their products:
Burgundy Pasture Beef
Dry Valley Dairy
Rosey Ridge Farm
TexSax Ranch (they sell their own products, as well as operate a raw milk co-op with milk they pick up from Nors Dairy Farm)
Since local, organic, whole foods usually carry a higher price tag, I’m going to tackle the issue of cost in the next couple of days. We’ll discuss ways to stay on budget, as well as some more applicable tips for getting into the habit of preparing and serving whole, unprocessed foods at your family’s table without losing your mind in the process.
What about you? Do you source local, organic animal proteins? If so, what are your favorite local sources? If not, what is hindering you?