On Stewardship and Nutrition

I find myself in a state of great confusion about nutrition at the moment. I’m increasingly convinced that we can’t feed Hannah meat and milk from the regular supermarket sources, which are chock full of growth hormones and antibiotics. Hannah isn’t eating those things now, except indirectly through me, and even that makes me a little nervous. As I’ve researched though, I’ve been getting more and more frustrated by the blatantly contradictory information available about organic and free range foods, raw versus organic milk, and the like. I’m concerned that I’m in danger of misspending our money on gimmicks rather than on truly healthy options.

For example, Walmart and Costco both sell organic milk. When you do a google search though, you find out that the brands sold by both retailers actually purchase their calves from regular feedlots, and so those calves have already been shot up with antibiotics and growth hormones, plus fed animal byproducts and all kinds of other sludge. I’m sure it’s better than regular milk because those cows aren’t continually fed those things once they reach the organic lots, but I have to imagine that some of the bad stuff still gets in there. Plus those large-scale organic dairies don’t grass-feed the cattle so a lot of the nutritional benefits are lessened. Organic milk goes for over $6 a gallon at Walmart, and a little over $5 a gallon at Costco. I’d be willing to pay that if I knew it was tremendously better than regular milk (which I often get on sale for $1.50 to $1.67 a gallon) but I wonder if I’d really be getting my money’s worth…

Then there is the raw milk versus pasteurized debate. This is REALLY confusing and something that I definitely don’t want to make a bad call about. On the one hand, the USDA and the rest of the establishment says that pasteurization makes the milk more healthy and that you can get all kinds of sick from raw milk. The raw milk advocates and nutritionists say that pasteurization kills 21 of the 22 enzymes in milk that help humans to digest it, plus a lot of the other beneficial parts of the milk. They also say that pasteurization was necessary to protect milk in the old days when people milked into wooden buckets and so forth, but with modern dairy sterilized tanks and milking procedures, there really isn’t a need for it anymore. Apple Family Farm sells cow shares to allow Indianapolis area families to get raw milk. The cost is a little under $5 a gallon when you add up all the fees (basically you own the cow so that the farm isn’t selling you raw milk, rather they are boarding and milking your cow for you). There is a wait list to get a cow share, but the lady who owns the farm emailed me that she could get us a share by July most likely.

Organic meat is also a dilemma. A lot of the stuff sold in stores, even Wild Oats, is raised agribusiness style not really free range. Ideally I would like to buy our meat and eggs and milk from local producers so that I really know what goes into it and can support local farmers. Apple Family Farm also sells beef and chicken and eggs. Oddly, it works out cheaper for good cuts of steak, but more expensive for ground beef and cheap cuts. I’ve also heard that some people around here buy sides of beef directly from farmers and freeze it, but I don’t know where they get it from.

Do any readers have thoughts on these issues that they wouldn’t mind sharing? Any other resources I’m missing when it comes to milk and meat? Anyone care to share how they made a decision about raw milk for their families? I know some people at church do it (Edwards family, and maybe the Thompsons?) so I guess I should check with them too… I’d appreciate any input!

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