Should we be switching to raw milk and glass bottles?
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What are the health claims for raw dairy and how easy is it to buy milk in glass?
As consumers we're becoming more aware of what we're eating. Millennials and Generation X in particular are looking to eat more healthy food, organic food and local food - food that will make them feel good and improve their mental and physical wellbeing.
Increasingly part of the conversation around healthy food is grass-fed raw milk and butter, claimed by many to be forgotten 'superfoods'.
In East Anglia we have access to some fantastic raw milk and local milk dairy farms, from Old Hall Farm in Woodton, to Fen Farm Dairy in Bungay and Marybelle, in Halesworth. The benefits of choosing their products are clear to see. Not only is buying local milk contributing to the economy, it's also better for the environment, with lower food miles. That's not to mention the fact that it's fresher.
Megan Foulger of Foulgers Dairy, which distributes raw local milk, raw butter and local cheese from Tuddenham in Suffolk and a dairy in Bungay, says there's no denying the better quality of the products.
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'When it comes to raw milk,' she says, 'the best way I can think of describing it is it's straight from the cow. There's no process of homogenising or pasteurising, it goes right into the bottle and nothing's done to it. We collect the milk on the morning it's bottled and distribute it over two days which is totally different to supermarkets.'
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What is the difference between raw milk and supermarket milk?
As Megan says, raw milk is as nature intended and goes from cow to customer within one to two days. Supermarket milk, required to be kept for longer, goes through flash pasteurisation at around 71C which keeps it fresh for a week or two. Ultra Heat Treating (UHT) of 137C gives milk a shelf life of several months. Something most customers love about raw milk is its creamy mouthfeel and the traditional look of it in the bottle, with the cream having risen to the top. Modern supermarkets use homogenisation to break down the fat molecules, rendering them smaller so they suspend evenly in the milk - hence no creamy top. Essentially, there's no mucking about with raw milk.
What are the health claims for raw milk and raw butter?
It is claimed that raw milk is higher in protein, and that essential vitamins C, D, E and Folic Acid are retained in greater levels in raw milk untouched by pasteurisation. It is also claimed to have more magnesium and probiotics. Some people with a milk intolerance (not allergy) say they are able to drink raw grass-fed milk and digest it much more easily than other milk. This is reportedly because raw milk retains the enzyme lactase, which helps our bodies break down the drink easily.
As for raw butter, Fen Farm Dairy is Bungay is one of the only places in the UK to produce it. Smooth, creamy and rich, the butter is churned by hand, using grass-fed milk from the dairy farm's herd of Montbeliarde cows, sourced by the Crickmore family in Jura, France. Raw butter such as this is said to have a higher level of protein, plus antioxidant vitamins D, E and K.
If you are pregnant or have a long-term illness or weakened immune system, you should always consult your doctor before consuming raw milk products.
Is it worth buying milk in glass bottles?
Much has been made in recent years of the detrimental effect plastic (particularly single-use plastic) has on the world around us. Did you know that every glass bottle can be reused more than 15 times? Once they look past their best, the bottles are recycled and turned into more glass milk bottles.
The government last year announced plans to scrap all avoidable plastic waste by 2042 and choosing to have milk delivered, conveniently, to your door in a glass bottle instead of popping a plastic bottle in your weekly shop can help you be part of the tide change in the industry. Already hundreds of thousands of consumers in the UK are switching back to traditional glass bottles and reducing the amount of plastic filling up their bins and going to landfill.