I think dairy is a complicated part of the traditional foods world. On the surface it seems easy: we should eat raw, grass-fed dairy. In reality, however, I’m sure that many people (including me!) struggle with affording and accessing exclusively raw, grass-fed dairy products.
One solution would be to avoid all dairy that is not raw and grass-fed. Jesse and I love dairy too much to go that route, however, so I’ve arrived at a more moderate approach. I buy some raw, grass-fed milk, some grass-fed, pasteurized products, and some products that are partly grain-fed and partly grass-fed. Here’s a breakdown on how I make my purchases.
Milk for Kefir
We belong to a cow share program that provides us with one gallon a week of raw, 100% grass-fed milk. I love supporting a raw, grass-fed dairy and would get all of my dairy through them if I could. We pay $12/gallon, plus a 10% delivery charge, however, so that’s just not a realistic scenario for me.
I use all of my weekly gallon of milk to make kefir. Since kefir is a countertop culture the end product stays entirely raw, so I think that my raw milk has the most impact when used in this way. If we weren’t avoiding unfermented milk due to GAPS, Jesse would probably also drink some of the milk as fresh milk.
Milk for Yogurt
To supplement our raw milk I also buy some store-bought milk to make yogurt. I only started making yogurt in the last couple of months because I had no interest in buying grain-fed milk but hadn’t been able to track down a grass-fed milk sold in stores. We had never been big yogurt eaters so if I was going to add it to our diet I wanted it to be as nourishing as possible.
Thanks to help from my WAPF chapter, I’m now buying Kalona milk from our local Vitamin Cottage (a small health foods store). It is grass-fed, low-temp pasteurized and non-homogenized, so I consider it an excellent option if you can’t afford/access raw, grass-fed milk. The Kalona milk is $7.38/gallon at my local Vitamin Cottage.
Since I’m culturing the milk it regains good bacteria, helping to make up for the fact that good bacteria were destroyed during pasteurization.
Kalona also sells grass-fed, low-temp pasteurized cream. So far I have only bought it once, to make sour cream, but I think it’s an excellent option if, like me, you can’t afford raw cream. I hear that raw cream is wonderful but I know that the price here is astronomical.
I buy Kerrygold butter or Organic Valley pastured butter. Both are grass-fed and pasteurized. I prefer the Kerrygold because I like the taste better but I will buy Organic Valley when I can’t get Kerrygold at Costco. Again, raw butter is supposed to be amazing but I just can’t afford it.
I will not buy commercial, grain-fed butter. We eat a lot of butter, so paying around $6/lb. or more does get expensive, but I believe that grass-fed butter is infinitely more nourishing so I’ll shell out whatever it takes to get it.
Cheese is where a lot of my compromises occur. Unlike yogurt, cheese has been a part of our diet for so long that I can’t see just limiting or leaving it out because I can’t find or afford only raw, grass-fed cheeses. Jesse is actually a bit of cheese fanatic so I’m pretty sure that that would spark some kind of riot.
Instead I buy a mix of different qualities of cheese. We can get Tillamook sharp and extra sharp cheddar at Costco so we buy a fair amount of that. The cows are partly grass-fed, partly grain-fed but I think it’s a much better quality (and taste) than your standard grocery store brand. If I could find an affordable raw sharp cheddar I’d buy it instead of the Tillamook but I haven’t seen any for less than about $9/lb.
I buy several other cheeses through Azure Standard: a raw mild cheddar from Brunkow and a pasteurized Parmesan from Rumiano. Both companies get their milk from small dairies. I don’t believe either is entirely grass-fed but they appear to at least be pasture-based.
In the last few months we have also been buying some Kerrygold cheeses at Costco. Although pasteurized, Kerrygold cheese is entirely grass-fed so I feel really good about purchasing it. The price is also pretty decent; $6/lb. at my Costco, which is only about a dollar more than the raw milk cheddar I buy through Azure. (Aged cheeses like those offered by Kerrygold tend to be much more expensive than mild varieties, so I find the one dollar difference in price quite impressive.)
Ultimately I know that we will eat cheese no matter what the quality. So, I buy higher-quality cheeses when I can but don’t splurge for the absolute best because I think that money could better be spent on things that give me more nutritional return, like fermented cod liver oil and grass-fed butter.
What dairy products do you buy? How do you prioritize your purchases? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.
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