How I Buy Dairy (Since I Can’t Afford All Raw, Grass-fed)

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.

Cream

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.

Butter

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

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.

This post is part of Fight Back Friday, Sunday School, Monday Mania, Fat Tuesday and Pennywise Platter.

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30 Responses to How I Buy Dairy (Since I Can’t Afford All Raw, Grass-fed)

  1. Michele says:

    I just wanted to thank you for this information and found it to be very helpful. :-)

  2. I’ve got a great website for you for raw milk cheese that’s affordable. Farm Country Cheese. Check them out :-)!
    Adrienne @ Whole New Mom recently posted..Did Vaccines Cause My Son’s Autism? ~ Part OneMy Profile

  3. Taryn says:

    Nice- I didn’t know you can get such awesome dairy at Vitamin Cottage. I will have to check it out.

  4. Thanks for linking your great post to FAT TUESDAY. This was very interesting! Hope to see you next week!

    Be sure to visit RealFoodForager.com on Sunday for Sunday Snippets – your post from Fat Tuesday may be featured there!
    http://realfoodforager.com/fat-tuesday-march-6-2012/
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  5. I love hearing how others prioritize their grocery spending! I can’t get raw milk at all here, but I buy the type of milk you describe – non-homogenized, low-temp pasteurized, grass-fed – regularly for $5.69/gallon. (I can’t believe I actually pay less for something than someone else. We’re usually the most expensive area!) I am able to get butter for a great price from a local farm and also occasionally cream. Good cheese is too expensive for me, and we love to eat it, so I just buy whatever I can. I will have to check out the Kerrygold at Costco – I’ve seen the butter there, but not the cheese.
    Anne @ Quick and Easy Cheap and Healthy recently posted..Happy International Women’s Day!My Profile

    • Meghan says:

      I like hearing about others’ grocery spending habits, too. :) $5.69 a gallon sounds like a great price for your milk! Where do you live? I’m always curious to hear how food prices vary with location.

      • We live between Baltimore and DC in one of the wealthiest counties in all of the US!
        Anne @ Quick and Easy Cheap and Healthy recently posted..5 Ways to Sneak in Exercise on the CheapMy Profile

        • Meghan says:

          Interesting! I’m not sure how my county compares but we certainly have a lot of high income people here, too. It can make it hard to afford some things, since we are definitely on the lower end of the income spectrum at the moment.

          • Maryanne says:

            I live in Boston, and the closest raw milk farm (about 35 minutes away in Framingham) sells a gallon of raw, grass-fed milk for $9.00. For comparison, our local Trader Joe’s sells a gallon of organic, grain-fed milk for about $6.00 and change. I haven’t tried/seen any Kalona products, but I’m going to hunt some down. Although, their eggs are fed a corn/soy diet so I won’t go out of my way to buy those.

  6. Meghan says:

    @Maryanne: (Sorry, WordPress won’t let me directly reply to your comment – I think there are too many replies in that thread.) That seems a crazy price for grain-fed milk! I hate it when even the lower quality food is so expensive.

    Good luck finding Kalona! If I were you I’d check at several stores in your area to find the best price. I found that there was a significant difference in price depending on what store I went to.

  7. Holly says:

    Wow. That is a lot for raw milk! I just joined a private buying club for raw, grass-fed milk. Their prices are pretty good for this area, I pay $6.00 for a gallon in a plastic jug. I could pay $1 more plus $7 for the jars and get them in glass but that isn’t worth it to me right now. I just decant it into glass when I get home. Their butter is $12, or $10.50 for cream, so I’m buying cream to make butter. I’ve been dairy-free for a while because I have eczema that was aggravated by the dairy I was eating. My sister let me try some of her raw milk and it didn’t make my eczema flair!! So I’m committed. The cheese is the hard part, I’m easing my 3 year old into the transition. I relied on cheese so much as snack for him, now I offer him fresh milk. I just made yogurt today so I’m hoping to get him to eat that too.
    Holly recently posted..How To Pack a Low-Sugar Easter BasketMy Profile

    • Meghan says:

      $6 a gallon sounds like a great price to me – lucky you! Good luck with the transition to raw. That’s great that it’s not affecting your eczema. It’s stuff like that that makes me crazy about the fact that the government claims there’s no nutritional difference with raw vs. pasteurized milk.

  8. Charlotte says:

    Enjoyed your post. I have bought raw cheese from azure standard, the brand is Sierra Nevada. We liked it better than the other raw cheeses that the sell.

  9. Lacy says:

    Thank you for this! Excellent information. I am lucky to have a Vitamin Cottage, so I think I will start buying the Kalona milk for my daughter when she starts drinking milk.

  10. leslieh says:

    Loved the post. I haven’t been able to find a raw cow’s milk farmer near by. I have found goats milk and am thinking about that. You should try making your own cheese. I started last year and love it. I’m going to try and transition to hard cheeses soon. Right Now I do riccota, chevre, mozzarella, formage blanc etc. Check out Dimes2vines blog she makes cheese daily from her own cow. Amazing. Oh try Ballyshannon cheese it’s awesome on pouched eggs in the morning.

    • Meghan says:

      Thanks for these suggestions, Leslieh! I actually can’t have lactose right now, though, so those types of soft cheeses are out for me. But I’ll keep it in mind for the future. Thanks for stopping by!

  11. Jaimie says:

    Hey there great website, I agree with what you said, have you tried supernatural cream half and half that’s lightly pasteurized and I only pay 1.85 a bottle! I get like three to five at a time. I also get the Kerry gold at costco and pastured butter I also buy pastured eggs which are very expensive but I use them up well. Thanks for giving us insight about the

  12. Jaimie says:

    Thanks for informing us on the Tillamook cheese I always somehow thought that tasteted better then the rest of the conventional cheeses. I am hoping raw dairy will be much more available in the future for now we can only do are best. Balgarian yogurt seems to be a favorite of mine not sure if it’s grass fed but it sure taste great a makes me feel great.

  13. Fen says:

    Hi! Thanks for the great information. Have you tried Cabot Cheese? Just wondering what you think of the cheese quality?

    • I have not tried Cabot Cheese. I don’t know anything about their quality. Ideally you would buy cheese that is grass-fed–but short of that, you have to decide what sort of level of quality you are comfortable with. I’m glad you found the post helpful!

  14. Nicolle says:

    LOOOOOVE your website!!!! Found you through the local WAPF yahoo group. I buy the Kalona too because raw is just cost prohibitive for us right now. I like the organic valley pasture butter too. I didn’t know Costco sold Kerrygold…gotta check that out!!!
    Nicolle recently posted..Speaking of Old Things…My Profile

  15. Esra says:

    I do EXACTLY the same things considering milk purchase :) we are also cheese fanatics here, and since you seem to have researched a lot, what do you think about buying sheep milk cheeses such as manchego or feta at costco? Don’t sheep usually eat grass? Thats why I feel ok buying those, and they are awesome tasting, I also buy raw roquefort there and lately they have a greek cultured cheese which is a better compromise I feel.

  16. Jean says:

    Can I use the low pasteurized non homogenized grass fed milk on the Gaps diet? I am just starting gluten free and waiting for the Gaps diet book that I ordered to arrive.
    Thanks

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