‘It’s alive!’

Raw milk: Those probiotics are polarizing.

Raw milk: Those probiotics are polarizing.

Even if we were to dredge the deepest depths of our memories, most of us probably could not remember the last time we drank raw milk. We were, after all, likely just months old at the time, in a pure age of innocence, unfettered youth and unpasteurized nourishment. Then we grew up, assumed citizenship in the world of sterilized things and said goodbye to the enzymes and beneficial microbes that thrive in the udders of mammals.

But unpasteurized milk still flows among us. Organic Pastures Dairy Company, the world’s largest raw-milk producer, according to its owners, milks 425 cows in Fresno and sells its lively—probiotic is the term—array of creamery products at several local outlets, including the Davis Food Co-op and the Sacramento Natural Foods Co-op. Meanwhile, company sales rep Barbara Holzmann can usually be found at the twice-weekly Davis farmers markets and the Sunday Central Farmers Market in Sacramento with a truck full of raw milk, butter, cheddar cheese, cream and kefir.

Organic Pastures also sells colostrum, a yellowish-orange milk and a source of supreme richness and nutrition. Colostrum is the first secretion to flow from a cow’s mammary glands after she gives birth. It flows for as little as just hours and contains nourishment essential to bringing a newborn calf to health and robustness. (“We share it with the calf,” Holzmann is quick to point out.) Colostrum also is favored for its positive effects on humans. It is so nourishing, in fact, that some Olympic Games officials have reportedly scrutinized its effects—natural though they are—on athletes who consume it as energy food.

Raw milk has an uncanny power to polarize; while dairy industry regulators question the sanitary safety of unpasteurized milk and have illegalized its sale in many states, holistic health buffs call the very same milk a miracle food. California remains among just seven states in which retail sale of unpasteurized milk is legal, but with pro-pasteurization regulators at work in the capital, we might be wise to drink the milk while we can—and while it’s still raw.