The raw-milk challenge

illustration by mark stivers

Americans are notoriously squeamish when it comes to food safety. The French laugh as they snack on delicious raw-milk cheese, but we’re only allowed to consume raw-milk cheese that has been aged for at least 60 days. Raw milk, however, is legal in 28 states, including California—although the Food and Drug Administration and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention strongly warn against drinking it. The Sacramento and Davis co-ops sell Claravale Farm raw milk for $4.75 a half gallon. A comparison of raw milk against pasteurized Straus brand organic whole milk was no contest: The raw was sweet and, yes, really grassy. Next to it the Strauss milk tasted watery and flavorless. Part of the reason for that is that Claravale uses milk from Jersey cows, which has a higher fat content. Strauss and the majority of other dairies use primarily Holstein milk. The Claravale raw is wonderful for sipping if you’re into that, but it has too much of a thick, animal taste to be good in coffee. Homemade raw-milk ice cream or yogurt is the way to go.