Ken Silverstein's "The Revolution Will Not Be Pasteurized" is a long, readable, and balanced story about raw milk. It also includes several startlingly vivid moments, such as this:
Schmidt is a man of Teutonic certainty, but as he walked into the field soon after he’d sold the land, he was filled with doubt. The morning sun had turned the sky red, and mist hung around the legs of the cattle. While he twitched a stick at his bull, Xamos, to turn him away from the cows, Schmidt wondered whether it was even possible to run a farm in the manner he wanted. If he started selling his milk at industrial prices it would erode his meticulous style of farming. He would lose the direct connection to his customers. He’d have to push his cows to produce more milk. He’d be compelled to adopt the newest feed-management strategies and modernize his equipment. Schmidt didn’t see Xamos coming, just felt the explosion as the bull struck him. Even as he hit the ground, the animal was on him, bellowing. It stabbed with one horn and then the other, tearing up the earth and ripping off Schmidt’s clothes. One horn sank into Schmidt’s belly, another ripped into his chest and shoulder, grazing a lung. Only when his wife charged into the field, flanked by the couple’s snarling dogs, did Xamos retreat. Another man might have taken this attack as a sure sign, a demonstration of the folly of seeking harmony with nature. As Schmidt lay there bleeding into the earth, however, he felt only humility. “Nature is dangerous, yes,” he would tell me later. “But I can’t control it, and I can’t escape from it. I can only learn the best way to live with it.”
Around the time that Chicago passed the first pasteurization law in the United States, in 1908, many of the dairies supplying cities had themselves become urban. They were crowded, grassless, and filthy. Unscrupulous proprietors added chalk and plaster of paris to extend the milk. Consumptive workers coughed into their pails, spreading tuberculosis; children contracted diseases like scarlet fever from milk. Pasteurization was an easy solution. But pasteurization also gave farmers license to be unsanitary. They knew that if fecal bacteria got in the milk, the heating process would eventually take care of it. Customers didn’t notice, or pay less, when they drank the corpses of a few thousand pathogens. As a result, farmers who emphasized animal health and cleanliness were at a disadvantage to those who simply pushed for greater production.
After a century of pasteurization, modern dairies, to put it bluntly, are covered in shit. Most have a viscous lagoon full of it. Cows lie in it. Wastewater is recycled to flush out their stalls. Farmers do dip cows’ teats in iodine, but standards mandate only that the number of germs swimming around their bulk tanks be below 100,000 per milliliter.