Milk and Dairy Products

Milk and Dairy Products


"The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be measured by the way in which its animals are treated." (Mahatma Gandhi)


by Andrew W. Saul

NOT EVERYONE KNOWS that I am a former dairyman who used to milk a hundred head twice a day. Yes, yours truly was in part responsible for operating a medium-security prison for cows. From the experience, I learned something that I am told the native Americans learned long ago: empathy and respect for the animals that feed you.

On the farm I worked at, we very much respected our cows. Admittedly, one aspect of such respect was purely about economics. Cows are a valuable commodity to a farmer, and really high milk producers are worth a lot of money. You simply must keep them healthy, and that's all there is to it. We did whatever it took. All our cows were kept well vetted, very clean, and very well fed. Like most dairymen, we grew our own feed and made our own silage, which is a highly nutritious, fermented stored grain. Unlike most dairymen, we gave preventive doses of cider vinegar to cows prone to mastitis. I put vitamin E on their teats when they got injured. Udder injury is a fact of life for cows bred for milk production. Some of our cows' udders were nearly three wide. I know this because I wear a 37-inch sleeve and I had to press the side of my head against a big cow's belly in order to reach across under her to attach the far-side teats to the milking machine. For some cows, my reach was barely adequate.

I remain timid around horses, but a cow doesn't scare me a bit. On the farm, one of my weirder jobs was early-morning cow reveille. I'd go out to a pitch-black pasture and have to round up the entire herd for the 4 am milking. ("Herd of cows?" "Sure, I've heard of cows.") To do so, you first have to wake the cows up. To wake them, you have to find them. They were not hiding from me; it's just that the camo-coloration of black-and-white Holsteins, tan Jerseys, or the occasional brown Swiss happens to make them remarkably hard to spot long before the sun comes up. (Thank heaven we did not have to milk any Black Angus.) I usually did not bother to take a flashlight with me, and as a result the project could become quite interesting. Paul Revere's midnight ride had nothing on me: I did mine on foot. As I ran about like a nut hollering "Ca-boss!" ("Come, bossey!") the pattern I traced would have looked pretty erratic to anyone equipped with infrared goggles and daft enough to be attempting to watch. Every time I sensed something looming in front of me, it was usually a cow. I was constantly altering my direction like one of those toys that backs up and pivots when it gets to a wall. Cows sleep remarkably soundly. And unlike horses, cows very much enjoy laying down, asleep like big boulders in the night.

Oh, and another thing: When a cow urinates, it is time to back away, at least if you can. If they let it loose when you are below milking them, it is an even-money bet whether or not you can dodge the quart or two of urine that comes roaring out like a waterfall. In the barn or the milkhouse, the cement floor will result in a splashing that you have to see to fully appreciate.

I just happen to like cows. I was eating my lunch by the pasture fence one day and a cow sauntered over to me, looked me straight in the face at close range, and literally said, "Moo." It was not a question; it was a statement. And it was not some guttural animal sound that I chose to anthropromorphize into the word "moo," either. The cow clearly enunciated, unmistakably. This happened nearly thirty years ago, and I remember it like it was this morning. "Moo."

I am telling you all this to give you a taste of what really goes into your milk. I personally choose to use cultured dairy products, primarily cheese and yogurt. I am not much of a milk drinker, possibly because I miss the real thing: fresh, raw milk, just hours old, right out of the farm tank.


There is a largely hidden and brutal cost to milk. Although we appreciated our cows, every one of their male offspring was marked for execution. Since lactation follows childbirth, to obtain the milk you drink, some cow had to have a baby. When it is a male baby, it will be killed sooner (veal) or later (beef) or very much later (fast- food hamburger beef).

Years after I left farming, the dairy industry began the widespread use of bovine growth hormones. I object to this, and have lectured for years against it. Farmers with brains know that cows are not warm-blooded milk spigots. You cannot get something for nothing: pushing too hard for higher milk production means a longer teat- contact time with the milking machine, and that means more mastitis. That is not good for the cows or for the farmer. Increased insulin growth factor in milk, a result of the hormone injections, is not good for people. Pharmaceutical companies and their dubious products should stay out of food production.

If you are a milk user and if you possibly can, find a farmer (or better yet, a dairy) that agrees with me, refuses to trade in medicated milk, and will sell you the good stuff. And later in this Newsletter, I am going to show you how to save money making your own yogurt, even if your choices are limited to supermarket brands.

But first, I owe this to my many vegan and otherwise non-dairy readers: If you are not a milk user, I am in your corner more than you might think. I am absolutely certain that a dairy-free existence is the healthiest lifestyle for some people. I know folks whose headaches, allergies, or other ailments promptly go away when they avoid dairy foods, and come roaring back when they drink milk. The philosophy of this website is, and will remain, Do what works.


One of the most influential vegetarians in history was Mahatma Gandhi. A meat eater during a brief part of his early life, Gandhi intended to be a complete vegetarian (vegan) and even a fruitarian, having written, "It is my strong conviction that the human being doesn't need milk, except for the mother's milk he gets as a baby. His diet should consist exclusively of fruits and nuts."

Gandhi's stated position on diet was an extension of his advocacy of nonviolence far more than it was a health recommendation. To Gandhi, violence to animals is identical to violence to humans. And in fact, life really is all one. When I taught biology, I'd ask my students to examine the red blood of an earthworm and the red blood of a human. Then I asked them to tell me the difference. They could not, and the lesson began. Not only is our DNA 98% identical to a chimpanzee, but the basic physiology of your body is virtually identical with the physiology of a mouse, a frog, or even a gnat.

Consequently, to promote harmlessness to all life, Gandhi selected the vegetarian lifestyle, with no milk. However:

"Experience taught the Mahatma to include milk and its products - curds, butter, ghee - in his diet. He had once vowed not to consume milk which, being an animal food, could not be included in the vegetarian diet. He abstained from it for six years. Once he fell very ill and was reduced to a skeleton, yet he stubbornly refused to take any medicine, milk or buttermilk. When he became very emaciated, his doctor suggested goat's milk. So Bapu (Gandhi) began taking goat's milk, and after regaining his strength, decided to continue taking it." (Spirit of the Gandhian diet, by Sunita Pant Bansal, Nov 2001.)

Gandhi's personal secretary, Mr. V. Kalyanam, an every-day eyewitness, has confirmed that Gandhi ate goat's milk for lunch and again at dinner. (Duty's tasks: Diurnal diary. His secretary tells of Gandhi's strict routine. Hinduism Today, Feb 1997. See also: Gandhi, Mohandas, K. (1957). An autobiography: The story of my experiments with truth. Boston, MA: Beacon Press.)

To make it as nonviolent as possible, and to make up for the philosophical inconsistency, Gandhi only drank the milk produced by his own goat that he personally took care of.

Having taken personally care of cows myself, I find more humanity in such a humble compromise than in a strict vow inflexibly followed. I raised my children from infancy on raw goat's milk and raw cow's milk. I think that such foods' value, great enough to have changed the Mahatma's mind, is good enough for me. Gandhi's mind was famously difficult to change. While the combined might of the British Empire could not do it, truth always persuaded him. The truth is that judicious use of dairy products, at least for some, makes good health sense.

Milk is a moral issue, yes, but it is also a matter of what works. The solution may be as simple as a nutritional-ethical compromise, like Gandhi's, resulting in an overall decrease in consumption of animal products and an increase in ethical farming. The US Department of Agriculture admits that, in the United States alone, TEN BILLION animals were killed in the year 2003. ( ) I do not ask anyone to reduce that number to zero. Just try to lower it.

Recommended website of vegan physicians:


A quart of plain yogurt costs about $4.00 to $5.00. For that money, you can buy a gallon (four quarts) of milk and culture it yourself. You will also need some plain yogurt to use as a "starter" culture, and that's about it. All you have to do is heat the milk to the scalding or "frothing" point, and then let it cool back to room temperature or just above it, say body temperature. Such cooling is absolutely the most important step, for if you add your good yogurt bacteria to hot milk, they are toast. So let the milk cool down before you gently stir in a tablespoon or so of plain yogurt. I then place the preparation dish (I like to use glass or Corningware) into an oven that is off, and remains off, except for the little let's-see-what's-cooking light in the back. In my oven, the heat of that lone light bulb seems about right to incubate the yogurt. Leave your culture for about eight hours, say overnight, and in the morning put it in the 'fridge.

Savings: over ten bucks a gallon.


The next best thing to taking the chemicals out of farming might be to put the bacteria back in.

"Good" and "bad" bacteria are everywhere all the time. The idea that you have to kill every germ within a fifty-mile radius is silly. What is needed is balance. A healthy balance is maintained by nature, and is one of the wonders of biology. Incidentally, if you are now in the process of referring back to my "scald-the-milk-before- culturing-it" step in my yogurt instructions (above), you are right on the ball today. That heat-treatment does clear the slate, bacteria- wise, so to speak. But it is done for taste, not safety. As a matter of fact, I used to take fresh, raw milk home and culture it without first heating it at all. I did not add any starter yogurt, either. I just placed it on the kitchen counter, let it go, and voila: le yogurt. I ate this daily and never felt better. Though they were way too little to now remember it, my then-baby-and-toddler children ate it, too, and liked it. It tasted different than commercial yogurt, but it was not bad at all.

Some anthropologists think cheese or yogurt was probably first made entirely by accident. A nomadic person carrying an animal-skin (perhaps made from a goat's stomach) bag of milk about on a warm day might have been surprised at what he found in it when it came dinner time.

There may be benefits to unplanned bacterial parenthood. I raised my kids all the way into college and they never once had any dose of any antibiotic.

Cultured milk products, such as cheese or yogurt, are easier for many people to digest than fluid milk. Bacteria work milk over in a big and generally beneficial way. I submit that cheese and yogurt, even if made from factory-farm, non-organic milk would therefore be better than the plain old overcooked skimmed white water that most people drink without a thought. Not only are they easier to digest, but re-cultured milk products are, in a manner of speaking, a raw food. The beneficial microorganisms are alive in cheese and yogurt when you eat it. That's a raw food to me, and a good one.


DOCTOR YOURSELF GLOSSARY: Pescetarian: A pescetarian is a vegetarian who also consumes fish. This is not to be confused with Joe Pesci, who is an actor who chews scenery.

A FINAL THOUGHT: Just REDUCING your meat intake saves many lives. In 2021, about 34 million cattle were slaughtered in the United States. That is over 93,000 a day, If we all simply cut out meat ONE DAY each MONTH, we would prevent the demise of over one MILLION animals annually. For every additional day per month that we refuse to eat meat, we will save a million more.

Andrew W. Saul has no financial connection with the supplement industry. He does not sell vitamins or other health products. His milking boots are size 12.

Copyright c 2004 and prior years Andrew W. Saul . Revised and copyright 2023. Permission to reproduce single copies of this newsletter FOR NON-COMMERCIAL, PERSONAL USE ONLY is hereby granted providing no alteration of content is made and authorship credit is given.