Milkless Mondays - Why Not?

recent article called, "Got Propaganda? Why All Of The Milk Industry's Health Claims Have Been Proven Wrong" got me thinking about milk and cheese. I've pointed out cheese's similarity to meat's carbon footprint before and it is certainly no picnic for cows on dairy farms - human health, the environment and the animals - these are all the reasons for Meatless Mondays, so why not Milkless, too?

The evidence against any health benefits from milk is growing all the time. PCRM's recent campaign linking cheese consumption with obesity has been very persuasive, even if I don't agree with the billboards they ran. And the fine people at "Save Our Bones" pointed out a study which shows that milk does bones more harm than good (special thanks to loyal reader C.S., currently of New Hamburg, Ontario, for this link). Yet if you ask most people what is their most effective defense against osteoporosis, they will say "Milk." This is thanks to marketing, pure and simple. The milk marketing people are constantly dreaming up new reasons why everybody should be drinking tons of milk, even though we never asked them. 

This is one of the reasons why Harvard University responded to the U.S. Government's recently updated MyPlate guide to eating with their own "Healthy Eating Plate." Harvard's version lacks any recommendation for a serving of dairy, in effect declaring that dairy is NOT part of a healthy diet:

"Harvard’s nutrition experts did not pull punches, declaring that the university’s food guide was based on sound nutrition research and more importantly, not influenced by food industry lobbyists. The greatest evidence of its research focus is the absence of dairy products from the “Healthy Eating Plate” based on Harvard’s assessment that '…high intake can increase the risk of prostate cancer and possibly ovarian cancer.'  The Harvard experts also referred to the high levels of saturated fat in most dairy products and suggested that collards, bok choy, fortified soy milk, and baked beans are safer choices than dairy for obtaining calcium, as are high quality supplements."

Good for you, Harvard. Always the voice of reason amidst all the marketing. Somebody needed to counter the dairy industry propaganda with some cold truth. There are people out there who are so invested in the idea of milk being healthy that they are insisting on drinking it raw and unpasteurized for its supposed health benefits. This has resulted in 71 people sick and 9 hospitalized from drinking raw milk from a Pennsylvania dairy, 14 people sick and 2 hospitalized in Missouri and 19 people sick and 4 children with kidney failure in Oregon. 

The alarming increase in outbreaks of illness due to drinking raw milk (especially in children and the elderly) led the CDC to release a public warning against consuming it. It's sad enough when adults get sick, because at least they have the opportunity for informed consent, but children have to rely on the adults in their lives to protect them from such harm. More cold truth for people convinced by inflated, baseless health claims for milk.

Because after all, milk is a shortened form of "breast milk." This is a cow's breast milk, meant for a baby cow. Once babies (all species) are weaned from the breast, they're usually done with all that. They lose their infant tolerance for lactose. There is only one species in the world (that'd be us) which not only returns to the breast (figuratively) after weaning, but looks to suckle from an entirely different species (cows, but also goats, sheep and whatever else we can lay hands on). Where did this strange idea even come from? 

Well, this is not a cultural history of dairy, so I'll just close by mentioning that food writer Kathy Freston has listed some great dairy alternatives in her recent HuffPo piece, in case I have convinced you that Mondays should be Milkless as well as Meatless. If you're looking for a deliciously creamy recipe that isn't very hard to prepare and is dairy-free, then this week's offering should please you. I hope you are and that it does.