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Is goat milk good for cats? The answer to that question has been getting a lot of attention lately, due to the recent release of a new documentary called What the Health, and the subsequent controversy it’s ignited.
The documentary, which red on both the Food Network and Animal Planet on Monday, July 9, tells the story of the dry industry’s response to scientific evidence linking dry products to health problems, including allergies, cancer, diabetes, and even heart disease.
In the last three years, the number of dry-free products in the marketplace has exploded, from yogurt to cheese to cream and even lactose-free milk, as milk consumption in the United States has plummeted.
The documentary explores the relationship between the dry industry and some of the world’s leading health experts, including Harvard University’s Michael Greger, the director of the Center for Nutrition Research, Dr. Neal Barnard, president and CEO of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, and Dr. John McDougall, the author of the best-selling book, The McDougall Plan.
According to a press release about the documentary, What the Health: Is Goat Milk Good for You?, “The film challenges conventional wisdom, highlighting how the milk industry has spent millions of dollars to distort the facts and attack legitimate scientific research.”
The film, and the attention it has garnered, is a boon for a small, nonprofit company called HappyCow, which helps dry farmers market their milk. HappyCow has created a database of more than 60,000 dry farms in the United States, which it says are producing milk that meets the USDA’s standards for organic milk. The data includes information on milk quality and farming practices, as well as dry-friendly recipes.
The organization has an interactive map that lists dry farmers’ milk supply near you, and lets you look up milk farms that match your preferences for cows, milkfat, and other factors. HappyCow also has a dry-free map that lists dry-free food sources near you, and it has a “Go Dry Free” app that helps you find dry-free products in grocery stores and online.
In the past couple of weeks, I’ve heard numerous inquiries about what dry cows eat. The answer, as always, is “it depends.”
“But the reality is cows are vegetarian,” as Dan Barber, author of The Third Plate: Field Notes on the Future of Food, told NPR’s Melissa Block last week, referring to a New York Times magazine article in which author Mark Bittman advocates “cooking like the Italians,” eating a variety of small servings of different foods every day. “We don’t call it vegetarianism because, let’s be clear, you’re getting a certn percentage of milk, a little bit of meat, eggs, cheese, butter, but you’re not a vegetarian.”
Barber and Bittman’s idea is that each meal should consist of three different food groups: one from the animal world, one from the plant world, and one from the mineral world. Barber says he started eating this way after reading The Omnivore’s Dilemma, an expose of factory farming by Michael Pollan, and he says that now it’s easier to find farmers who specialize in grazing cows, such as in the U.S. or British countryside.
“The reason it’s easier to find grass-fed [milk] is because it’s not a commodity,” Barber told NPR. “It’s a very rare and expensive item, so there’s a small number of farmers doing it, which is why I’m happy with the organic certification. Because then you know it’s going to be good.”
But for all the benefits that grass-fed and pasture-rsed milk can provide, it can also be difficult to find. That’s why HappyCow has created a map and a database, with the goal of letting consumers know about farms that are making milk avlable. (See the full map of happycow.org/dry for a list of farms and farmers that make dry-friendly milk.)
And for the many dry farmers out there, it’s no surprise that they’d like to find other ways to market their milk. The documentary discusses the dry industry’s efforts to keep the public unaware of the health problems dry products might be linked to, and how the industry has spent millions of dollars to make that happen.
“We’ve spent many millions of dollars in lobbying to try to keep the American public unaware of the truth,” sd Michael Jacobson, executive director of the Center for Science in the Public Interest, in an interview with NPR’s All Things Considered. He also sd that the industry has worked to convince people that people get milk from cows, and that dry cows eat nothing but grass.
He explned that “when you look at the data, if you look at the FDA’s database of all milk products, in 2007, about 99 percent of milk products were from cows that had eaten grass,” Jacobson sd. “They don’t drink water. They don’t eat hay or grn.”
But that’s not true, according to David Steinman, the founder and president of the dry cooperative of New York’s Capital Region, which owns the milk cows at the site in the documentary, and which produces milk for the HappyCow map.
“This is actually a frly well-fed farm,” Steinman sd. “We use grn, and we give them grass every day, which is why their milk is grass-fed.”
He says the cows eat a mix of grass and grn, and are supplemented with feed rations in times of need, like when their milk yield drops. Steinman says that a majority of his cows are fed a milk protein supplement called Optaf