Neutering Cheese


Neutering Cheese

So far no cheese made of raw milk has exploded. Yet, raw milk cheese makers are almost treated as explosive makers. Producing cheese with raw milk is producing traditionally. It is whole and virtually ancient. It has been produced for centuries. Traditional cheese was made with nutrient dense milk from naturally raised livestock. Anything produced traditionally does not employ the methods of industry and does not comply with modernity. They are free from additives and chemicals, and are not killed by heat treatment. These make them nourishing rather than filling. So I can argue that raw milk coming from traditionally raised livestock is ancient milk.  Ancient milk was the essential diet for aboriginal nomads who lived their life by following their livestock where the livestock was the central theme of their daily life. These transhumance practicing aboriginal nomads basically imitated the wild herbivores such as deer and buffalo in the search of fresh pastures instead of being forced to eat manufactured pellets made of processed grains and chemicals. Their seasonal movements did not harbor diseases while keeping their animals stress free and clean. Today the practice of taking flocks to highlands for the summer is a derivation of transhumance of the ancient times.

Nevertheless, not only is replicating and imitating these ancient ways frowned upon, but simply not allowed in our age. The rationale used to block raw food production including cheese is public health. The obsession with this is a form of mental addiction to “all or none”. As a result of this, the population as a whole has to comply with this invasive worldview which perceives humans as the members of a beef lot where intensive monoculture production is worshipped.

Moreover, banning the production of cheese with raw milk is annihilating traditional and ancient practices, thereby destroying its people. According to the UN, forcing a population to abandon its culture is a form of genocide. Yet this genocide has received mass acceptance, because it presumably protects the public. For safeguarding the majority, traditional minorities who do not even threaten the way of life of moderns are destroyed. If we follow the money, we can conclude that the beneficiary of this holy protectionism is big industry and academia.  Since, for them, conservation is being backward, they feel the urge to modernize it by sterilization and mummification of food. The losers are endemic livestock, ecosystem, people who cultivate traditional cultures and their customers.

Let me share a real life scenario from my own cheese making to demonstrate the above points. I collect milk from 15 sheep and goat shepherds in a village located in a mountainous region at Western Anatolia where the ancestors of the locals lived a nomadic life in early 1900s. The shepherds take their flocks which amounts to over 3000 heads to higher lands for browsing and grazing daily. There are only few left who move into highlands for the summer. Starting at 5pm and ending at 9pm, collecting 500lts of milk, about 30lts from each shepherd takes 3 hours. Then I start making cheddar and am done with it at 4am. Although the inspectors know it is a big investment for a small creamery like mine, they insist upon the milk being collected in a cooling tank. Knowing that the milk will be turned to cheese shortly after collection, yet keeping it cold, and then heat treat it leave more carbon prints, in addition to wasting labor and funds.

Complying with the requests of inspectors increases costs which are reflected in the price of cheese. In turn this forces me to sell at higher prices. This is only one of the hurdles of raw milk cheese making. If I cannot find the funds, labor and time to collect milk according to the rules, which locating quality labor at remote places is very hard, I will be forced to abandon cheese making. The fact is that I need no more than 40°C to make cheddar. Explaining to the inspectors that cheddar like cheeses are protected from pathogens by utilizing lactic acid produced by curds, in addition to its lower moisture content and longer aging process changed nothing.

On another level, these requirements are reflected on the milk producing traditional shepherds. When I stop buying milk from them, they replace their sheep herds with sheep that cannot graze in the hills, but only can utilize factory produced feed faster and get ready for the meat market sooner. When I demand uniform milk from goat herders, they are forced to replace their goats with Saanen like milk goats and pellet feed them instead of herding them to browse. That way, not only does the composition of remaining ancient flocks of nomadic breeds disappear, but their keepers are also forced to change their way of life. Shepherds’ children abandon villages for cities. So many of them simply move to milk cow raising for large industrial dairies. On average there is six members to a shepherding family. 15 shepherd families that means 90 people have to transform themselves or perish in one location out of thousands.

The pastures grazed by flocks used to support wolves by providing them occasional meat. The Kermes oak trees coevolved with livestock do not get trimmed by them, causing undergrowth to be potential fire hazards. Insisting on sterilizing milk and cheese affects the ecosystem.

Raw milk coming from stress free livestock, that live on mineral balanced soils is healthy and has its internal traits to protect itself from bacterial invasion. Apparently milk must be handled with care which is not any different from meat. There are ways to protect milk prior to milking and after milking. When milk comes out from the udder it’s ingrained with internal protective agents such as lactoferrin, lysozyme and lactoperoxidase.  These agents are known to be inhibitory to the development and multiplication of pathogens as long as they are not crippled by heat shock. The norms of nature dictate that the primary source of infant nutrition must not be produced at 65°C degrees. Internal temperature over 42°C is deadly for mammals. Killing milk is distorting its indispensable qualities. Because it is of established facts that not only are the enzymes, but vitamins are also denatured during heating.

The issue of raw milk is more political than scientific. The trio of politician, big business and bureaucrat decided in early 1900s to arrest raw milk and jail it without trial based on allegations and accusations. The evidence against it has been collected afterwards. However, it has been found guilty!

Rather than controlling the producer at every step, is it not simply cheaper and effective just inspecting the final product and judging the tree by its fruits? The real issue is not whether raw milk cheese is safe or not. The safety of the consumer is an excuse for keeping the producer’s leash short at every step. In the global collectivist economy that we live in the standards for food production are set by the technocrats. Traditionally, controlling the product came from the bottom up. When the quality of my raw milk cheese fails, the buyer can easily abandon me and put me out of business. Not allowing a healthy organic and direct relationship between the buyer and producer benefits the middle man.

The true milk is raw and it used to be of personal choice before the big industry confiscated the liberty to choose. If eating just like breathing is a birth right and provided we do not belong to policy makers we should be able to make our own decision about what to eat and how. Otherwise this makes eating of a collective ritual feeding. Making raw milk cheese traditionally has several extensions. Eradicating this practice for public good is annihilating the living ancient cultures. Our insistence on raw milk cheese is half of the victory.