Does the farmer use a milking machine? Is it cleaned regularly with a bleach and vinegar solution? Are milk jars properly sanitized? Is milk chilled immediately to the 40° Fahrenheit minimum? How? Ice-water? Stainless steel chiller?
Does the cow look healthy? Does she have vibrant, curious eyes? What breed is she? Older rather than newer breeds (Jersey, Guernsey, Brown Swiss, Milking Shorthorn vs. Holstein, etc.) will produce milk with the A2 beta casein protein, whereas newer, over-bred cows are producing mutant A1 beta casein which has been linked to increased risk of childhood diabetes, heart disease, and negative affects related to schizophrenia and autism. (I encourage you to begin your own research if this interests you; see www.betacasein.org and also the interesting Lay Summary of Beta Casein A1 and A2 in Milk and Human Health by the New Zealand Food Safety Authority.)
Are the cows on pasture? Healthy cows in Oregon should be on rotated pasture for 7-9 months out of the year on grass that stands 4-7" tall. Are the cows given minerals and good quality alfalfa hay? If they are fed supplemental grain, it should be void of corn and soy (which upset the bacterial ecology of the cow's rumen and makes them susceptible to carrying food borne illness bacteria - see why real cows eat grass), and it should not exceed 1% of the animal's body weight (8-10lbs.).
Taking all of these factors into consideration, it's easy to understand why high quality raw milk farmers are so passionate and invested in the health of their animals, pasture, and the quality of the milk they provide their customers. So much effort and work is involved; if you're in search of a source and you find suspiciously cheap milk, beware the possible cut corners in any of these areas that may compromise the quality of the milk and invite possible health problems.
Fresh, raw milk at home in my fridge...complete with beautiful cream lines...
If you've not had an opportunity to have your first taste of raw milk, please, invite yourself over to my place for a drink, and then give Charlotte a jingle and arrange to head out to the farm and meet the cows yourself!
I encourage you to spend time looking into the options for you and your own family. In the process, I hope you meet your very own Charlotte ~ I believe the world is full of wonderful family farmers like her who are passionately dedicated to offering themselves, their knowledge, and their amazingly hard work to care for the land and animals, and to nourish us, the members of their communities...