Monday, October 21, 2013

I Dream of Cows

The Cow 
Robert Louis Stevenson

The friendly cow all red and white,
I love with all my heart:
She gives me cream with all her might,
 To eat with apple tart

She wanders lowing here and there,
And yet she cannot stray,
All in the pleasant open air,
The pleasant light of day;

And blown by all the winds that pass
And wet with all the showers,
She walks among the meadow grass
And eats the meadow flowers.

*   *   *   *   * 

The other day I went to the grocery store, for just a quick trip.  We already had produce from our co-op basket, and staples in our home storage, so I loaded my cart with a few gallons of milk, a pint of cream, a tub of yogurt, a block of cheese, and a quart of ice cream.

"I need a cow." I said to myself. 

And I laughed, because I'm really serious.  Because that wasn't the first time I've had that thought.  I've been thinking about it more and more.  (And even looked at dairy calves on Craigslist!)

Beyond the issue of how much dairy we use, the biggest draw for me is the quality of "homegrown" dairy products versus what is available in the stores.    Particularly the difficulty in finding grass-fed dairy.

 I recently found out that I could get "grass-fed" butter at our grocery store.  Kerrygold, "pure Irish butter", half as much butter for twice as much money as the store brand. 

It's delicious bright yellow butter.  But it's shipped from Ireland!

The ecologically-minded side of me doesn't think that's a very responsible purchase to make.  But it makes the capitalist side of me wonder. . .  why is there a market for expensive butter shipped in from Ireland?  Why don't commercial American farmers realize that there is a market in the US for grass-fed dairy products, and they are letting the Irish farmers capture that market and all the profits?!

A local dairy here started selling their own butter recently.  That's great, and I'd love to support a local dairy--but still the product is not really what I want.  Their cows are completely grain-fed.  Some of it grown by the dairy itself, which is admirable, but still, a cow's body is built specifically for digesting grass, and has a really hard time on grain. And in turn, the milk that comes from cows fed on a diet of "minimum input for maximum output" does not contain the same nutrients as milk from grass-fed cows.

It's fine, people that don't mind don't mind.  All I want is the choice to eat the food that I want.  And I'm just realizing with more and more things how difficult it is for me to find what I want in the grocery store. 

(Even venturing out further doesn't quite give me everything I want. We bought milk off the farm for a number of months last summer.  It was a 15 minute drive each way, we could only get 4 half-gallons at a time, they were in nice milk bottles, which look great, and make for easy pouring into glasses, but not for easy cream-skimming.  And, frankly, very expensive.  I believe a cow will be expensive to have as well, but it would provide for all our dairy needs, and maybe for bartering for other needs beyond that.)

Add to the lack of what I want being found in the grocery store, my growing family size compared to package sizes in grocery stores and it's making less and less sense (or cents) to buy there.  I think the time is coming (and I'm excited for it), when I will get my produce by the bushel, my grains in 50lbs sacks, and my dairy products straight from the (very generous) backyard cow.     

My future as a milk maid is waiting for me. 
img. Forgotten Household Crafts, by John Seymour

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