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  • Sandy Green

COW'S MILK CONUNDRUM

I really love dairy products. I’ve never met a cheese I didn’t like - be it a fancy wedge or powdered in a blue box. There are a number of diets and food philosophies that espouse going dairy-free, but I’ve never considered them for myself. I’m not lactose intolerant, I don’t have stomach issues and milk products are delicious! Why mess up a good thing?

But as we’re nearing the one-year mark, Avi has started the transition to whole cow’s milk. And for the first time in my life, it feels weird. It feels weird that as a transition out of infancy, Avi will start drinking another animal’s baby-milk. I had a moment yesterday when I spilled some cow’s milk on the counter. My first thought was, “thank goodness that wasn’t my milk.” But my next thought was, “Someone (something) had to pump to get this milk...I should be more careful with it!” I started to explore this feeling a little further and learned that there is no other mammal on earth that 1. Continues to drink milk after infancy and 2. Drinks another animal’s baby-milk. You could argue that there are a lot of things humans do that no other animals do, but something here just started to feel...not totally right.

The more I’ve learned, the worse it all seems. I learned that dairy cows must give birth to one calf a year and are often artificially inseminated only 3 months after giving birth. I learned that dairy cows today are bred to produce about 7 times more milk per day then their calf actually needs. I learned that because the dairy cows are bred to be over-suppliers, they are given antibiotics to prevent mastitis. As a mother, as a breastfeeder, this seems like a form of inhumane torture and it breaks my heart.

But for me, it’s more complicated than that. Dairy is not something I eat simply because I love it and it tastes good. It plays an important role in my overall nutrition. I became kosher 18 years ago as a teenager. I made the decision that I would only eat kosher meat and absolutely no shellfish, or pork (plus a few other non permissible foods). And while avoiding these foods has become a habit in my day-to-day life, in reality, it actually causes me to have a fairly restrictive diet. When I’m not in a place with kosher meat options (which is most of the time) I have very slim options for protein. I try hard to eat a diet that’s well balanced between carbs, fats, and proteins and dairy is often a fall back for both fat and protein. And that goes for Avi as well. As he relies more and more on solid foods, I want him to get enough fat and protein, which often means cheese and yogurt. I know there are plenty of dairy substitutes, but none of them (to my knowledge) tick those nutritional boxes.

So the bottom line is, I’m torn. Who knew that the ‘sisterhood of motherhood’ that I love so much would include ALL mothers? That I would feel a kinship with not just human mothers but other animals as well. I’m certainly not an expert in any of this and like so many things in life, google allows me to build whatever argument I choose. So for now, I’ve decided to be more mindful about the amount of dairy I eat and try to limit it. As I learn more, perhaps that will change to be more restrictive. And maybe not. But as I’m learning, I’d love to hear what others think. If you’ve given up dairy, what made you make that transition? And if you do still eat dairy, have you thought about it? Was it a conscious choice?