Don't you dream sometimes of having real milk at hand ? I'm addressing the milk lovers among you, but there may not be that many reading wineterroirs actually... When you buy long-conservation milk in a shop or in a supermarket in France, what you get in the square pack is the shadow of the real thing. Even when you choose the supposedly whole milk (lait entier) type, it seems having been beforehand unashamedly deprived of its core nutrients and fat (to make cheese I guess), and it tastes bland and also looks almost watery. Like for wine and its additives, I would like the milk companies to print everything on the milk packs about what happened to this pristine milk since it was abandonned by the cow in the milk shed. The milk available on the market has been going through violent processes which altered the original qualities (including the gustative ones) of the milk. I also noticed that whole milk tastes better in certain countries like Germany for example, either they don't fully pasteurize it or they use another technique like micro filtration, but it does taste closer from real milk. I put the blame for this lack of taste found in many French milks on the use of an antiquated pasteurization method. It seems that the milk is briefly heated at 140°C which is way too violent on the milk and kills all gustative qualities as well as healthy nutrients. There are certainly much softer ways to make the milk stable and safe for transportation and storage, especially for the regular milk which is found on the refrigerated cabinets of the food stores.
After speaking with a farmer in the Loire about my dream of drinking unaltered, freshly-collected milk, I was said to visit the milk farm any day at the end of the afternoon, so I paid a visit to this family farm. They have about 60 milk cows and grow various crops like wheat. I wanted to do this kind of direct-buy in a farm for long, having tried in the past real milk and having enjoyed its strong taste and silkyness. This was a memorable gustative experience along with the fun to see the cows happily empying their milk in the dairy shed.
Americans have several active groups working to bring real milk back in favor, like Real Milk, a project of the Weston A. Price Foundation, which promotes wise traditions in food and farming, and also like Raw Milk Facts, by Randolph Jonsson, a northern California nutriologist. There's nothing more interesting when you ask yourself basic questions about milk and raw milk than informatives pages like this milk FAQ page.
The milking shed is an aging facility on the side of an open barn, and the cows line on both sides (14 or 16 in all if I remember), the son of the farmers connecting each of them to the milking machine after a short cleaning of the tender extremities.
With the number of small to medium milk farms in France, it's quite easy for many French who opt for a real-milk alternative to go from time to time to such a farm and buy raw milk there. It is also very economical, the cheapest price for a liter of so-called whole milk in a supermarket is 60 cents, and that's the price these farmers sell their wine to the rare visitors who want some. I brought an empty 1,5-liter plastic bottle and the bill would have been 90 cents (they offered it to me, I couldn't have them accept my money), a steal when you taste the thing.
Buying directly milk in the farms is also benefiting to the farmers as if 60 cents seems cheap indeed, it's quite higher than the regulated price paid to the farms by the dairies in France, which is now at 35 cents a liter. A cow typically yields 40 liters a day on average if I understood correctly, and a percentage of cows have on certain days milk which is unsusable for consumption, for example when they got antibiotics, and the farmers have to dump a few dozen liters on certain days. The milk falling in the red bucket for instance will go to the drain, it looks nice but the cow in question being treated with antibiotics for a small problem, it can't be mixed with the production. the milk which is collected by a tanker truck everyday at the farm in the wee hours of the morning must be immaculate. The farmer says that the sanitary checks at the dairy are very strict and if they found a measurable ppm amount of medicine in the milk, the whole tank with the farm-production of the day would be destroyed. For our daily wines I would just wish we had similar strictness at least for the informations (I'm not in favor of any destruction) about the amount of residues from pesticides and herbicides as well as a detailed list of the additives...
My advice to every real-food lover : try it at least once. There are many small milk farms around in most countries/regions and you'll not risk anything asking. Many farmers will be pleased to sell you a few liters. You can keep one liter to drink raw for a try and boil lightly the other liters. That could be a good way to meet friendly farmers and rediscover one of the best natural drinks on earth...after wine of course.