That's right, anonymous. No pictures. No name. No identifying features whatsoever. Just a lovely stock photo of cows in a field.
Now, it's not that this person chooses to remain anonymous... on the contrary, his home page has his name and picture right on the banner. I'm the fussy freddy behind all the discretion, and with good reason. This week's chickenless cook is technically a criminal.
First, a crash course in civics:
A long, long time ago, back when people didn't understand what germs were and thought they were the work of the devil or something, they used to keep their dairy cows in unsanitary conditions and feed them items that the FDA would not deem safe for their consumption today. (Not that the condition of your average cow is so hot in the US at present, either; but for the sake of argument, let's say dairy farms are basically cleaner than they were at the turn of the century). Folks in cities frequently got sick from milk that had been transported from rural areas. Up sprung the practices of pasteurization and homogenization. Big bad creepy-crawlies like typhoid stayed out of the milk supply, farmers were still allowed to transport their milk long distances, and for a long time everyone was content with the arrangement.
But as Bob Dylan would say, "Don't speak too soon for the wheel's still in spin." Today, organizations like Real Milk argue vehemently that the benefits of raw dairy outweigh the risks, as long as sanitary standards are upheld.
Trouble is, they're not allowed to test this theory. Sale of raw dairy for human consumption is illegal in a number of areas throughout Europe and the United States, all the territories of Australia, and all the territories of Canada. In my home state of Florida, only criminals deal in the raw.
Enter my anonymous cook of the week.
An acupuncturist by trade, he started volunteering on farms years ago, and developed a side business selling local products such as fruits, vegetables, herbs, and- you guessed it- raw dairy. Anyone who wants to partake can sign up on his website. Every two weeks he schleps around picking up from farms (all are within a three-hour radius). Customers can then pick up their pre-ordered contraband at his Altamonte Springs home.
Let's take a side trip and discuss the logistics of this business for a moment. Surely he uses less gas fetching your food from local sources than a chain grocery store uses importing your food across the globe. Thumbs up so far. However, those thumbs are attached to hands that are not "on". You still won't understand where your food comes from, any more than if you had bought it at Super Wal-Mart. You won't get to judge for yourself the living conditions of any animals involved, or whether the fertilizer they use on their plants is organic. You are entrusting your health and ethics to a third party. Thumbs down on that- no matter how trustworthy your third party happens to be, perpetuating a "get it all in one spot" mindset discourages diligent research and, by extension, responsible eating.
So far, I have thumbs pointing in each direction. Here's where your thumbs come in.
I considered expense when deciding whether or not to use this service. When you buy directly from a farmer, there's no middleman to jack up the price. Now, if you're a busy person, chances are it's either because you have a job that keeps you that way or are a single parent with a steadily-working spouse. In either case, you may find it worth paying a bit more for the convenience of attaining assuredly-local food from one source. In my case... well, I have more time than money, so my thumbs went down. This is a personal rather than a societal consideration, and I thought it would interest my readers to spread the idea around. Perhaps you would like to patronize a business like this in your neck of the woods. Perhaps you would even like to start one. In either case, I would strongly support you, even though I don't happen to be the ideal customer for your services.
I would also like to hear from your thumbs as far as the legal issue is concerned. We're moving back into the realm of societal consideration now, but the reason I saved this for last is because I'm not sure where I stand in the raw dairy debate. I am more than okay with the legal sale of booze and cigarettes, so long as their labels clearly warn of the health hazards. But I'm not crazy about the idea of selling something that could cause a typhoid outbreak. Potential benefits include increased nutritional value and assistance with immunization... both important, to be sure, but worth being legally allowed to place your children in danger of life-threatening disease?
If that were the whole story, I would say no. But I don't know the whole story.
What have you heard? I understand that mostly small farms engage in this activity, so is it possible that the risks of consuming raw dairy are being exaggerated by lobbyists working for large corporations? Or are raw dairy traffickers a health menace, as deserving of punishment for their crimes as drug dealers?
In an earlier post, I asked you to leave a kind word for my cook of the week; and I would still ask that if you can't say something nice about him personally, don't say anything at all. I chose him for a reason: because he is one chickenless SOB. No matter what can be said about the legality of his business practices, I personally admire him for helping people get the local foods they appreciate and deserve.
That being said, would you use a service like his? If not, is it due to any of the factors I've mentioned, or is there something I haven't considered? What is your opinion on raw dairy in general? On local dieting? Please feel free to leave a comment or write firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thanks for taking the time to read this in between trips to the costume shop or the party supply store. Happy Halloween and look forward to hearing your thoughts!
Beat the eggs. Whip the cream. Show no mercy.