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The Taste of Milk

Looking for The Lactivist? She's retired. But you CAN still find Jen blogging. These days, she's runs A Flexible Life. Join her for life, recipes, projects and the occasional rant.

Monday, January 29, 2007

There's this scene in Napoleon Dynamite where he's in an FAA milk judging event. He's got three big containers of milk in front of him and as he drinks each one, he has to explain what makes that milk unique. You know, things like "this one tastes like the cow got into an onion patch..."

I laughed, but Greg (who actually went to state (or was it nationals) for FAA milk judging) swore to me that you really could tell. You could pick out bleach, onions, whether the cow was grain fed or grass fed and so on. Seemed weird to me, but whatever. Milk is milk, right?

Well, I started buying organic milk for Greg and I about a month ago when we started on our "healthier eating" journey. I kept hearing about how organic milk tasted better and being someone who LOVES milk, I thought that sounded great.

Here's the problem. When you remove all the crap that comes in conventional milk, there's nothing left to mask the flavor of whatever the cows ate. We've been through three brands now and I'm amazed at how clearly you can taste the different things that the cows have eaten. We started off with Meijer brand organic (which is what Elnora has been drinking for a year.) It was hit or miss. The first carton was pretty good, the second carton...well...the word "dirt" came to mind.

Next we tried a local Ohio organic milk that was about 75 cents less per half gallon. Greg thought it was wonderful. He declared it grass fed milk and raved about the taste. I thought it tasted like dirt. In fact, I couldn't drink it straight (and it was barely passable on cereal.)

This week, it's been Stoneyfield Farms organic milk from Giant Eagle. It's $3 a half gallon, which is 30 cents less than the Meijer brand organic.

It's fantastic! Best I can tell, it might be from grain fed cattle. There's no taste of dirt, no strong, pungent flavor, just cool, crisp, yummy milk.

So what's that have to do with breastfeeding?

Well if you think about it, it makes even me sense now why some babies get mad when we eat certain things. I mean if we can tell if a cow ate grass or grain by drinking their milk, why wouldn't what we ate make an impact on what our milk tastes like to our babies. Yesterday I loaded up on garlic...tons and tons of garlic. I'd imagine that taste got passed on to Emmitt.

Babies are going to have taste preferences the same way that we do. Unfortunately, most of them can't tell us yet what they think of these flavors. They're hungry though, so they have to drink it even if they hate it. That whole fussy at the breast thing makes sense to me now. I'd be pretty fussy if I'd been forced to drink that dirt milk.

So my question is to those of you nursing older kids. (2, 3, even 4 years old.) Do me a favor and ask them how the milk flavor changes and what they think of different foods. I really, really wanna know about this, but I'm not going to drink my milk myself. ;) Throw back a bunch of garlic and ask your 3 year old what they think. Load up on the barley or rye or some other strong grain and see what they say.

Then tell me. Because I'm super curious. :)

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  1. Blogger Damien McKenna | 9:44 AM |  

    FYI I was raised on a dairy farm so I know what milk should taste like.

    We drink nothing but Organic Valley milk because they're grass-raised cattle and their PR is believable (yes, I almost wanted to give up my life as a geek to be a farmer after reading their site). Their milk is the closest I've found in local store (Orlando, FL) to what my dad's farm produced, and we've not stopped buying their stuff. They just started carrying their cheese and butter locally, but its kinda expensive and we normally get Kerrygold butter anyway ;-)

  2. Blogger Jennifer | 9:48 AM |  

    Meier and Giant Eagle both carry Organic Vallry but it's a full dollar more per gallon so I hadn't tried it yet. If Stoneyfield Farms stays consistently good, I think we're safe, otherwise Organic Valley will be next on my list. :)

  3. Blogger tanya@motherwearblog | 12:28 PM |  

    I think it's amazing that you can taste the difference!

    I just wrote about this (in relation to babies and the taste of breastmilk) when we were in California and eating tons of great food:

    http://breastfeeding.blog.motherwear.com/2007/01/my_favorite_ben_1.html

    I love how breastfeeding introduces babies to the kinds of foods they'll eat later in life.

    And the funny thing about garlic: It's one of those foods which people tell you not to eat, but when they did a study of what happens when mothers eat a lot of garlic and nurse, the babies ate MORE.

  4. Anonymous Anonymous | 2:07 PM |  

    Our team won the state FFA contest and placed 12th (I think) in the national contest in 1988. Good times.

    That Stoneyfield Farms milk you have right now is pretty good. It has a strong flavor like the first kind you tried, almost like whole milk. If it stays consistent, I'm fine with that.

    Greg (the hubby)

  5. Blogger Carrie Lauth | 4:13 PM |  

    Funny, I draw raw, unpasteurized milk and I never notice a taste difference! Hmm.

    Babies are supposed to like garlicky milk. In fact I believe that's the reason breastfed youngun's are less likely to be picky. Formula doesn't change unless Mom changes brands. Breastmilk changes from feeding to feeding.

  6. Blogger Jennifer | 4:31 PM |  

    Well if the cows that you get your raw milk from are all at the same farm, their diet probably doesn't vary much?

    As for picky, Elnora is the pickuest kid I know, so breastmilk didn't work for her...

  7. Blogger Darlene | 7:19 PM |  

    Well,...uh....if you had a really brave hubby, maybe he could articulate the difference. For purely scientific reasons, of course.

    Sign me, "the ewwwww factor"

    :-)

  8. Anonymous Alena | 8:49 PM |  

    That would be an interesting experiment! I will definitely ask my 2 year old. I did ask him before why he likes to nurse so much, and his answer was: "because it's beautiful and yummy". :)

  9. Blogger Melissa | 1:26 PM |  

    #1 I'm now inspired to start eating more garlic, which I love anyway. Too bad my husband won't appreciate my decision (ummm, let's just say the odor isn't just confined to the breath! :-)

    #2 alena can my daughter date your son when they are both old enough? :-D That was one of the best comments I have heard yet about the taste of breastmilk!

  10. Blogger Judy | 2:25 PM |  

    Well, my first son nursed until he was 2 1/2, but never commented on the taste of the milk. I always ate lots of garlic, though, (and other spices - cayenne, cumin, anything!) and he's not too picky now. He will actually eat raw garlic straight out of the jar! And chowed on chips and hot salsa earlier.

    It would be interesting to know though. And I greatly prefer the taste of organic milk, although I generally don't drink it - if I think about it too much I get kind of sick.

  11. Anonymous Anonymous | 7:18 PM |  

    Babies get used to different flavors in utero, because the amniotic fluid changes with food flavors. (I delivered people from many ethnicities--the smell when the bag bursts in quite apparent). I was always taught that the milk changes that way to, but that was why breast fed babies were less picky. Of course, now that I have 3 former long-term nurslings that are the worlds pickiest eaters, I can't say that it turned out that way, but I still wouldn't trade a minute of my nursing time with them!

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