I don’t say enough how much I love my Paleo/Primal/Real Food network. I love you. I love you all!
Had I not discovered this way of life (okay, had Coach Rut not discovered it for me), I wouldn’t have connected with so many new, wonderful people. I wouldn’t be able to understand what Hayley of The Food Lover’s Primal Palate meant by her text: “I’m No-‘Poo-ing for the third time this week!” (No Poo = Awesome.)
Because of these connections, I’ve even started to think Twitter is kinda cool (don’t tell anybody).
Because of The Twitter, I was able to connect with the Paleo Parents, another fabulous duo who invited me to have a Paleo Dinner with them in the Washington, DC area before viewing Farmageddon together. I enthusiastically accepted their invitation and was treated to a hilarious, inspiring and delicious dinner.
You know how I think having a dog and a Cave Husband is, like, Sooomuchworkyouguuuys? Well. Stacy and Matthew have three HUMAN children. Three BOYS. All of whom are rambunctious (in the best possible way), smart, well-adjusted, and Totally. Paleo. It truly warmed my sarcastic little heart to see these tiny hands gripping a plastic kiddie knife, ready to dig in to some backbones from Polyface Farms.
To make things even better, check out this masterpiece from Cole wherein he discusses what constitutes healthy food:
Egg, Bacon, Salad, The Dressing, Period. (And Apples too.)
Touché, kid. Touché.
Stacy and Matthew’s journey is truly inspiring, and to see two folks who run the gamut of day-to-day responsibilities manage to raise kids who are willing to eat beet greens while maintaining a blog and a garden (WITH CAULIFLOWER IN IT) is pretty much confirmation that no excuse is greater than the desire to be healthy.
Post-feast, the grown-ups (well, two folks with grown-up responsibilities and me) headed to a showing of Farmageddon, a film I’d hyped via facebook, Steve’s Original and Twitter based on the band of high-achieving Real Foodists (Joel Salatin, Sally Fallon) who are featured in it.
I was excited to see this movie. It’s becoming more and more apparent to me that our government is fully capable of restricting our right to nourishing food, arbitrarily and with great prejudice. The Raw Milk Movement is evidence of that – further, it’s evidence of how insidious a government-backed “dangerous food” conclusion is. Raw milk isn’t inherently dangerous, yet it’s illegal in many states. Fear of this nourishing, traditional product colors the opinion of even the most enlightened food activist.
Think about it: What about raw milk is inherently dangerous? (I don’t want to get into whether humans should or shouldn’t drink dairy right now, mmkay? Whether I drink it or not, I should have the choice.) Nothing about raw milk should be dangerous, outside of random chance – which, I might add, could make anything from spinach to walking down the street “dangerous.” What’s creating the peril upon which the Feds build their case is the way most milking cows in the industrial food complex are fed and treated.
Cows, in the government-supported paradigm, are fed corn (carb) supplemented with soy (protein) and soy oil (fat), which makes their rumen so acidic and their bodies so sick that they need antibiotics. They’re pumped up with hormones like rBGH to elevate their milk production. They get mastitis. They get infections. They make milk that has to be ultra-pasteurized in order to kill off the pathogens that thrive in this warped environment. The fat is then removed (since we’re afraid of fat, right?), but since all the fat-soluble vitamins are in the fat, the milk must be supplemented with synthetic Vitamin D, among other things. I admit – if they sold this garbage raw, I wouldn’t touch it with a ten-foot Oreo.
Basically, the government has a problem with the product of its own subsidy-driven system. And it fails to recognize that the danger is inherent to the production, not the product. Pasteurization arose as a response to similarly perverted pseudo-milk. A cow appropriately raised, rotationally grazed on pasture only, produces milk that’s nutrient-dense and safe. But most people aren’t familiar with this product. And raw milk is slightly different:
-It doesn’t last as long; and while it doesn’t “go bad,” it does “sour” due to (desirable) bacterial activity. (“Good bacteria.”)
-It’s not homogenized (as in, the fat globules aren’t forced into uniformity), so the fat separates. Gasp. You have to shake it before you drink it!
-It’s not homogenized, so it doesn’t distribute in your coffee the same way. (Pobre Cito.)
-All the natural vitamins remain intact.
Additionally, all proteins and fats are left intact, as nature intended, undamaged by heat pasteurization and homogenization; and the lactase (the lactose-digesting enzyme that helps digest lactose) remains intact. Beneficial organisms in raw milk enhance digestion and kill “bad” pathogens, were they present at all. Ugh. What an awful, product, right?
My point is, raw milk is unfairly demonized. The fear of raw milk is a product of this black-and-white approach to “food safety” that’s perpetuated by a government machine that’s too big to maintain the quality of its parts. It’s too big to see individuals. It’s too big to see small operators and family farms. I think that was the point the filmmaker hoped to make.
The tragedy – and the science – was what I hoped Farmageddon would illuminate and expand upon. Unfortunately, I believe this film only fulfilled part of its potential. It was a valiant effort, but fell short. With a title like “Farmageddon,” this flick bowed under the weight of some great expectations. Even an appearance by Joel Salatin couldn’t lend this film the weight it needed to make a true impact.
Admittedly, while I do accept certain grammatical fudgems as part of the charm of the blogosphere, a movie that attempts to gain commercial support will lose me at the first apostrophe error. It will definitely lose me at the second. Who edited this piece?
Farmageddon, as a niche flick, certainly earns respect from the audience that already believes what I stated above. But this film hopes to reach a wider audience, and it failed to do many things that it could have.
Fair or not, the unfortunate responsibility of the underdog in any situation – if he wants to win the day – is to prove himself. Farmageddon could have done this by focusing on as many solutions and scientific references as it did on family tragedies – because these references exist! Why squander the opportunity to extol the deeper, more specific scientific virtues of pasture-based farming and real, raw milk? Call me cold, but we’re a science-and-solutions oriented community. It’s what makes us effective, and it’s what justifies our very unconventional choices.
Farmageddon brought us several very sad, very unfair stories of families who had their small food/animal operations ripped from them in laughably over-sophisticated, spy-games-like investigations and raids. We got some slow motion video (extended a bit past its usefulness) of a large family who had been traumatized by government agents. We got hidden-camera-style footage of the filmmaker attempting, unsuccessfully, to interview some officials associated with an unfair case (it seemed reasonable that she was sent away – the receptionist, while unwilling to discuss the case, simply insisted she needed to have set a meeting).
(One bright idea, touched on only briefly: Raw Milk should be sold like raw meat – with the understanding that consuming undercooked meat or dairy *may* pose risks. People can boil their own milk.)
These nice farmers, animal lovers, and raw milk aficionados were steamrolled by the drones of an ignorant government. It surely seems mean and unfair. But will the tears, the slow-motion, and the words of the always-brilliant Joel Salatin be enough to convince the uninformed to re-consider their false “food safety” paradigm? Moreover, will it spur them to act?
I believe that everyone should care – not because of this movie, but because of what I spelled out ahead of my review. But Farmageddon may lack the power to convince the uninformed of anything related to the inherent safety of raw, appropriately farmed milk. A viewer may find it a decisive bummer, but I doubt they’d trade their ultra-pasteurized Frankenmilk for raw clabbered cream or start writing to their senators. To catalyze a movement, you’ve got to inspire that kind of action.
I suppose I’ve written a scathing review here. I don’t mean to disparage the underlying movement or the intentions behind this well-meaning film – I simply think that, in a world where our right to eat is in great peril, every public act counts; and this film – while born of compassion and a deep commitment to shedding light on an injustice – doesn’t meet the needs of the community hoping to foster change with it. I was hoping for a greater victory.