Back in the olden days of yore, my mother or some other older female person might say when regarding a loose or vaguely moral-ed young woman, "Why buy the cow, when you can get the milk for free?"
I never thought of the woman giving away anything she shouldn't, but I did think of the cow, usually in a pasture, just waiting for us to come an get the milk. In my imagination, the cow doesn't seem too upset about this free milk taking, and that imaginary milk tasted good.
I like milk, always have, never growing out of it or allergic to it. It's delicious, especially with something sweet, like a big wedge of chocolate cake. It's great to bake with. What people make out of milk is very tasty, too. If I wouldn't end up like some big balloon, I'd eat cheese, butter, yogurt, and cream fraiche for the rest of my days.
In my mind, milk like so many other foodstuffs has been relegated to the "magic" file. I go to the store, and there's the milk, in the milk case, along with the other milk products. Just as with meat, milk shows up already processed and packaged.
The closest I ever came to relating to cows was when I breastfed my babies, and I breastfed each exclusively for months and then for a long time afterward. I had soggy cow moments. Milk, then, did not seem free, but sometimes something that came at a heavy cost.
But why dwell on swollen this's and that's? And I didn't, moving on to more consumption of everything and few cow associations in the following years.
This weekend, though, I remembered. My husband and I toured a dairy, and this was a very good dairy, one that was sustainably farmed the feed, was mostly organic, small, sanitary, and all sorts of other good words that they can put on product labels. This was not some huge dairy farm with thousands of animals, only about 350.
But still, there were the large cows, forced to have one calf a year in order to keep producing milk. Once calved, the still slick new offspring are taken away, the cows moving back into production. Every year a calf, every day, nine gallons of milk, two pumpings needed to get that. Nine gallons is 72 pounds. Yes, a cow is a big girl, but 72 pounds. Holy cow, and I mean the holy part.
There the cows were, lumbering forward into the milking stalls, having their teats wiped, the machines stuck onto their enormous udders. There was the example of what we do to creatures before me, and I thought of all the gallons of milk, the wheels of cheese, the buckets of yogurt I've consumed over the years.
Frankly, I don't need to eat cheese or drink milk. I'm well padded and fed. I could do without dairy products altogether, but I want them, so the cows moved forward in line, pushed from behind, sucked dry in the front, let loose to eat more feed and make more milk, not for starving children everywhere, but for me and others like me.
I thank these cows and will thank them when I have my coffee with milk in the morning and my yogurt during the week. I will thank them, and remember how the milk is not free, not at all.
Causes Jessica Inclán Supports
Women for Women International Goodwill Industries Lindsey Wildlife Museum Freecycle.org