“Do we want the local (conventional) milk, or the large-scale organic (shipped 2500 km) milk this week?”
In case you were wondering, we’re not actually planning on getting a cow. We only have an acre and a half cleared, and the cow would need most of it for pasture. It’s swampy and we’re near a river, and we already have plans for some of that land, and they don’t include pasture other than for bees and chickens. You cannot take a cow places with you for the weekend, so all vacations are right out of the picture. Most obviously, a cow is a metric butt-load of work. Literally.
Despite all these drawbacks, the mythical cow keeps coming up in conversations, because lack of access to sustainably produced milk is one of the things that gets right up my nose. As we often eat a nearly vegetarian diet for months at a time, dairy makes up a significant portion of our food dollar, and I’m uncomfortable with where a lot of that is going. In addition, the cow is often the missing component of the sustainable permaculture-like system we envision for our landscape, so four or five times a week is not out of the ordinary for the recurring cow conversation.
“Too bad we don’t have access to a source for manure that isn’t contaminated with garbage.” “You know, we could solve that problem with a cow. Cow’s make TONS of manure.” (That is one of the two main reasons that we don’t have a cow.)
“Boy, I’d like to make cheese, but it takes $16 of milk to make one pound.” “I hear that a cow gives so much milk that you have to make cheese two or three times a week just to keep up. Of course, then you have the problem of what to do with all that cheese.” (Cheese rolling jokes divert us from further consideration of the cow.)
“You know that if you don’t eat vegan, you’re contributing to the veal industry, right?” (This one is usually directed AT us, rather than part of the conversation within the family, but it has a significant piece of truth and I don’t want to dismiss it lightly. Sometimes people use it as an argument against vegetarian eating, but it tends to tip me more towards the vegan end of things. Except that monoculture nuts are an environmental catastrophe. And we can get local dairy, whereas we can’t get local legumes or nuts. But I digress. This is about cows, not nuts.)
I would buy my neighbour’s milk, but I’m not allowed to. Specifically, she’s not allowed to sell it to me. I want her milk, she wants to sell her milk, but we’re not allowed to make that exchange, although I am allowed to drink it when she invites me for dinner. It’s good milk, high in cream, and the butter is bright yellow because the cow gets lots of pasture which increases her beta-carotene levels. But I’m not allowed that milk, only the pallid industrial milk that feels a lot like a processed food after I’ve had the real thing. The only way I can get access to real, whole milk (pasteurized or not) is by purchasing, raising, breeding, pasturing, milking, and mucking out a cow of my very own.
So we go around and around and around, and every few days, the conversation comes back to the cow we don’t have.
The most recent one went like this:
Me: I’m going to try making yogurt cheese, I think. The yogurt was a really good price this week.
Him: That’s a good idea. Maybe we should try making our own yogurt again?
Me: I would, except the milk costs so much that it is cheaper to just buy the yogurt, even the organic stuff.
Him: Oh. (realizing the trap he has set for himself) So, can we just assume the intervening bits of this conversation and skip straight to the cow part to get it over with?