The Truth Behind Our Food | Kalona SuperNatural
This post feels like a long time coming for me. It was an idea I had a while ago when I first started writing about eating whole, organic, and local food. Don't know what I'm talking about? You can start here. It's been almost four months of practicing being more conscious of where our food comes from. Over those months, I went from kind of a hardcore mindset to finding myself becoming more flexible. There are days where we don't follow our own rules or guidelines we've set. My good friend, Cara, said it best while we were out for coffee, "Sometimes, you just have to pull out the chicken nuggets." I have a toddler that likes to decide when and what he wants to eat and nobody can tell him otherwise, and there are definitely days when I have dig in the freezer and heat up some chicken nuggets. It just happens, and I want to make sure that we never come across as purists. Because you might catch us out in public at the Subway sometime.
But, even though we go off the grid, we're trying our hardest to change. Going out to eat is getting easier. We're picking restaurants that only serve locally grown ingredients, and if they're organic, that's even better. We also just don't go out to eat all that often. It's too expensive, and the food really isn't that great when the ingredients are uninviting. Our diets have changed. While we were traveling (which was TERRIBLE when it came to finding whole food choices), Kurt decided to experiment. A little background info - my dad loves meat. Like loves it. He'd eat Polish sausage everyday if he could, but over the past couple of years has been suffering from some painful indigestion. I'm not trying to write out his medical issues, but I thought that maybe if you or someone you know is suffering it might be worth trying what he tried. So a while back, we cut out meat entirely for about two weeks. We ate a lot of vegetable dishes and leafy greens. His indigestion went away. Then we added in the organic chicken from a local Amish farm, and there were no problems. Then, while we were away, he decided to try eating meat everyday. And not the good kind, just whatever was the at the grocery store. It came back full force and was really painful! If you're suffering, maybe try experimenting with cutting out meat or poorly sourced meat. It might help!
Speaking of meat, let's talk about cows. Specifically, dairy cows. Did you know that we have a creamery in Kalona? It was one of the first things we discovered about our little town. It's a fully operating creamery and dairy called "Kalona SuperNatural" that makes all organic dairy products. These include milk, yogurts, cottage cheese, half and half, whole cream, sour cream, and butter. It is incredible. The chocolate milk. You guys!!!! You guys. It is honestly the most amazing thing I have ever tasted. We took a tour of the facility a couple of weeks back, and our tour guide described it as a melted Frosty from Wendy's. And I have to say - that is the perfect way to describe it! The best part? Everything they make it batch pasteurized and 100% certified organic.
I had emailed the team at Kalona SuperNatural a while back asking if I could feature their products here on the blog. Jill and I, along with Tad who slept on my shoulder the entire time, drove out to their processing facility and took a tour. It was really interesting and insightful, too! Of course, I started asking questions that did not pertain to the milk per say, but more about the cows and the farms themselves. Our tour guide was extremely helpful and kind. We learned that their milk comes from local cows all within less than 100 miles (and some from other parts of the Midwest) and a majority of those farms are Amish. This was interesting to me! They're very committed to working with small farmers so that those farmers have more time to focus on their work rather than marketing and sales. Love that!
It was interesting to me, though, because I had a great conversation with friends a couple of months ago about Amish farmers. I learned that a majority of them in this area are trying to grow organic. I guess I just didn't assume that, since most of the farms I've been able to tour and check out have been conventional. But it made more sense that an Amish farm would be organic. They don't believe in using advanced tools and equipment, most of their work is done by hand, so why use conventional farming methods? I love that this area is striving really hard to not only grow organic, but also create organic food products for the community to eat. But don't assume that every Amish farm is an organic one, and don't assume that organic farms are any better when it comes to how livestock is cared for!
The processing facility at Kalona SuperNatural is a lot smaller than I thought. They actually have several buildings in the area where they take in milk, test it, and create their products. At this particular facility, we were not allowed to take photos. Don't worry - we saw the entire place, and they are actually doing what they say, if you were skeptical. Ha! Our tour guide explained that the farms they work with are 100% organic, but not necessarily 100% grass fed. I wasn't sure how I felt about this, to be honest.
I love Michael Pollan. I think that he's pretty great, mostly for the reason that his entire prerogative is to promote cooking real food. It doesn't have to be organic or grass fed or special. It just has to be raw ingredients mixed together to make a meal for you and your family. I love that, and I feel similarly. There are days when we just can't afford to have everything be organic, or to have everything be sourced locally. On those days, I remind myself that all I have to do is make it myself. But, back to Michael, I read a great interview by him, and in it he says he gets the same question over and over:
"I can't afford to eat everything organic. If I could just eat one thing that's organic, what should it be?"
His opinion? Eat organic fruits and vegetables. They're more likely to be susceptible to causing you harm down the road, that is, if they're sprayed with pesticides and fungicides. I just learned the other day about an apple orchard nearby that claims to only spray their apple and trees minimally, but the apples they are spraying are the ones on the ground that they don't pick up. That means that all of the kids that are picking up those fallen apples and eating them are eating a directly sprayed apple. Gross.
Where was I going with this? Well, Pollan also made a statement about how he chooses to only eat grass-fed pastured beef, not necessarily organic beef. He claims that with organic beef, they have a set amount of time they have to be out on pasture. That's true, at least that's what our tour guide told us. To meet USDA organic standards, that's 120 days (correct me if I'm wrong) grazing time out the entire year. That doesn't necessarily mean that the animals are being finished (meaning the short time before they are killed) on grass. They're probably being finished on organic corn. So which is better, Michael?! To be honest, I don't really know. We've decided to just cut out beef all together. Because it's hard to understand, especially when there are so many varying opinions on the fact, on if grass fed or corn fed is better for you. Personally? I feel more obligated to care about what is better and natural for the animal. Cows were never meant to eat corn, so why should we feed it to them? Most people prefer how beef tastes when its fed or finished on corn, that exclusively grass fed beef has a weird flavor. Well, I don't care about flavor. I care about standards and naturalism, and if the flavor is that bad, then I just won't eat it.
How does that affect dairy? According to our tour guide at Kalona SuperNatural, they are able to put the label "Grass Fed" on their bottles. The cows do eat grass, but they are also fed corn before being milked. It's funny how you can put different claims and sayings on packaging that aren't necessarily 100% true, isn't it?
My conclusion? I like the product. I like that they're honest about their product, that even though it says grass fed, their team won't shy away from telling me exactly what is going into the milk and other dairy products. I like where it comes from, that most of the organic farms are right down the street, and if I wanted, I could probably ask to see one of the farms. Are organic farmers necessarily better than conventional farmers when it comes to treatment of livestock? No, I don't think so at all. I think every farmer is an individual, but I'll more than likely opt to purchase an organic vegetable because I know that it wasn't sprayed.
Should you try Kalona SuperNatural? Definitely! It's amazing, not just in taste and flavor, but in honesty, quality, and passion of product. From the fact that it's local, to the point where its batch pasteurized. I really love that. When I asked our guide about the pasteurization process, he said it was the closest thing you could get to raw milk. Their pasteurization process is actually slower than the standard milk you purchase at the grocery store. It's done in a longer amount of time at a lower degree of heat, while standard milk is pasteurized more quickly and at extremely high temperatures. Their milk also doesn't go through any bleaching. Did you know that it's illegal to sell and purchase raw milk in the state of Iowa? Yeah! It's also illegal in these states as well. In fact, it's the first thing that pops up when you start to type in "illegal in states." That's crazy to me!
Kalona SuperNatural's milk is also non-homogenized. That means that they don't separate the natural cream from the milk. Homogenization is not necessary for any food safety reason as it alters the molecular structure of the milk and is basically only used for cosmetic reasons. You can read the full story about why they choose to not go through this process with their product, which is actually really insightful and interesting, here. I think the best part about non-homogenization is that I can drink whole milk. I couldn't before I started drinking Kalona SuperNatural! Jill, Tad, and I are self-diagnosed with lactose intolerance. The three of us just cannot drink a glass of whole milk from the grocery store. We get terrible upset stomachs, cramps, constipation, and even vomiting in extreme cases. We read that if you have an intolerance to lactose, that non-homogenized milk allows you to be able to drink it. So we experimented. Tentatively drinking glasses of whole milk, we discovered that it did not affect us. What! It was revolutionary. Now, Kalona SuperNatural does not promote this, as it's not a proven fact, and everyone's intolerance levels are different. It worked for us, it might not for you, but I think it's worth a try. It's changed our lives, honestly, and we'll never go back to regular milk again.
What do you think? Are you struggling to find better dairy? Kalona SuperNatural sells their products all across the country, mostly at specialty health food stores. Try contacting your local grocery and see if they can start bringing in the products there. It's really just a great business helping to support small family farms. Check them out!