Jon Cook is a fourth-generation dairy farmer in Wiltshire, south-west England. As a result of his own battles with personal health, he has come to view the welfare of his cows in a completely different light. In spite of the alarmist warnings about its consumption from the industry regulators, Jon produces raw milk for an ever-expanding consumer base, and he spoke to UK Column in a clear and comprehensive manner about the rationale that drives him.
Having made radical alterations to his own lifestyle—and, in particular, his diet—Cook realised the likely benefits of adjusting the same things for his dairy herd. The results have been outstanding, and the farm is barely able to keep up with the demand. It is a demand which is stimulated not just by the desire to support a local business, but by deep-rooted belief in the health benefits of consuming raw milk. It is also a demand which can only be met inside the ‘farm gate’, as Cook explains that he is only permitted to sell his milk within the confines of his premises. This is just one of a raft of burgeoning regulatory hurdles he must clear.
In giving a wide-ranging and well-articulated account of who buys raw milk and why, he puts forward a significant body of anecdotal evidence of health benefits. Many of his customers attribute their recoveries from debilitating conditions to the consumption of raw milk, as well as crediting a major adjustment to their diet, away from refined and processed foods. Cook is able in this interview to provide a detailed explanation of why it is that milk from some cows may prove more digestible than others, and he links this to the genetics of the individual in question.
Cook, a passionate and energetic speaker, is in no doubt that the food industry is a well-honed tool for the subjugation of a population, in that the majority of its offerings are not conducive to human health, though highly addictive and kept at low prices. His own journey involved achieving significant weight loss after giving up sugar, which involved a process of painful withdrawal. Putting his cows through the same abstinence, by moving them onto a pasture-only diet, yielded incredible results in terms of milk quality, but not before some five months of grumbling from the herd. Cook explains, in a most compelling manner, the relationship between gut health and food, and how much more simple the diet of a cow—and, indeed, a human—should be.
Running alongside his concerns over the health of his livestock and the nation are Cook’s fears surrounding the food security of the UK. Such has been the drift away from agriculture and any form of practical skills, he regards the majority of the population as extremely vulnerable if faced with a disruption to the supply of food. This raises complex philosophical questions about the place of farmers within society and, in particular, their value.
Not content with fighting on one front, Cook is also actively involved with the Raw Milk Producers Association, where he serves as a director. Via a dialogue with agencies such as the Food Standards Association (FSA), he hopes to reverse the trend of sharp decline in the number of raw milk producers. He believes there are now only around 120 farms operating in this manner in the UK (and raw milk is already illegal in Scotland). The FSA labels a section of its website ‘How we’re protecting people who choose to drink raw milk’, making it sound more like nuclear waste than a health-giving gift from nature. He faces an uphill battle; of that there is no doubt.
Jon Cook serves as an inspiration, as a role model and a powerful and well-informed advocate of a traditional practice that has been sabotaged from all quarters. He has little hope that anyone will stand up and support his cause in the name of science, yet his supporters continue to flock towards his herd. You can find him near Purton, in Wiltshire, at Dora’s Dairy.