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Feathers and Horns

Raw milk subscription sells fromage blanc at Boise Co-op

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Retrieving a slice of warm, homemade toast, Mia Crosthwaite peeled the lid off a chilled container of fromage blanc.

"It's very much like cream cheese, but you start with whole milk instead of cream," she explained, as I smeared a generous layer across the toast. "But the process is very similar."

In the background, Mia's husband, Brian, attacked a wheel of homemade parmesan with a saw, as three of the couple's children watched intently. In the backyard, another of their kids kicked a ball while dozens of chickens pecked at the hard February ground and two cows ambled around a pasture.

Mia and Brian Crosthwaite have nine kids who range in age from 2 to 22. Each week, the family chugs through about 15 gallons of milk. So when the Crosthwaites moved out to a 1.5-acre plot off Maple Grove and Victory roads five years ago, they decided to purchase Christina, a Jersey cow.

"We decided to opt out of the industrial food system, so we thought we'll raise our own food. So we got a milk cow," said Mia. "I'd read books, but we are city people--my husband and I were both raised here in Boise, in the city. So we were straight out of a sitcom when we first got Christina, learning how to milk."

But they eventually got the hang of twice-a-day hand-milkings and even acquired a second Jersey cow, Sunflower. They also purchased a milking machine to ease the process.

"We just decided this was something we enjoyed and we wanted to share it with other people and supplement our income," said Mia.

The Crosthwaites started Feathers & Horns, a weekly subscription service that provides raw milk and eggs to about 24 customers. Idaho's Small Herd Exemption lets farmers with up to three cows sell raw milk for human consumption if they comply with regular testing.

Rachel Scheffel, a Feathers & Horns subscription customer, stopped by to pick up two gallons of milk with her daughters Hailey and Hilary. Eyeing the generous layer of cream resting atop the milk, Scheffel explained that she prefers unpasteurized milk for its health benefits.

"The raw milk helps my digestion be a lot better; I've noticed a big difference," said Scheffel. "And then I make butter off of the cream just to get more probiotics into the kids' diet. We love it."

Another customer, Marcy Midnight, echoed her sentiments.

"Everything about it is different. ... I love having the raw and the flavor is rich and it just tastes so fresh. Also, having the probiotics and having the thick cream on top and using that in our coffee," said Midnight.

Though Feathers & Horns has a waiting list for new milk and egg subscribers, the Crosthwaites recently started selling their lightly salted fromage blanc in 6-ounce tubs at the Boise Co-op.

"When we did a taste testing [at the Co-op], people didn't know what fromage blanc was," said Mia. "As soon as they tasted it, of the people who came by, one out of every two or three bought some."