A few years ago, I switched my family to raw milk. This was a result of my son’s healing process from digestive issues; pasteurized milk gave him horrible stomach cramps but he thrived on raw milk, even during his elimination diet of no soy, gluten, corn, and sugar. I was never a big milk drinker, though I did have my soy milk years before I knew any better. Raw milk is a different story – I love drinking it and no longer have teeth sensitivity as a result.
I’m fortunate living in California that I can legally buy raw milk at farmer’s markets and independent health food stores. Raw milk is an emotional topic; people are either dying to drink it (it’s illegal in many states) or think they’ll die drinking it. There is so much misinformation surrounding the safety of unpasteurized milk that it’s understandable why people are fearful of this very nutritious food. But all food has the potential of carrying harmful pathogens, and we haven’t banned raw salads, hamburgers, or eggs.
Raw milk is probably the safest food I do buy now; their standards are much stricter then pasteurized milk. Food companies announce recalls almost every day. There seems to be no logic to the overwhelming bias against clean raw milk. Much of this comes down to education and getting the right information.
Three Facts You Should Know About Raw Milk
1. There are Two Kinds of Raw Milk
“Pasteurization does not create clean milk, it just kills filthy milk.”
– Mark McAfee Wise Traditions Summer 2010
Raw milk intended for pasteurization is a different food than raw milk meant for human consumption. Industrial milk cooperatives collect and combine raw milk from numerous farms where milk processing companies pasteurize and mechanically separate the milk to be resold into different dairy products. There is no need to produce clean milk since it is all intended for pasteurization. The result is a highly processed food that is homogenized and standardized with added ingredients to make up for the loss of vitamins, texture, and taste.
Raw milk for human consumption comes from individual family farms who care about the quality of their product and their relationship with the customer. There is no processing involved; the cow is milked and immediately bottled with all its wonderful enzymes and healthy bacteria intact. It is a whole food with no need for fortification.
2. Raw Milk is a “Living Food”
Raw milk contains probiotic bacteria, enzymes, and healthy fats which support the immune system and digestive health. Pasteurization destroys these beneficial bacteria and enzymes and diminishes the vitamin content.
- Lactase enzyme that helps digest milk is destroyed by pasteurization causing lactose intolerance.
- Phosphatase enzyme – destroyed by pasteurization – is responsible for the absorption of minerals including calcium in the bones. Those with osteoporosis do not produce enough of this enzyme and cannot absorb calcium. Bone density increases with raw milk consumption.
- Raw milk has high levels of CLA, Conjugated Linoleic Acid, a potent cancer fighter. Levels of CLA are very low in pasteurized milk.
- Vitamins A and D are greatly diminished with pasteurization and removing the fat hinders the body’s ability to absorb these important fat soluble vitamins.
3. Raw Milk is Sustainable
The current consolidation of the dairy industry benefits the few dairy cooperatives, fluid milk processors, and dairy product manufacturers that yield tremendous power over milk prices. Dairy farmers in this system receive less money for their milk than it costs to produce, resulting in farmers loosing farms that have been in their family for generations, and forcing others to get bigger. The concentration of animals in industrial dairies is creating massive manure lagoons that pollute the water and air and produce the perfect breeding ground for harmful bacteria. Cows are given an unnatural, highly processed diet that makes them sick, requiring antibiotics and shortening their lives. This system does not produce clean and nutritious milk.
Raw milk intended for human consumption supports a sustainable system and strengthens local economies.
Raw milk is;
- Good for the farmer – Raw milk producers sell directly to consumers and get paid more than if they were selling their milk for pasteurization.
- Good for the cow – Animals are given a natural diet and live a long life in a natural and clean environment. They don’t get sick and there is no need for growth hormones or antibiotics.
- Good for the environment – pastured cows do not create the toxic manure lagoons typical of industrial systems.
- Good for the consumer– Consumers get a healthy product in a transparent system (farm visits are welcome). The farmer takes pride and responsibility in producing a high quality and safe product.
It’s important to trust your source for raw milk. Read How to Choose an Organic Raw Milk Dairy at the Nourished Kitchen blog.
Still not convinced? Seek out pasteurized milk from sustainable dairy farmers preferably from grass-fed cows. The Cornucopia Institute has a helpful dairy report and scorecard on their website.
You can read more about the history of pasteurization at Agriculture Society | The Truth About Raw Milk.
And don’t just take my word for it. Many families have done the research and switched to raw milk. Read Ann Marie’s Top Ten Reasons to Drink Raw Milk | Cheeseslave, Jocelyn’s Drink Raw Milk | The Unaccomplished Lady, Kristen’s Real Milk | Food Renegade, and Cara’s Fresh Milk: Why Raw Milk is better than Pasteurized | Health Home and Happiness.
Food and Water Watch has an informative fact sheet on the Consolidation and Price Manipulation in the Dairy Industry and Taking on Corporate Power in the Food Supply.
Read more from Mark McAfee, CEO of Organic Pastures Dairy, The 15 Things that Pasteurization Kills on the Realmilk.com site.
David Gumpert, author of The Raw Milk Revolution: Behind America’s Emerging Battle Over Food Rights, blogs about raw milk politics and government raids on raw milk farmers at The Complete Patient.
It is vital to support the rights of farmers and consumers to provide and obtain raw milk and other farm foods. The Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund is a non-profit organization that protects these rights from unfair government regulations and provides legal assistance if necessary.
Raw milk is becoming a symbol for consumer food rights over access to real food and highlighting corporate influence on government food regulations. Josh Ozersky explored this in a recent column for Time magazine; What’s Fueling the Battle Over Raw Milk?.