6 Reasons Why Raw Milk is Special

Raw milk: benefits, safety and facts

What makes raw milk so special?

 “What’s the big deal with raw milk? What makes it so special?” you may wonder. Well, when it comes to comparing raw milk and regular (a.k.a. pasteurized milk), they are two entirely different substances. Raw milk is a living food, full of digestion-enhancing enzymes. Pasteurized milk, on the other hand, is a dead food that is highly allergenic and difficult to tolerate.

Here are 6 reasons why raw milk beats pasteurized milk:

1. Raw milk boasts beneficial enzymes

raw milk factsHeating wet foods above 118 degrees F destroys the naturally occurring, beneficial enzymes. As a living food, raw milk contains enzymes that assist in digestion and assimilation of nutrients. Fermenting the milk into yogurt further activates beneficial enzymes, rendering the product even more digestible.

In particular, raw milk contains the enzyme lactase which helps breakdown lactose. Additionally, an enzyme in the butterfat called lipase aids in fat digestion and assimilation of the fat-soluble vitamins.

Pasteurized milk is heated to 170 degrees and ultra-pasteurized milk is heated to 280 degrees. This prolongs the shelf-life of the milk at the cost of destroying the health-giving qualities of the milk. There are no live enzymes left in pasteurized milk… it is a dead food. As a result, the digestive system must furnish all the enzymes required to digest it. Often, if the diet consists of all cooked foods, the body’s enzymes stores are depleted and digestion is impaired.

2. Raw milk contains healthy fat

The butterfat in raw milk separates to the top… just like butterfat should. The butterfat is primarily saturated–the most healthiest and most stable fat to consume (if you are still stuck in the utterly false mindset that saturated fat is bad for you, then get thee a copy of Nourishing Traditions immediately!). If the raw milk is from cows in pasture, this butterfat boasts anti-inflammatory and anti-carcinogenic properties.

The practice of homogenization further mutilates the chemical integrity of milk. The fat globules are pressurized so that they become small enough to be in suspension throughout the milk, without separating into cream. This makes the fat and cholesterol more susceptible to rancidity and destroys the colloidal structure of the milk.

Even worse options are reduced fat, low fat and skim milk. The body requires removed butterfat to absorb the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K in the milk. This vitamins are even more unavailable to the body in low fat/skim milk. Skim milks often contain dry milk powders and additives to compensate for the loss of flavor and texture with the butterfat. The consumption of skim and 1% milk has been shown to cause more weight gain than whole milk (here’s the study).

3. Raw milk contains bioavailable vitamins

The vitamins in raw milk are fully intact and bioavailable. If the cows are in pasture, the milk is significantly higher in the extremely beneficial vitamin K2. This vitamin was studied by Dr. Weston A. Price, who understood its powerful health-boosting properties and called it Activator X.

It’s another story for pasteurized milk, however. During pasteurization, more than 50% of vitamin C is lost. The primary cofactors, enzymes and proteins that assist in the absorption of folate, B12, B6, and iron are also destroyed with pasteurization (source). Further, one protein destroyed by pasteurization is beta lactoglobulin, which plays an important role in the absorption of vitamin A (source).

4. Raw milk is uniquely digestible

One survey revealed that 80% of people who were described as “lactose intolerant” by a healthcare practitioner can consume raw milk without a problem. Raw milk is heralded as a cure for asthma, thyroid disorders, constipation, allergies and more.

Pasteurization and homogenization makes milk allergenic and difficult to digest. In particular, pasteurization destroys the naturally-occuring lactase enzyme. This often leads to undigested milk sugar (lactose), which can can cause digestive distress. Further, the heat of pasteurization denatures and destroys some proteins. I think that one reason people find raw milk so much easier to digest is because the proteins are complete and bioavailable.

5. Raw milk is not inherently allergenic

While dairy allergies are pervasive in Western nations, raw milk consumption has been correlated to lower rates of allergies. Although correlation doesn’t mean causation in that study, many folks who have switched to raw milk will tell you that it drastically reduced their seasonal allergies, hayfever and asthma.

As a matter of fact, early exposure to a farm environment and “farm milk” (another term for raw milk) showed protective properties against allergies and asthma.

According to the study published in the Lancet,

Exposure of children younger than 1 year, compared with those aged 1-5 years, to stables and consumption of farm milk was associated with lower frequencies of asthma […], hay fever […], and atopic sensitisation […].

Pasteurized milk, though, is a very common allergen and many natural health practitioners from various modalities believe it is inherently allergenic. As a matter of fact, pasteurized milk can actually precipitate food allergies, because pasteurization alters some of the milk proteins and makes it irritating to the gut.

6. Raw milk usually means better animal health

Generally, raw milk is obtained from smaller-scale local farms. Chat with the milk producer and support the farmers who let the cows graze in pasture. Pastured, rather than grain and soy fed cows, boast drastically more nutrient-dense milk. Additionally, pastured cows and cattle restore the top soil and play a vital role in the ecosystem.

cows in pastureCows at gigantic-scale dairy farms live in cramped, unsanitary conditions. They produce unnatural quantities of milk, causing their udders to distend and impairing their ability to walk. These cows are fed corn and soy, ingredients that their ruminant digestive system was not designed to handle. Large amounts of antibiotics are required to keep the cows alive, and traces of these antibiotics pass into the milk. The treatment of these milk cows is extraordinarily cruel… these gentle creatures are treated like machines, not animals. The milk they produce is of extremely poor nutritional quality due to their living conditions but also (I believe) to the emotional distress they endure.

Raw milk risks: “Is raw milk safe?”

One common concern regards the safety of raw milk. “Is raw milk safe?” is the first question I’m asked when I explain that I happily drink raw milk. Any food can be contaminated with a dangerous bacteria or pathogen… that is the risk of eating anything. The “dangers” of raw milk are exceptionally exaggerated, however. For example, it is 10 times more likely to get sick from eating deli meat than consuming raw milk (on a per-serving basis!). Source.

Last year, Chris Kresser wrote a comprehensive and flawlessly executed article on the safety of raw milk. In response to the cherry-picked CDC press release that claimed “Majority of dairy-related disease outbreaks linked to raw milk,” Chris brought the risks of raw milk into perspective:

  • When it comes to food-borne illnesses, dairy products are at the bottom of the list of offenders. Dairy products only account for about 1.3% of foodborne illnesses each year.
  • The CDC’s report used an outdated, smaller estimate of raw milk drinkers, most likely in an effort to exaggerate the risks. The report also used the statistics of illnesses related to illegally-made raw milk queso fresco, which carries significantly more risk than fluid raw milk
  • During 2000 – 2007,  you had roughly 1 in 94,000 chance in getting sick from drinking raw milk. Does that sound risky to you? Let’s examine what this really means. Food poisoning means anything from a little diarrhea to a hospital visit. There is an average of 1.5 people per year getting hospitalized for raw milk consumption. That means the risk of hospitalization from drinking raw milk is 1 in 6 million.
  • Chris further threw things into perspective by explaining that we are 750 times more likely to die in a car crash than to be hospitalized for drinking raw milk!

“Where do I get raw milk? What if I can’t get it?”

Many states restrict the sale of raw milk in grocery stores. Other states allow herdshares or the sale of raw milk if it is labeled as pet foods. Even in the few states that completely outlaw raw milk sales, it is almost always possible to purchase raw milk from a farmer. To find raw milk in your area, contact your local Weston A. Price Foundation chapter or the Real Milk website.

If you cannot find raw milk, the second best option is low temperature pasteurized and non-homogenized milk. Seek out sources of milk from pastured cows, since this will be higher in nutrients. Try to avoid Ultra High Temperature (UTH) pasteurized milk, a highly denatured product. Interestingly, the major Certified Organic dairies like Organic Valley use this type of processing.

“But isn’t cow milk for baby cows?”

This is another question that I wanted to address here, since it pops up so frequently on my (and other bloggers) Facebook page. Let me preface this by saying: I am not trying to convince you that you should drink milk. You can make that decision for yourself. But I do believe the “cow milk is for cows” argument is illogical, and here is why:

1. Humans are at the top of the food chain. We made it to the top of the food chain by obtaining nutrient-dense food from animal products. And as a result of being at the top of the food chain, we eat whatever we want… cow milk is “meant” for humans, if humans want it. We have been consuming milk since we first domesticated animals, because we understand the health-giving properties of it: fresh milk is an extremely healing and nourishing food. (In particular, I think raw goat milk is very digestible and beneficial. I discuss it a little bit later).

2. Animals innately know the nutrient-dense qualities of fresh milk, and that is why they would drink cow milk if only they could! Dawn at Small Footprint Family has a well-researched rebuttal for the argument that humans are the only species that drink the milk of another animal:

“Many mammals drink other mammals milk. For instance, pigs are notorious for breaking into the dairy barn just to drink from the cows. Some animals also sometimes nurse orphan animals of other species. Primates love cow’s milk and ask for it from their handlers. Raccoons prefer it when dumpster diving/scrounging around in cities. The Red Billed Oxpecker perches on the udders of Impala and drinks their milk. On Isla de Guadalupe, feral cats, seagulls, and sheathbills regularly steal the milk directly from the teats of elephant seals. Predators in African savannahs fight viciously over the full udders of the nursing animals they’ve hunted down. Most animals would gladly consume milk if you gave it to them; they just lack the access, brain power, and opposable thumb to get it. ”

Dawn Gifford at  Small Footprint Family

 “But I can’t tolerate milk products!”

“But I can’t eat dairy. It gives me digestive issues.” Most likely, you will be able to tolerate raw milk without a problem, even if you have lactose intolerance. Cheeses are more difficult to digest, however. If there is an actual cow milk allergy, however, raw goat milk makes an excellent substitute and is even better tolerated than raw cow milk. Homemade yogurt, especially made from raw milk or raw goat milk, boasts even superior digestibility.

 

Are you a raw milk fan? Do  have easy access to it, or do you need to purchase it straight from the farmer like me?

Additional sources not linked in the above text: Real Milk WebsiteNourishing Traditions

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Comments

  1. Stephanie says

    “We are at the top of the food chain so we *eat what we want.” That’s a bit of a disappointing take on this. People have the right to be concerned for the well being of adult animals and their babies. If they don’t, who will? I agree about raw milk and its health benefits.

    • says

      We are not disagreeing. We can eat what we want… I want to heal my body and support a healthy ecosystem with my food choices (as I explain, one of the benefits of raw milk is that it usually means humane treatment of cows and calves). People who don’t care about their health or the planet eat foods that do not support their health/the ecosystem.

  2. Nancy Cole says

    I talked with a woman here in Greeneville about the milk. Now in TN, pet means you have to have a license to sell pet stuff. So, now it is the cow share is the only way to get the real raw milk I grew up on and we brought our children up on up in NY State. I don’t drink much milk, but I love making my yogurt from the raw milk. Our source is calving so we don’t have that option right now. Only other is the second best, the heated. More expensive and does not make good yogurt. So, I am on the Silk milks for right now. Yea, we can get real raw milk, it is 6 hours west of us near Nashville. Back to the old ways that were so much more healthier and cheaper in the long run and people lived productive lives into their 80’s and 90’s not sitting in a home and being drugged. I am now going on 78 and love being independent, not on any medications of any kind and being able to grow a bean in a pail and have it organic. :-)

  3. Caroline says

    I have a dairy allergy. Like hives and throat closing up reaction. Do you think this would be less severe with Raw milk?

    • says

      No, I wouldn’t suggest drinking raw milk if you have a real allergy to milk. You could try raw goats milk, because this has different proteins than cow milk.

      • Nick Stanton says

        Lauren: From reading this article I have the impression that you may not be aware of the distinction between type A1 and type A2 milk. The difference is extremely important because type A1 milk may be harmful while type A2, the “original” milk, is beneficial. In general type A1 comes from Fresian and Holstein cows, preferred by dairymen because they are mire docile and easier to handle. Here is a link to a brief summary of the information: http://www.sydneybashi-bangla.com/Articles/Golam%20Kibria-Cows%20milk.pdf
        The article speaks for itself and there is lots more information on the web. The two photos at the top of the article are Fresian/Holstein type cows. Lower down in the article you have included some pictures of more traditional, heritage breeds.
        Another important distinction is between 100% grass fed dairy and cows that get a grain supplement or other unnatural feeds. Grass is the only natural food for cows and ruminants are the only species that can produce protein from plant sources.

  4. Courtney says

    I thank God that I have a raw milk producer within 10 miles of my house. Unfortunately, in the state of Texas, raw milk can’t be sold in a store or at the market, so I have to go directly to the source. We had a law introduced in our last legislative session that would have made it legal to sell raw milk at the farmer’s market. That bill made it out of committee, but didn’t make it to the floor for a vote before the session ended. :(

  5. Angie says

    Does it matter if the raw milk is not organic? Zaycon Foods has recently begun selling raw milk in our area of western Washington and I was wondering if that would be better than buying organic whole milk.

    • says

      I think the most important variables are if the cows are humanely raised and grazing on pasture. If you can, contact the company and see what it feeds the cows and if the cows are antibiotic/hormone free. Depending on how the cows are raised, I think it is better to favor non-organic raw milk over organic pasteurized milk.

  6. Mariah says

    Hi Lauren, I have a question. You said you drink raw milk; how does that fit in with the GAPS/SCD diet? I am on the SCD diet to cure my colitis, so I’m obviously not drinking milk now. I have wanted to try it to make yogurt, but I know that would introduce bacteria other than just acidophilus. At what point on the SCD diet do you think it would be okay to switch to raw milk to make my SCD yogurt? Thanks!

  7. Lacie Horman says

    I am lucky to have a farm close by that sells raw milk and I am just starting to learn about it and try it for my family. How long does raw milk usually last before it starts to go bad?

    • Chantel says

      It lasts at least a week. Ours has never “gone bad” because we drink it so fast! But my farmer said that even if it starts to sour, it doesn’t actually go bad in the same way that the dead grocery store milk does. It will sour but it doesn’t get putrid.

      • TS says

        Ours keeps for about two weeks. It willnever sour, just truns to buttermilk, so make some yummy pancakes and waffles out of old milk, if you can keep it around that long!!

  8. Jo Andreacchio says

    In Australia, selling raw milk for human consumption is illegal. It must be labelled bath milk – not for human consumption.
    But they can’t control what you do with it, once you buy it!

    I get mine through a co-op who buys through an organic dairy farm who pasture their cows specially for raw milk. Very easy to get hold of.

    I’ve always been lactose intolerant and my husband became severely lactose intolerant after having part of his colon removed due to cancer. Both of us have no issues whatsoever with raw dairy!

  9. says

    I LOVED this article!

    My husband and I have been drinking raw milk for almost 10 years. We would NEVER go back.

    We buy all our raw milk, pastured eggs and most of our meat from a local farm. The animals are humanely treated and pastured and no pesticides, etc., are used. We also get a lot of organic veggies from them in the summer.

    We do occasionally supplement our raw milk with organic pasturized cream from the grocery store and occasionally non-raw organic cheese. We do make our own kefir and yogurt with our raw milk, and we use the whey to make fermented saurkraut, which we love with our eggs for breakfast. :)

    BTW, when I found your site, I had gone mostly gluten-free just because I thought it would be healthier; I am so glad I found your site, because you turned me on to coconut flour recipes that I LOVE!

  10. says

    BTW, one reason I like the farm we buy our milk from – the calves are treated well. They are NOT separated from their mothers at 24 hours, the way they often are in the dairy business. (And most dairy farms these days ARE a business.) However, this small local farm keeps the calves with their moms until they are weaned. The way milk cows these days have been bred – they make enough milk for both their own babies and for us to drink. I would NOT want to drink milk if I was going to deprive a calf – but fortunately I don’t have to make that choice. Also, prior to switching to raw milk, I noticed I’d sometimes have some lactose intolerance issues – but since switching, doesn’t happen. I can have 2-3 servings of raw milk a day, plus plenty of yogurt or kefir, no problems.

    • says

      That is a great point about fully weaning the calves, thank you for sharing! Fortunately, the farmers who provide my milk do the same.

  11. Nan Deardorff-McClain says

    Excellent article, Lauren! I live in Delft, The Netherlands and have a 10 minute bike ride to a farm that sells raw, organic milk at an even cheaper price than pasteurized milk in the grocery store! Yes, I’m spoiled! Your article reminded me of a the good reasons that this twice weekly cycle is well worth the effort! Do you happen to have a link to a study about the use of raw milk in treating asthma? I would love to share such information with a friend whose daughter has troubles with asthma and allergies.

  12. Rebekah says

    For those trying to find a milk source if you life in or near the country try the Amish. My we get our milk for an Amish family who has 2 cows and more than enough milk for themselves.

  13. says

    We have our own family milk cow, a Jersey named Hattie, and she is at about 1 1/2 gal. per day. We also have a milk goat, a Nubian named Maybelle, and she is at about 1/2 gal. per day. We drink it, make cheese, make butter, buttermilk, bake with it, and feed our pigs & chickens excess. I don’t think I could go back to drinking regular milk. I FEEL so much better eating whole foods from my own little homestead. Life is good! Thanks for the article!

  14. says

    This is a wonderful article. We are a small dairy, milking 16 cows, in central Maine, with a farmstead creamery. We are fortunate to be able to sell at farmers markets, stores and from the farm. I am often asked about many of the questions you address here. One thing I am concerned about is the tendency to divide dairy into big vs little. There is no denying the fact that there are large CAFO type dairies out there as well as the 1-2 cow homesteaders. I have known many larger farmers (100-200 cows) that do a wonderful job taking care of their cows, and smaller operations where you couldn’t pay me to eat anything they produce. It really is the consumer’s responsibility to visit the farm their milk is coming from and make an educated decision about the source of their food.

  15. Wendy says

    We have a small herd of nubian and saanen goats and would drink NOTHING else except raw milk. I have been a huge raw milk advocate for a while now and always smile when people taste it for the first time. They can’t believe how good it taste, (just as nature intended). As for depriving our goat babies, we milk share with them. They make plenty enough milk to nourish their kids and provide milk for us. Many lactose intolerant people can and do drink goat’s milk.

  16. says

    Be careful with the facts…. the Pasteurized Milk Ordinance (PMO) is the national guideline for pasteurization of milk which dictates that milk should be pasteurized at 145 degrees and held there for thirty minutes. There are other acceptable temperatures and times but those require specialized equipment and training. Your statement about pasteurization temperature is inaccurate in this instance. Ultra high temperature pasteurization is typical in organic milk for long shelf life and is a nasty process that I won’t get into here. High temperature/short time pasteurization is done at 165 degrees for fifteen seconds and is more common in larger processing facilities. I point this out as someone who has to know, understand, and follow these guidelines to maintain my dairy processing license (I am own a farmstead creamery).
    I am not advocating pasteurization over raw milk…. I use only raw milk goat milk myself and believe we should be able to decide for ourselves what foods to put in our bodies. I find it hard to deal with some of the partial truths that circulate and do not help folks understand the realities of milk processing laws. On that same note folks should be very careful buying raw products from unlicensed (and therefore from animals not tested for certain pathogens) sources. Being educated and having a good conversation while observing the operation are very important. It is no joke when a person picks up brucellosis and is left with lingering health issues after the initial illness as one of my customers experienced

  17. says

    Hi Lauren

    Are you able to tell me why cheese is harder to digest then raw milk. I thought because cheese has been fermented it should be easier to digest as it has know got where bacteria in it.

  18. says

    Thanks for speaking on the baby cows drink cow milk nonsense! We switched to raw milk several months ago and my daughter who we thought was lactose intolerant has had no issues! We love it!

  19. Amy says

    I would add to point #6. A majority of dairies that pasteurize their milk do not produce milk that could be safely consumed raw. On the contrary, there are many pathogens and (as far as I understand it), often pus from mastitis. I believe even these dead bacteria can cause a reaction in our histamine production.

    My kids started out on pasteurized milk products. After my daughter missed 1/4 of her kindergarten year due to a runny nose and my son needed albuterol every time he caught a cold, I switched. I know this is anecdotal, but they both became healthy soon after switching to raw milk. That was 5 years ago. Then my daughter stopped drinking milk for 2 months. She contracted whooping cough. For us, it is just safer to keep drinking raw.

  20. says

    I appreciated the information presented here and Non-Dairy Milks: Think Twice Before Buying. I will indeed think twice about processed milk alternatives but I cannot in good conscience revert back to the traditional cow’s milk, raw or otherwise. Because it has been consumed since “we first domesticated animals” is not a valid reason to continue to do so. Making the assumption that we are at the top of the food chain gives us the air of superiority which in turn gives us licence not only to “eat whatever we want” but to exploit in order to get whatever we want. The quote you use from Dawn admittingly uses the word “steal” when certain animals prefer and take the milk from other species of animals, and that is exactly what we are doing. Because we have had “the access, brain power, and opposable thumb to get” milk from cows since the beginning of time does not make it right. Racism, sexism, war, rape, etc etc have been done since the dawn of humanity yet it does not make it right. Nature provided cow’s milk for one reason only, to feed baby cows, and nature provided humans the need to drink our human mother’s milk for a certain period. To continue to drink milk by stealing from another species who suffer tremendously when their baby calves are forcibly taken away from them, is unnatural, cruel, and simply wrong. Have you seen a mother cow grieve for her baby calf? Have you seen a baby calf restrained and taken away from its mother never to be reunited with her but instead to most likely suffer the fate of being taken to the slaughter house? This has been the natural consequence of our presumptuous speciesist position. But we have now seen the extreme consequence of this attitude through industrial farming and cannot deny anymore the harm and destruction we are creating. We thus have the opportunity to reverse this and assume our compassionate human qualities and take care of the animals and the earth in a way that honours and respects the natural order of love, prosperity, and peace, for all beings, humans and non-humans alike.

  21. David H. says

    I completely agree with Marc-Joseph above (August 2nd). Lauren, have you researched where the cows whose milk you drink end up when their production inevitably falls? It is very likely an appalling end much different from the “healthy ecosystem” you envision. The journey to ethical living is certainly a process and, while I applaud your efforts, I would encourage you to carefully consider all the costs involved in the choices you make and endorse– just because we can doesn’t mean we should…

    • Kristin says

      I just wanted to share my experience with raw milk from a humane perspective. We belong to a full diet CSA in Virginia. We obtain raw milk from the CSA, which owns 4 jersey cows that are calved each spring. The farmers are like our family, we go to the farm each week, and we personally know each cow whose milk we drink, by name. We have had extensive discussions over time in passing with the farmers about how they will handle the future emotional toll of when the four milk cows’ male offspring have to be sold for slaughter (the farmers have not yet experienced this since none of the males have yet reached maturity), and when the milk cows become too old to produce milk and are sold for meat (most likely ground beef due to the age and toughness of their meat). While this isn’t a nice thought, I am an omnivore and choose to consume meat from animals raised in the healthiest and most humane conditions, as are many people who follow this blog, and the author herself (since this blog is focused on the GAPS diet, which is obviously not low in animal products). If you have a belief that consumption of animal products is not humane, then that is a totally different issue than perceiving that raw milk, in and of itself is not humane. From experience of seeing 4 dairy cows being raised and tended in our farms environment, and also seeing pigs, chicken, and steer being raised (also extremely humanely) for food, I can say that the lives of the dairy cows are quite comfortable in comparison. They are allowed to nurse and tend to their calves (their calves are not taken away from them, as a reader stated in a comment above), they are hand milked and they live in a peaceful and relaxing environment where they receive access to the best pasture and a small ration of non GMOs feed. Barring that you don’t believe in farming, raising or consuming any type of meat or animal products, which is fine but an entirely different topic, raw milk is quite humane and actually promotes the best care of the animal to ensure the milk is disease free and safe for consumption. Of course, one day these cows will be sold for slaughter, that is how the farmers are able to continue their operations and provide this service to grateful consumers. Of course, this is upsetting to the farmer. But it is the harsh reality and does not in any way mean that raw milk dairy cows are being treated inhumanely. However, if you do not believe it is humane to raise or farm animals under any conditions, that is a very different story, but I don’t think that is the sentiment shared by the majority of readers of this blog.

  22. Aaron says

    Lauren,
    I grew up on a small dairy farm and now work with farmers as a genetic consultant. I read and appreciated your post on non-dairy milks that I saw on Facebook. A link at the end of that took me here.

    I won’t make a spirited argument one way or another on your raw milk preference–I grew up drinking it from our farm and was fine, and I drink pasteurized milk since I’ve moved away and have noticed no difference. Nearly all farms I visit do things extremely well in my opinion regardless of size, but if it’s not my family’s milk (growing up on a farm makes you aware of how many things need done right), I’m sticking with pasteurized although there may be nutritional tradeoffs as you point out. I also cook my meat in the spirit of safety. I prefer to get the “living” aspect of dairy through yogurt. My observation has been that families transporting raw milk too far (over an hour) are where outbreaks tend to occur as there is less margin for error with refrigeration.

    On another note, I’m not sure where you sourced all your information, but there is a lot of room to improve the accuracy of your 6th point. I want offer my experience on that as I visit hundreds of farms a year of all sizes, and my brother is a university dairy extension agent and my brother-in-law is a dairy nutritionist for all types of farms.
    -Nearly all farms supplement their cows with soy and corn products among other ingredients, and that includes farms that graze their cows and organic farms. It’s to fulfill nutritional requirements that grass has a hard time meeting, especially when you consider grass isn’t available year round and they are exposed to the elements such as intense heat and rain when grazing. Cow diets are professionally put together and adjusted every couple weeks. They are at their best when they can be controlled and monitored so there’s more guesswork to do with a grazing herd (can’t measure how much grass they eat or specific quality). I too love to see cows grazing, but it’s not without limitations which is why some farms forego it. Milk coming from grazed cows has been shown to have higher amounts of conjugated linoleic acids (CLAs), which has been shown to have health benefits—I’m not aware of any other differences.
    -One way or another, all farms apply cow manure back onto their fields because it’s great fertilizer.
    -In general, well-fed, healthy cows produce way more milk than sick ones, and the amount of milk isn’t significantly different between small and large herds. There are tradeoffs on any type of farm setup, but nearly all farms are family owned (regardless of size), and every farm I visit is extremely attuned to “cow comfort.” Actually, I find larger farms can be more specialized in how they care for their cows and have more resources to care for them and the environment. I find comparing farms with colleges to be a good example: both large and small colleges can provide students with a great education. While the feel is different, the outcome usually comes down to the quality of “professors” and to some extent, “student-teacher ratio.” I don’t think most universities view their students as machines even though they try to improve efficiency while educating the population.
    -There are no antibiotics in any type of milk sold. Milk is one of the most highly regulated/tested substances out there, and farmers only use antibiotics when an illness requires it, both for ethical and economic reasons (farmers are fully aware it makes the most sense to prevent sick cows). The milk from cows with antibiotics in their system is dumped down the drain immediately and never makes it any further. The FDA and vets mandate how long after treatment milk must be discarded. If there is a mistake, there are several layers of incredibly sensitive tests and fines to prevent it from getting to consumers. As an aside, my wife is a doctor and finds it troubling that patients routinely give negative feedback if they don’t receive an antibiotic for a sick visit–even if they have a virus. Yet animals receiving antibiotics is a big concern of theirs–that’s not directed at you, but just her general frustration.
    I know it got long, but I love working with farmers and eating dairy products, and I want to get accurate information out there when I see a chance. http://www.dairygood.org and http://www.dairyfarmingtoday.com tend to be good sources for information as well.
    My best,
    Aaron

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  26. Martí says

    One of the times its sad to be Canadian…….. It’s illegal across the whole country, to buy or even give away raw milk :P

  27. Peter says

    Raw Milk is definitely healthier, for one, important bacteria that allows human to properly digest the milk isn’t killed in the pasteurization process. However you seem to over exaggerate the safety of it.

    1. Source of the milk is extremely important how can you be so sure that the cattle are properly taken care of? Therefore risks of contamination are slightly higher then you make it appear, however FDA constantly over reacts in order to favor their corporate friends, that we know, but going the other way is also a problem.

    2. Getting a slight diarrhea isn’t an issue for most people, I agree, however getting Listeria can do more then just a simple diarrhea if someone is pregnant. Therefore you should let people know that, if they’re pregnant, or trying it’s best to avoid that 1 in 6 million risk, and explain the small chance of a risk. Giving raw milk to infants and toddlers is also not too smart as their immune system is still developing. Choosing organic is the second best choice, therefore if expecting that should be you’re choice of milk.

    Bottom line: FDA over exaggerates the risk, while your article over exaggerates the safety. And tell all facts so it’s there on the table, so people can decide themselves on all the unbiased facts.

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  30. M Jackson says

    I am in complete agreement with your views on raw milk. I have my own cows. Three of them. I love them and the wonderful milk they give our family. I love going to the grocery store and skipping by the whole dairy isle. I can do this because I make all my own cheese, yogurt, sour cream, whip cream and ice cream. We just had a new calf in June and she is adorable. I milk once a day which gives me my evenings free. My cows eat fresh vegetables, go for walks, have daily brushings. They are well loved.

  31. Kim says

    I was raised on grass fed cows we milk, free range chickens for meat and eggs, grazing pigs supplemented with milk, and grass fed beef. I moved to the city for 10 years and became lactose intolerant, and very sensitive to store bought meat and eggs. I couldn’t consume any dairy product without getting very sick. My skin suffered greatly from all the antibiotics (and non-mentionalbles) in the meat and milk. Now I’m back on natural. I have no problems with dairy, except when I pasturize the milk for yogurt. Which recently, thanks to this site, I culture it for 24 hours now and it doesn’t bother me!! I use a greek start and it’s soo thick and creamy. Drinking raw milk or living a natural existence is a personal decision, just as RELIGION, don’t let anyone influence your decisions. People are so estranged from “real life” most people don’t really understand animals or our coexistence. Thanks Lauren for all the useful information!

  32. Tony Marsden says

    I live in France, where raw milk is fairly readily available, and always proudly displays its source, so it’s easy to go and check for yourself.
    Recently, another type of milk has come out, ‘micro-filtered’, which lasts even longer than pasteurized, but claims to retain all the nutirtional qualities of the raw milk; certainly tastes good! It does, however, seem to be homogenized.
    But I have to say with compleely untreated, truly ‘raw’ milk, I do worry about brucellosis, and also tuberculosis. In theory at least, the filtration does remove such contaminants, but I’d feel happier to have some solid facts about that.
    And I too can sing the praises of raw goat’s milk: my ex parents-in-law used to keep goats, and at their place we always used to drink the milk straight from the goats; it certainly did seem to be better tolerated by certain people we knew who were to some extent allergic to cow’s milk.

  33. becky says

    “If there is an actual cow milk allergy, however, raw goat milk makes an excellent substitute and is even better tolerated than raw cow milk. ”

    Watch your facts here because you can get someone killed. A dairy allergy is a dairy allergy, goat milk has very similar proteins to cow’s milk. My son had problems from birth and the pediatrician blew me off when I suggested he may have an intolerance. By his 5th birthday things were much worse. An allergist confirmed a dairy allergy through blood tests and he carries an epi-pen in case he has a life threatening reaction. His symptoms include severe hives, diarrhea, glassy eyes, runny nose and sometimes breathing issues or low BP. Someone who thought they knew what they were talking about told me to try raw goats milk, I was dumb enough to give it to him and he had a reaction. There’s a big difference between intolerance/sensitivity and a true allergy. For someone with a true allergy (and please dont go around telling people you have an allergy unless you’ve actually been tested for it by a dr.) it doesn’t matter what animal it comes from or if it’s raw or pasteurized… it can still cause a severe reaction or even death.

  34. Brittany says

    I am new to all raw milk information, but have been researching alot lately because my daughter has a milk intolerance and I’m curious if she would be able to drink raw milk.
    Can anybody give me information about the different casein proteins in milk? If i remember correctly A1 or A2? From what I’ve read elsewhere it depends on the breed of cow whether or not it produces the traditional, easy to digest protein, or the commercially engineered protein that is hard to digest. I assume most raw milk providers are using the tradition breeds of cows, Jerseys, Guerneys? but this is only my assumption. I can’t find alot of information about this correlation.

    Thanks for any help!

  35. says

    Coming from a dairy background (yes, raw-milk drinker from infancy, and work on my family’s pasture-based, certified organic dairy farm), I have one small correction to this article. EVERY truckload of milk from EVERY farm is tested for antibiotics. It is ILLEGAL to have antibiotics in milk; so if they do show up in the testing, the whole truckload of milk must be dumped (we’ve had to pay for this a couple times before we became certified organic). There is NO way that antibiotics should show up in milk from the store. Now, antibiotics in meat is another story…..

  36. Diane says

    I remember raw milk fondly, but haven’t had any for about 15 years! Because we don’t have legal access here, my family ends up using organic pasteurized milk for yogurt and homemade nut milks for other things. Nevertheless, I loved the post and was amazed to learn how many other animals drink raw milk when they can get it. Thanks!

  37. hannah says

    I am very concerned that you don’t mention the very real dangers for pregnant women who drink raw milk. Stillbirth is not something I would want to risk for a glass of raw milk, no matter how small the chance.

    • says

      Raw milk, from a good source, is one of the most optimal foods a pregnant mother can consume. I would suggest you read this article again and explore the sources I linked to understand that the risks of drinking raw milk are utterly overblown and the benefits of raw milk are very profound.

      • hannah says

        I agree that the risks are overblown, and I really did enjoy your article. As someone with a certification in food safety, I agree that there are many other foods that are more likely to cause listeriosis than raw milk. What concerns me is that your article is entitled : “Raw Milk: Benefits, Safety and Facts” but makes no mention of the fact that there is a chance, albeit small of serious complications if a mother chooses to drink raw milk while pregnant. It certainly should be up to the mother to make an informed decision as to whether the benefits outweigh the risks, but making it sound like the risks are non-existent is irresponsible. http://www.cdc.gov/pregnancy/infections-listeria.html

        • says

          I appreciate your comment and I agree that there is undoubtedly a small risk when anyone, including pregnant women, consumes raw milk. I never said there is no risk. But as I discuss in the post, I do not think the CDC is a viable source for accurate data on the risks of raw milk, as their data falls apart under scrutiny.

  38. Jessica says

    Great post on the raw milk! I totally agree, however I thought I would ask you what your experience has been with consuming the milk and the effect it has on your acne? I am in the process of healing my skin and my only concern is that the milk would make acne flare. Thoughts/feelings?

    warm regards,
    Jessica

  39. Joleen says

    I do not believe someone coming from the city should just have there children drinking raw milk. There children could get very sick. Also I think you should see the farm that your milk comes from. If you there milk line is full of crap, I don’t think I would drink it. I do not believe that organic animals are treated better either. A lot organic farms I have been to have been extremely dirty and there somatic cell counts are usually over 1,000,000. Not milk that I would want to drink. Also I would want to know if the raw milk farmer was a dairy farmer prior to there raw milk selling and if so see if they got fined for having HOT milk and that is why they are selling raw milk now. I think raw milk is for certain people but I wouldn’t want just anyone drinking it especially young children cause they could become extremely sick.

  40. ACS says

    I grew up in Eastern Europe, where you buy the milk directly from the farmer and then you boil it at home and then you drink it. Never, ever have we had any allergies…Well- I moved here, I am still healthy but my husband who was raised here has all sorts of food allergies and so do my kids…Peanut allergy- asthma and anaphylaxis reactions to all tree-nuts! My younger daughter cannot have any milk bought in the store, organic or not organic- she will brake out in hives and rashes. We have tried time after time and no amelioration. Well two weeks ago, I bought some raw milk for myself bcs I missed the taste of real milk. I boiled it for a quick pasteurization ( i still believe you can get very sick from E-coli if the cows are infected) and gave it to my daughter. NO reaction, no hives, no wheezing….nothing. After giving it to her for two days the milk bought from the farmer and saw no reactions, I tried one tsp of store bought milk bcs I had the doubt that she had may be outgrown the allergies. Well, terrible hives and wheezing came back 5 min after having that store bought milk. She is back now consuming the milk from the farmer and no reactions. I am a believer now. Have no idea why though my daughter reacts to the store bought milk. Asked my dr and she did not believe me and I hate it when doctors think we are crazy. People, go natural and live better!!!!! I hate to see my husband having so many itchy rashes and not knowing what is causing it. EVERYTHING he eats it makes him break out in terrible rashes. We have done all the tests, and all it comes back is dermatitis and we have changed everything, from soaps to dishwasher. I make everything at home and no improvement. He used to eat so bad for so many years and he was raised using crisco because he was told it was healthy and I am so afraid that the damage has already been done in his gut that is so hard to fix it.
    Anyway just my two cents, in eastern Europe we grew up with cooking at home everything and went to the little store only for rice and pasta and flour. The rest was all made from scratch. And it is so hard to find people there with so many allergies like here.

  41. says

    I must say the idea of drinking raw milk kinda freaks me out. I’m so new to this way of eating. Thanks for the information. I’m going to give it another good read through.

  42. Zainab says

    Hello!

    Thank you for an informative article.

    I’ve been reading about raw milk and other beneficial health foods.
    Grew up in rural East Africa where my parents were the local doctors; remember driving in the evenings to a farm and buying fresh milk from them. Tasted and smelt incredible.

    Anyway, I have a question: I finally found a local farm that purports to sell organic, grass fed hormone free milk. Problem is, within the first month of buying from them, two lots of milk tasted bad. They deliver in glass bottles and I buy 5-8 bottles at a time.

    I make kefir and yogurt at home, drink milk and feed my kids milk morning and evening, so we use lots.

    The milk doesn’t taste anything in particular, is watery, not much cream, nothing yellow about it, and we’ve had bouts with diarrhoea and eye infections since we started it.

    Yet it’s a highly vaunted ‘first organic pure producing family farm’ place, founded on the premise of organic and pure produce. Rave reviews about them in the media.

    Hard to reconcile all this…

  43. Nygel says

    Thanks.

    Ok done some reading on this and I can’t see anything stating so on that site, the closet I can find is this pdf :

    http://www.realmilk.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/11/RebuttaltoFDARawMilkArticle-MAR2012.pdf

    Which talks about the FDA claiming that lactase does/can exist in fermented products (i.e. yoghurt) as a side effective of organisms fermenting the lactose but it does not exist per se in raw milk.

    Also this page :

    http://www.realmilk.com/safety/safety-of-raw-milk/

    Seems to agree that lactase does not exist in raw milk, but it claims that enzymes in raw milk do help enable one’s intenstines to generate lactase. (but I’ll be buggered if I can find any research that backs this up)

    The pdf above also references a forthcoming study funded by WA Price foundation which given the pdf is dated 2012 is now actually available.

    It’s here :

    http://grist.org/article/2010-11-01-raw-milk-mystery-new-stanford-study-indicates-it-doesnt-reduce/

    But it claims that raw milk does not appear to be drinkable without issue by lactase intolerent people.

    Also that site, RealMilk.com says it’s a project of the WA Price foundation, if the site did claim the lactase thing then I’m starting to wonder how they can be a credible source if a study they funded appeared to show the opposite?

    And it’s a bit more worrying that (as far as I can see) they don’t even mention the results of said own study on their site (burying research?). =(

    Sorry to be a nay sayer, I want to believe but I just can’t see anything credible backing it up. =(

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