As the majority of you know, I can’t have dairy products. Why I can’t have dairy products is a topic for another post, but just because I can’t have dairy doesn’t mean that I think everyone should abstain. So coming from someone who can’t currently tolerate dairy products (other than ghee), allow me to say why I still “believe” in drinking milk… raw milk that is.
Dairy products don’t work for all people (like me), but it can be a very nutrient rich food for many people who do tolerate it well (for example, Weston A Price found that Swiss people thrived on a high dairy diet). Some people who thought they were intolerant to milk, have found out that it was really pasteurized milk that they had problems with. Raw milk was a whole other ball park for them. I personally have found that true. It may not be the best choice for me, but I do fairly well with raw milk.
(For those in the same situation as me, I will share more about how to replace dairy with nutrient rich foods in another post).
When we have gotten grass fed raw milk from a local farmer, we have found it to be much better tasting, much deeper in color (from the vitamin A content), and like I mentioned above, it was much more digestible (especially if one ferments it).
Of course, the big question when talking about raw milk is always safety. It certainly was my concern! But as I delved into studying this topic, I realized how uninformed most of us are in this area. It was actually amazing how little I knew about what the risks and advantages of both raw milk and pasteurized milk were.
This post is not meant to convince you one way or another. I hope instead that this post gives you vital, important information that helps you make the right choice for your family. In other words, I hope this post helps you along in making an informed decision.
Why Raw Milk?
So one of the first questions I had was, “What’s so bad about pasteurized milk? ” Let’s take a look.
One fact that interested me was that from the very beginning there has been debate about whether pasteurized milk was good for you.
In 1938, after the issue of raw vs. pasteurized milk was debated in the House of Commons, a British medical magazine published an article on why raw milk was superior. The whole article is very good. They make the point that it’s “clean, raw milk” they want. They don’t want tainted milk (pasteurized or otherwise!). Check out the whole excerpt here. And read below some of the long known disadvantages of pasteurizing our milk.
Pasteurization destroys Vitamin C, and Alters Lactose
“Besides destroying part of the vitamin C contained in raw milk and encouraging growth of harmful bacteria, pasteurization turns the sugar of milk, known as lactose, into beta-lactose — which is far more soluble and therefore more rapidly absorbed in the system, with the result that the child soon becomes hungry again.”
Pasteurization makes Calcium Unavailable to us
“Probably pasteurization’s worst offence is that it makes insoluable the major part of the calcium contained in raw milk. This frequently leads to rickets, bad teeth, and nervous troubles, for sufficient calcium content is vital to children; and with the loss of phosphorus also associated with calcium, bone and brain formation suffer serious setbacks.”
Pasteurization Destroys some Iodine
“Pasteurization also destroys 20 percent of the iodine present in raw milk, causes constipation and generally takes from the milk its most vital qualities.”
And let’s remember that iodine, calcium and vitamin C are all vital to our health. And as if that’s not enough, pasteurization unfortunately alters even more.
Sally Fallon gives us more information of what happens when milk is pasteurized.
“But that’s not all that pasteurization does to milk. Heat alters milk’s amino acids lysine and tyrosine, making the whole complex of proteins less available; it promotes rancidity of unsaturated fatty acids and destruction of vitamins. Vitamin C loss in pasteurization usually exceeds 50%; loss of other water-soluble vitamins can run as high as 80%; the Wulzen or anti-stiffness factor is totally destroyed. Pasteurization alters milk’s mineral components such as calcium, chlorine, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, sodium and sulphur as well as many trace minerals, making them less available. There is some evidence that pasteurization alters lactose, making it more readily absorbable. This, and the fact that pasteurized milk puts an unnecessary strain on the pancreas to produce digestive enzymes, may explain why milk consumption in civilized societies has been linked with diabetes.
Last but not least, pasteurization destroys all the enzymes in milk— in fact, the test for successful pasteurization is absence of enzymes. These enzymes help the body assimilate all bodybuilding factors, including calcium. That is why those who drink pasteurized milk may suffer, nevertheless, from osteoporosis. Lipase in raw milk helps the body digest and utilize butterfat. After pasteurization, chemicals may be added to suppress odor and restore taste. Synthetic vitamin D2 or D3 is added — the former is toxic and has been linked to heart disease while the latter is difficult to absorb. The final indignity is homogenization which has also been linked to heart disease. “
Read the full article here And I’ll give you one more quote that reiterates some of the points above with some new ones as well.
“Not only does pasteurization kill the friendly bacteria, it also greatly diminishes the nutrient content of the milk. Pasteurized milk has up to a 66 percent loss of vitamins A, D and E. Vitamin C loss usually exceeds 50 percent. Heat affects water soluble vitamins and can make them 38 percent to 80 percent less effective. Vitamins B6 and B12 are completely destroyed during pasteurization. Pasteurization also destroys beneficial enzymes, antibodies and hormones. Pasteurization destroys lipase (an enzyme that breaksdown fat), which impairs fat metabolism and the ability to properly absorb fat soluble vitamins A and D. (The dairy industry is aware of the diminished vitamin D content in commercial milk, so they fortify it with a form of this vitamin.)
We have all been led to believe that milk is a wonderful source of calcium, when in fact, pasteurization makes calcium and other minerals less available. Complete destruction of phosphatase is one method of testing to see if milk has been adequately pasteurized. Phosphatase is essential for the absorption of calcium.
Milk straight from the cow contains cream, which rises to the top. Homogenization is a process that breaks up the fat globules and evenly distributes them throughout the milk so that they do not rise. This process unnaturally increases the surface area of fat exposing it to air, in which oxidation occurs and increases the susceptibility to spoilage. Homogenization has been linked to heart disease and atherosclerosis.”
There is no doubt in my mind that raw milk is superior nutritionally in every way. But there’s still the nagging safety issue. I have a few points to make about that.
Read Up About the Safety Issue
One thing to keep in mind is that we all eat food that has some chance of having bad bacteria in it. It’s called the risk of living and eating. People have gotten sick from salad, fruit, meat, and yes, pasteurized milk. The question is not “Is it possible to ever get sick from raw milk?”, the question is, “How does it compare in risk to pasteurized milk?”.
I would encourage you to read a little more about the real risks of raw milk. Read this article for an intro to the “risks” of raw milk. The other thing to consider is how to minimize known risks. That will be addressed when I talk about finding a good farmer.
Is Raw Milk Safer?
Organic Pastures has a long history of supplying large amounts of raw milk to people in California. They have a spotless history. And they have had to have a spotless history to stay opened. Despite the fact that no one has ever gotten sick drinking their milk (while there have been many outbreaks of food born illness in pasteurized milk during the same time period), they seem to be continually threatened to be shut down. This touches on the ugly side of the raw milk issue, a power and control issue that is most disturbing.
Read Mark McAFee’s (the owner of Organic Pastures) words in a letter to the department of public health as he defends his right to produce raw milk. Not only is clean raw milk safe, if produced correctly, it should be safer! I encourage you to read the whole letter, but here’s just a little snippet.
“For the last four years, Organic Pastures Dairy has produced a full line of raw organic dairy products for retail sale ( 300 stores including Wholefoods) and consumption here in California. The state of California (CDFA) monitors and tests all of our raw dairy products multiple times per month. The state has never found one pathogen (salmonella, E. coli O157:H7 or listeria) in any of our products. Even more interesting is the fact that not one human pathogen has ever been found in the hundreds of environmental swabs that have been taken in our plant facility.
Dr. Caterina Berge, DVM and PhD candidate at UC Davis, tested our milk cows’ fresh manure and did not find any human pathogens. That’s right. . . no Salmonella. She was able to show that when antibiotics are not ever used on the herd (as stipulated in the organic standards) and when cows are not stressed (grass-fed and kept healthy) they simply do not slough off pathogens in their manure. The data collected at Organic Pastures was quite different from that found at other dairies. The typical conventional milk tank had either salmonella or E. coli O157:H7 detected about 30 percent of the time. In comparison, Organic Pastures has never had one pathogen—ever.
To study this issue further, Organic Pastures contracted with BSK labs in Fresno to perform multiple challenge and recovery tests on our raw milk and raw colostrum. When 7 logs (10 million counts) of pathogens were added to one-milliliter samples of organic raw milk they would not grow. In fact they died off. The salmonella was so badly out-competed that it could not be found less than 24 hours later. The listeria drop was less dramatic and was similiar to the E. Coli O157:H7 samples that were studied, but they also did not grow and declined substantially over time.
The lab concluded: “. . . organic raw milk and colostrum do not appear to support the growth of pathogens. . .”
During the period 2000 through 2004 there were several listeria-related food recalls in California associated with pasteurized milk products and ice cream. During this same period more than 12 million servings of Organic Pastures products were consumed and not one person complained of illness and not one pathogen was ever found either by the state, FDA or Organic Pastures.
This begs the bigger question. What is it that causes raw milk to kill pathogens? Just in the last 24 months, the FDA has approved lactoferrin as an approved method of treatment for pathogen reduction in beef slaughter plants. Raw milk naturally has levels of this enzyme-based pathogen killer. Pasteurization inactivates this and other enzymes that kill pathogens. These enzymes include lactoferrin, xanthine oxidase, lactoperoxidase, lysozyme and nisin. There are other interrelated enzymes and beneficial bacteria that also act on the pathogens to inhibit their growth. All of these systems are destroyed by pasteurization. It is no wonder that dairy plants that pasteurize must be kept absolutely spotless. There are no remaining safety systems in the processed milk. “
Raw milk’s safety is impressive.
Be a Smart Raw Milk Shopper
If you do decide that raw milk is the choice for you, make sure that you are a safe shopper. In my mind, good, clean raw milk is safe, much safer and healthier than pasteurized milk. But you should do a good job in making sure that your raw milk farmer uses common sense, and good hygiene when producing your milk. Make sure that the farmer keeps the cows grass feed for better nutrition and that they have clean stalls etc. Ask about the safety procedures he uses. I like my raw milk to come from a farmer who uses a stainless steel milker which keeps the milk enclosed. One farmer had it set up to go straight to a super quick cooler, all very sterile. This allows very little chance of the milk becoming contaminated. Ask how quickly the milk is cooled, and how much exposure it has to air. Also ask whether the cows have been tested free of tuberculosis and brucellosis.
Consider the History of Milk
My final thought about raw milk is this: Was milk only safe for us to consume in the 21st century? We live in an imperfect world in which food borne illness do occur. But is raw, clean milk a high suspect? Surely factory bread cows that live in confinement are not healthy and do not give healthy milk. I wouldn’t want to receive any raw milk from them. In fact, it was only when milk quality was so poor from ill-treated cows that pasteurization became something to consider. But what about grass-fed, healthy cows, milked correctly? These are all important questions for you to consider.
Above all, look at the options you have locally, research the issue thoroughly and make an informed choice. I have personally chosen to support raw milk farmers with my blog as I think it’s a matter of personal freedom to choose what you think is the healthiest choice.
I personally would rather not have milk at all, then have pasteurized milk. That’s my choice, be wise in yours.
Full Disclaimer: I am not giving medical advice, but just sharing my own thoughts on an important topic. I encourage you to do your own research and talk to qualified health providers in making your choice.
To find a local farmer in your area, go here.