I guess you could say I live on the edge. I take vitamins with labels I sometimes can’t understand. I go to doctors that talk to my aura. I put raw egg yolks in my smoothies.
All of that pales when compared to my most daring pastime: drinking milk that has not been pasteurized.
I’m being a bit facetious; I don’t consider myself a dare-devil or risk-taker in the least. I do extensive research on what I put in my body, and that’s why I make the previously mentioned dietary decisions. Many of you might know about the raw dairy revolution that’s caught on throughout the nation – from states where glorious raw milk sells in stores to states where you have to buy your dairy from the neighboring state and pick it up from unmarked vans behind run-down steakhouses. There are people that are absolutely crazy about it, and there are folks that tout its unhealthy, dangerous potential [these folks, coincidentally, are the ones that make the rules, and therefore the consumption of raw milk is usually shunned].
When I say “raw milk,” I’m referring to milk that has not been pasteurized and was produced from healthy, happy, grass-fed cows eating fresh green grass in sunny, open pastures. Though it may seem like I added in all those descriptive words just for some extra flair, everything mentioned is crucial for milk to be safely consumed in its whole state – unpasteurized, non-homogenized. Here is an infographic describing the differences between raw milk and pasteurized milk.
My story begins in my parent’s kitchen in Burlington, North Carolina. Seeking milk for my granola, imagine my surprise when I see our refrigerator littered with different-sized jars of white liquid labeled “FOR PET CONSUMPTION ONLY.”
“Mom, where’s the milk? And, is there a giant cat living in my room now?”
My mother went on to explain that it was raw milk, and that it was perfectly safe for humans but only legal to sell if it was labeled as such. I had tried raw milk once before and was shocked by how real it tasted, how wonderfully smooth, crisp and rich it was, so hearing my mom explain the laws governing the sale of raw milk was incredibly fascinating. A year later I spent a short month in the Berkshires of Massachusetts, purchasing gallons of raw milk and fresh raw dairy from a shack down the road. This milk was not labeled. Everyone knew it was safe and there was usually none leftover for the pets.
Since then I have moved to Northern Virginia, where the sale of raw milk is illegal. Those who seek this type of dairy have ways of purchasing it (cow shares and suppliers), but it is increasingly difficult, especially in light of the recent surge by the neighboring FDA to shut down all raw milk producers (at midnight, armed). This unfortunate circumstance puts the farmers at risk. They soldier on, though, and provide their customers with fresh, cold milk from grass-fed cows and goats.
Why does everyone care so much, you may ask? Raw milk is a polarizing topic for many reasons – but it really boils down to this: the product is safe and so incredibly beneficial, but broadcasting this information could cause financial harm the large milk-producing farms that congest the shelves of every grocery store.
I think it’s important that everyone understand the true benefits of raw milk, and also be aware of why it is safe.
Understanding the Benefits of Raw Milk [in a nutshell]
- these facts are from the Weston A. Price real milk campaign website -
1) Raw milk is traditional milk. The cows that produce raw milk are milked less often, live longer, and have happier lives on grass that grows in open pastures. In contrast, modern Holstein cows are bred to produce three times as much milk and to survive on a diet of grain, soy meal, bakery waste, manure from chickens, and swill. She will generally live to see her 4th year and will probably never see a blade of grass.
2) Raw milk retains vital nutrients because of the cows’ diet. Cows that eat green grass from pastures produce milk that is rich in vitamins A, D, E, and K2. Commercial feed drastically diminishes vitamins A and D [K2 is no longer present]. The soy meal that many cows are fed is the wrong protein profile for dairy cows – her life consists of a short, high-quantity milk producing time followed by a premature death.
3) Raw milk is not pasteurized. “Pasteurization destroys enzymes, denatures anti-microbial and immune-stimulating components, diminishes nutrient availability, denatures fragile milk proteins, destroys vitamins C, B6, B12, kills beneficial bacteria, promotes pathogens…” the website goes on to explain why the process of pasteurization is unnecessary when milk is obtained from healthy, grass-fed cows. Pasteurization was instituted in the 1920′s to combat diseases caused by poor animal nutrition, dirty production methods, and an infected water supply. Cows that are fed traditionally and monitored for health and happiness do not have any of these afflictions. Cows that are confined in the types of unsanitary, cramped environments have diseases like mastitis and therefore their milk should be pasteurized. It truly is a vicious cycle, and until people start drinking milk from traditionally fed, well-maintained cows, they will never see the benefit.
4) Raw milk contains butterfat [which is vital!]. Think of the classic image of the milk crate on the doorstep. Families used to consume whole milk that separated naturally [which happens in real milk because it is not homogenized]. Now families are instructed to drink low fat milk and dairy products, which are a real bastardization of the classic predecessor. The truth, taken directly from the Price website, is “Only by marketing low-fat and skim milk as health foods can the modern dairy industry get rid of its excess poor-quality, reduced-fat milk from modern high-production herds.” Butterfat contains vitamins A and D and is essential for the assimilation of the calcium so blatantly touted in modern milk commercials. Butterfat also is rich in short and medium-chain fatty acids which do wonders for the immune system.
5) Raw dairy is perfect just the way it is. Additives, such as flavors, colors, or bio-engineered enzymes, are not added to real milk. Powdered skim milk is added to 1% and 2% milk on many occasions to make it thicker or creamier. This seems backward, right? This powder product often contains oxidized cholesterol. Raw milk is not pasteurized, so it doesn’t “keep” as well as the modern version, BUT raw milk doesn’t turn rancid – you can use it after it has soured into buttermilk! Brilliant! Ask my roommates, nothing makes a better pancake than soured raw cow’s milk.
6) Raw dairy supports local businesses – which is so “in” these days. Raw dairy farms are generally small, family-owned and operated businesses. Dairy farms are going out of business at an alarming rate because they cannot compete with the low prices from the monopolistic dairy industry. When farmers have the right [which should not have to be "granted"] to sell their amazing product, they can make an honest living off of a small herd, which benefits the cows, the land, and the community. Recently, the FDA spent two years and a lot of government money shutting down a family owned farm in Pennsylvania.
So, now you know the basics. Organizations like the FDA have a stance on unpasteurized milk that is biased in favor of the commercial milk industries. A simple google search (FDA raw milk) will provide many links that cite studies and hospitalizations linked to e-coli outbreaks from raw milk consumption. Here’s an example: “In Sep 2006, two children became sick after drinking unpasteurized milk from a licensed dairy in Washington State.” I am not arguing the validity of these statements, I am only pointing out the absurdity of citing two instances of sickness due to raw dairy. How many people are hospitalized because of unsavory ingredients found in FDA-approved slaughterhouse meat or tainted vegetation? Check here for all the FDA-approved foods that have been recalled and you’ll see that the hyped-up “dangers” of raw milk is just that: hype.
Once you open your mind and allow your perspective to change, things seem very simple. Raw milk is safe and is a fundamental food items that has been consumed on farms and in homes for centuries. The changes that have governed the production of milk over the past decades have only been in response to the exigencies present at that time. What we need now is another change, a transition that takes into consideration the modern technologies that allow us to keep milk and cows clean and disease-free, the humane treatment of livestock, and the health benefits present in real milk that are vital to our health. I’ve been consuming raw dairy products for a couple years now, and I have yet to experience any adverse effects. The taste is superior, the benefits far outweigh anything the celebrities of the “Got Milk” campaign have ever had smeared atop their lips. Try it for yourself, and, as the Real Milk Campaign website says, Vote With Your Pocketbooks!
www.realmilk.com : a more in-depth view of everything I have said. This site is also where you can find real dairy anywhere in the US. I got hooked in with my supplier through this website. The site is maintained by the Weston A. Price foundation, check here for more info.
Where is raw milk legal? Check the Farm to Consumer Legal Defense Fund site for a graphic. This website has a lot of information about how you can protect yourself and your farmer from potential lawsuits. I’m a member, and I think it’s important that those who enjoy the benefits of raw dairy support this increasingly important cause.