The Raw Milk Debate: Which Side Are You On?

This just in from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC): “Many people believe that foods with minimal or no processing like organic and locally-grown foods are better for their health. But when people choose to drink raw milk, that is milk that has not been pasteurized, the impact on one’s health can be quite severe.”

It’s a timely article from the CDC since I just published a post about making ice cream with raw milk last week. Funny that I’m not sick from it.

This is the great debate: People who choose to drink raw milk argue that cows raised on pasture grass, rather than in pens eating corn, are healthy and pathogen-free, so it’s safe. And, when you pasteurize milk, the heating process actually kills off beneficial bacteria.

Health officials claim otherwise: “No matter how clean the cows or the barn, all milk contains fecal material,” says William Keene, senior epidemiologist in Oregon’s Acute and Communicable Disease Program, according to the USA Today.

I still feel that buying shares of raw milk from a farmer I know makes all the difference.

Some might say “it’s the emergence of these cow-sharing schemes in the past few years that has prompted state agriculture officials to crack down” like what happened to a Michigan farmer highlighted in a Time magazine article. He was pulled over by state police for hauling raw milk in a state (among 23 in the country) that prohibit raw milk sales for human consumption.

Is it a health issue or is it politics? Let me know what you think!


19 responses to “The Raw Milk Debate: Which Side Are You On?

  1. Great post! What beautiful milk!

  2. I drank raw milk daily when I stayed with my aunt on her farm–as did her six children from toddlerhood through college. How many farm families did and still do? If this weren’t politics, tobacco products would be banned, I think. We’re very schizophrenic as a society about what judgments people can make for themselves.

    • I like your observation about our society, Lois. So true! And I’m glad you’ve lived through your raw milk experience to share it with us!

  3. Pingback: “Experts” and users at odds over raw milk | The Bovine

  4. The “beneficial bacteria” are a theory and one unsupported by research. Fact is more people get sick from raw dairy than pasteurized. It is more dangerous and there is no health theory that is worth it..

    • Thanks for your perspective, QC. I’d love to see statistics on the raw milk vs. pasteurized illnesses. Do you know a good source for the data?

  5. I think it is most definitely political. I know no data or study results on the subject, but it makes sense to me that if cows are raised in a more natural, traditional environment– the way they were for hundreds of years, in pastures, eating grass, being milked by hand in a more spacious and less factory-like setting– the milk could be ingested in a traditional way, without pasteurization.

    That being said, I think the politics behind it play a much larger role than the actual science. After all, the government subsidizes the large-scale growth and production of corn; a surplus of corn leads to feeding animals corn (as well as finding ways to stuff it into every single processed food); larger, faster-growing animals lead to factory processing of the animal products; and those factory conditions in which animals are kept and slaughtered lead to higher potential for ‘bad things’ to get into the animal product, which then requires increased processing before consumption.

    In that roundabout way, requiring milk pasteurization supports the government’s position of subsidizing the growth of corn and other grains. And NOT requiring pasteurization could potentially undermine the pyramid scheme that the government is running in the food production industry.

    • Christine, I think you are right on the money with the politics. I’ve read about the corn subsidization and the ripple effect that has on just about aspect of the food industry. Thank you for your comment!

  6. “all milk contains fecal material,” says William Keene as does everything else. There is fecal matter everywhere. Fecal matter does not mean that manure is in the milk.

  7. Whatever the truth is,I want to be free to make my own choice!

  8. Dictionary states that fecal is ” waste matter discharged from the intestines”, so William Keene, will you please explain to me how it comes out the teat. The udder is washed and sanitized then the sanitized milk goes on, travels through sanitized pipes, tanks,etc.. Please William, go to Mark’s farm.
    I should be dead, because more than once the pasture feed cow got her foot in the pail and we just strained it. No one even was sick!
    Mr. Keene to enlighten me my e-mail is
    The land of Calgary will someday flow with MILK & HONEY.

  9. From the Minnesota Wellness Directory website: “Pasteurization does NOT kill ALL harmful microbes in milk and it DOES harm the milk.

    In her book, The Medical Mafia, Dr Lanctôt debunks pasteurization with a one-two punch:

    1. The temperature is not high enough.
    2. The temperature is too high.

    First off, Dr Lanctôt points out that germs that bring us typhoid, coli bacillus, and tuberculosis are not killed by the temperatures used, and there have been a good number of salmonella epidemics traced to pasteurized milk.

    Secondly, the heating process injures the milk. She points out that pasteurization destroys milk’s intrinsic germicidal properties, not to mention healthy enzymes. She goes on to state that 50% of milks calcium is unusable (the body cannot assimilate it) after pasteurization. So much for all those milk commercials.

    Here’s something we found online that was drawn up for a Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors concerning outbreaks from pasteurized milk:

    1997, 28 persons ill from Salmonella in California, ALL FROM PASTEURIZED MILK.

    1996, 46 persons ill from Campylobacter and Salmonella in California.

    1994, 105 persons ill from E. coli and Listeria in California

    March of 1985 19,660 confirmed cases of Salmonella typhimurium illness FROM CONSUMING PROPERLY PASTEURIZED MILK. Over 200,000 people ill from Salmonella typhimurium in PASTEURIZED MILK

    1985, 142 cases and 47 deaths traced to PASTEURIZED Mexican-style cheese contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes. Listeria monocytogenes SURVIVES PASTEURIZATION!

    1985, 1500 persons ill from Salmonella infection

    August of 1984 approximately 200 persons became ill with a Salmonella typhimurium from CONSUMING PASTEURIZED MILK

    November of 1984, another outbreak of Salmonella typhimurium illness from CONSUMING PASTEURIZED MILK

    1983, over 49 persons with Listeria illness have been associated with the consumption of PASTEURIZED MILK in Massachusetts.

    1993, 28 persons ill from Salmonella infection

    1982, 172 persons ill (100 hospitalized) from a three Southern state area from PASTEURIZED MILK.

    1982, over 17,000 persons became ill with Yersinia enterocolitica from PASTEURIZED MILK bottled in Memphis, Tennessee.

    It is the author’s conclusion that pasteurization is simply a quick fix that allows large cartels to profit from the sales of milk. Instead of relying on safe, sterile handling procedures of raw milk (which would make the costs of milk much more expensive), we’ve incorporated this quick fix, which might or might not work, but certainly helps the cartels profit. If you live near a farm, go get yourself some raw milk…”

    • Chester,
      Thank you so much for your comment and for all the statistics you’ve provided. I think many of the people reading these posts about raw milk will appreciate your research. I know I do!

  10. David Carmisciano

    Here is an excerpt from an article written by Jonathan Cohen entitled WHY MILK AND HONEY

    “We generally accept the received definition of “milk and honey” as a metaphor meaning all good things — God’s blessings; and that the Promised Land must have been a land of extraordinary fertility. The phrase “flowing with milk and honey” is understood to be hyperbolically descriptive of the land’s richness; hence, its current use to express the abundance of pure means of enjoyment.”

    I doubt that the Israelites pasteurized their milk or their honey. If raw milk is so inherently bad then why is it mentioned in the Bible with such apparent reverence. Religious beliefs aside the Bible is a document of historical significance. Reference to “the Promised Land, a land flowing with milk and honey” is mentioned six times in exodus.

    Maybe we should make reference to the Bible when discussing this issue with our legislators. It would be politically dangerous to discount what is written in the Bible especcially in some parts of this country.

    I have read numerous articles on this issue, yet I am no “expert”. However, I have come to the same conclusion as Chester. Isn’t it always about the money no matter what “high moral gloss” the Industrialized Milk Producers try to put on their position (raw milk is dangerous to your health)? They have the money to influence legislators and regulators albeit legally. The raw milk farmer most likely does not.

    Thank you Chester for articulating your conclusion so well.

    I wonder where the raw milk samples that the FDA tested came from that contained such nasty organisms . I’ll bet they came from cows in the industrialized dairy process not from the small organic raw milk dairy farmer. These industrial cows are kept in small confined spaces which I have read are very unsanitary. They are never pastured. They are fed animal by-products some of which are certain parts of other cattle and inappropriate grains. They are shot up with antibiotics and other chemicals because their immune systems are so weak they cannot resist viral and bacterial attacks. These animals are extremely stressed. How can they possibly produce wholesome safe milk. It would seem that drinking raw milk from these cows just may well be a prescription for death.

    I live in Massachusetts and get my milk from a dairy in Framingham. Although the Commonwealth has strict standards for test results the town of Framingham imposes even stricter standards. So I guess the milk is safe. It’s been seven months since I started drinking raw milk and I’ve never felt better.
    The farm raises Jersey and Guernsey cows. Thank goodness! Holstein milk is much too thin for my taste. Holsteins are bred for high output and the taste and nutrient value suffer. The cows are grass fed with no additives or animal by-products and they are hay fed with some appropriate grains in the winter They are not given antibiotics unless an animal is ill at which time is inoculated and separated from the herd.

    As for the milk. I love this stuff!!!


    • David, I was just having a similar discussion with a friend today about how things were done in days gone by; whether one refers to the Bible or not, it’s a fact that people found ways to preserve food and still live! And I also made the comment to my husband today that is in line with yours: I had wondered if the tested (bad) milk came from cows that are exposed to hormones and antibiotics, rather than organic raw milk dairy farmers. You make a good point about the animals being stressed, too. That’s one reason I support local, organic farming. Like the war against corn, it the raw milk issue certainly seems to be about money–and not about health.
      Thanks for your comment and insights!

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