What is Raw Milk?

raw-milkThere are two types of cow’s milk that humans consume: raw milk and pasteurized (commercial) milk. Raw milk comes straight from the cow. It is untreated milk, free of any pasteurization or homogenization methods. When raw milk is pasteurized, it is typically heated to 161 degrees Fahrenheit for at least 15 seconds. Heating, or pasteurizing, removes bacteria and other disease-causing pathogens; however, it also removes beneficial bacteria, such as lactobacillus, and other key vitamins and nutrients.

Most of the dairy cows that produce raw milk are raised on a grain-free diet, allowed to graze freely in pastures, and do not receive antibiotics unless absolutely necessary. Dairy cows in the commercial milk industry are often raised in a factory-farm environment. They tend to live in smaller spaces, are not always grass-fed, and are often given antibiotics as a preventative measure to fight against disease or infection.

Interestingly enough, in the mid-1800s unsanitary conditions in factory-farm dairies led to mandatory pasteurization of milk. Mass outbreaks of typhoid and tuberculosis were traced back to contaminated milk at the dairies. Around this time, a French microbiologist named Louis Pasteur experimented with using heat as a means to kill microbes in wine. The “pasteurization” process was later refined for milk.

By the early 1900s, cities and towns were expanding. Population growth created a demand for clean milk that could be shipped without spoiling. In the 1940s Michigan became the first state to require milk pasteurization and many states followed. Small dairies soon turned into big businesses with big profits.

And yet many people still prefer natural, untreated milk rather than pasteurized milk. Why? It begins with the cows. Raw milk producers provide a natural diet and a stress-free environment for the cows. In return, the cows produce a more balanced, nutritious milk: healthy animal = healthy food.

Advocates of raw milk drink it for its fresh taste and its immune-boosting probiotics. Many who are lactose-intolerant have found that they can tolerate raw milk because it contains the enzyme lactase, which breaks down lactose and makes the milk easier to digest. And parents who provide raw milk for their children report a decrease in chronic conditions, such as asthma and ear infections, related to food allergies.

The safety of raw milk is a topic of on-going debate. The argument against raw milk is that it is not pasteurized; therefore, it may contain pathogens that cause food-borne illnesses, and there have been reported cases of serious illness from contaminated raw milk. Informed consumers should be aware that they are consuming a raw agricultural product, yet cases of raw milk illness per year do not overshadow those from contaminated pasteurized milk. States that allow for raw milk to be sold legally require the dairies to be inspected and licensed. Their milk is tested for pathogens which makes it important to buy raw milk from a “certified” raw milk dairy.

In the United States, laws for raw milk distribution and consumer access vary from state to state. Depending on the state, raw milk may be legally sold in a store, directly from a raw milk dairy or at a farmers’ market, or through cow/herd-share agreements. Some states ban the sale of raw milk completely!

In Texas raw milk cannot be sold legally in stores. It can, however, be purchased directly from a farm that produces certified raw milk.

Wiseman Family Practice’s Advice:

We believes that people’s health would benefit from drinking less milk due to its high sugar content and it’s often allergenic nature; however, if milk is consumed it is ideal for it to be in its most raw state – as a true “wholefood”. Though purchasing raw milk can be difficult, there are a number of rules when buying pasteurized milk at your local grocery store that will ensure that you have the best pasteurized milk because not all pasteurized milk is created equal. We will provide these guidelines in a future article. Also, look out this month for the next video from Wiseman Family Practice on this topic, as Dr. Jeremy Wiseman visits a Raw Milk Dairy Farm in Schulenberg, Tx to see this process first hand. For more information on raw milk and to locate sources close to you go to www.realmilk.com

Sources and References:
Gumpert, D. (2009). The Raw Milk Revolution. Vermont: Chelsea Green Publishing.

Mercola, J. (2011, November 16) Dr. Mercola Interviews Mark McAfee about Raw Milk. Articles.Mercola.com. Retrieved May 31, 2013, from http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2012/01/14/mark-mcafee-raw-milk-update.aspx.

Roumeliotou, E. (2013, May 23) In Defense of (Raw) Milk. Greenmedinfo.com. Retrieved May 31, 2013, from http://www.greenmedinfo.com/blog/defense-raw-milk?utm_source=www.GreenMedInfo.com&utm_campaign=e5db0441d2-Greenmedinfo&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_193c8492fb-e5db0441d2-86768686.

Raw Milk Laws State by State