June 25, 2012

Got raw milk? Part one - Is it safe?

Let's face it, when it comes to most real food issues, there's at least one argument against a practice for every argument in favor of it. Should we soak grains or not? Organic or conventional? Refined sugars vs. natural sweeteners....the list goes on. A BIG one is raw milk. My purpose is not to convince anyone that they must eat like we do. But it IS to encourage you to do research, make informed decisions, and not take everything the government tells you about food as truth.

When our daughter began showing a possible intolerance to milk, I researched other options. Our first choice was goat milk. There are a number of reasons this was a better option, and so we tried it for a while. It worked very well, but was expensive and not consistently available. This led me to begin researching raw milk. A friend who runs a local dairy told me that they had several customers with a milk intolerance that could handle raw milk, suggesting that the intolerance was actually a result of something added to commercial milk, or taken out during the pasteurization process.

At this point in our lives, we hadn't really started the real food journey. The only thing I had been doing was baking all our own bread, and that was mostly because I didn't like the fake taste of commercial breads. Being the researcher I am, I decided I'd better look into the pasteurization process and determine if raw milk was a safe alternative for our daughter.

So, let's start with the number one question that arises as soon as the words "raw milk" are mentioned.


Raw milk is exactly that - RAW. There is nothing done to it. It comes from the cow, goes into the fridge and is consumed that way. Many people believe that without pasteurization, raw milk is not safe to drink. And sometimes it isn't. But sometimes store-bought milk isn't either.

Pasteurization was first suggested for milk in 1886. Because of the industrial revolution, people were congregating in the city and detaching themselves from the agricultural community. This led to a rise in the demand for milk in urban areas and it didn't take long for dairy farmers to realize that if they could keep the milk from souring during transportation, they could sell more by bringing it into the city. Pasteurization allowed for extended shelf life and made this possible.

Prior to 1886 EVERYONE drank unpasteurized milk. GASP! Yes, it's hard to believe, but people DID drink it that way. In fact, the most current method of pasteurization, HTST (high temperature short time), was not done routinely in the United States until the 1950's, making this method barely over 60 years old....a tiny fraction of time in milk-drinking history.

As pasteurization made transportation possible, demand increased. Farmers had to add more cows to keep up with demand, and since the milk was pasteurized to kill bacteria, they didn't have to be as careful with the health of their animals. Larger farms + pasteurization = industrialization of the milk industry.

And as we know, industrialization in the food industry usually means foods become very processed. The same is true in the milk industry, and the result is PROCESSED milk.

There's the short story. Milk is pasteurized so it can be transported long distances and sit on the shelf without going bad.

"But pasteurization kills all the bad bacteria," you say? Yes, it does (and all the good ones too). But that assumes that there are bad bacteria in there to begin with. This is where consumer discernment comes in. If the farmer follows proper procedures for keeping the cows, milking area, bottles and equipment clean, they will have no problem producing safe, nutritious, raw milk.

Bottom line: Raw milk MUST come from clean, well-kept dairies with healthy cows.

Before we began purchasing raw milk, I spent a great deal of time talking to the farmer. I asked questions, and talked to others who purchased milk from him. Because I've known him quite a while, I knew he was raising his own young children on the same milk he produces for others. And I researched and researched and researched (are you seeing a pattern here?).

This is our farmer and his very happy (grass-eating!!) cows.

My milk is local. And I know my farmer. I know he's extraordinarily meticulous, incredibly detail oriented and exceptionally clean. I know what he feeds, how he cares for and treats his animals. And my milk doesn't need to be transported anywhere except into my refrigerator.

The milk-room he works in is spotless. The cows are spotless. The bottles are spotless. And probably most importantly, he takes great pride in his work and providing a quality product to his customers. He (and his family) work hard to produce their milk at highest quality and a fair price. And that's something I'm happy to support.

The next two parts (part two here) in this series will discuss the reasons that raw milk is nutritionally superior to pasteurized milk and it's additional benefits (like incredible taste!). But if you're interested in trying some now, feel free to contact me and I can put you in touch with our farmer give you directions so you can grab some of your own!


  1. I love the taste of raw milk. It is so much better tasting also. A quarts at sprouts costs 7.99 so can't buy it all the time either. I read in Nina Planck's book about it and it was very interesting, especially what happened to the milk when they feed the cows poorly. I think it was sludge products from distilleries, which was the reason for starting pasteurization. Us genius people trying to take shortcuts and/or getting rid of waste led to needing to "raise" the quality of the milk. hmmm...

    1. Wow...that makes me glad I don't have to buy it at Sprouts! We're definitely thankful we have such a great raw-milk source so close. Isn't it interesting how we try to "fix" the food system to make it easier for ourselves and ruin it in the process??

  2. YAY... I can't wait for the next two parts in this series! I have heard you mention raw milk in your blogs and have been anxiously awaiting the raw milk blog!! I am half-way through reading a book called "Wheat Belly." It is making me seriously reconsider eating "healthy whole grains." Genetic modification of wheat over the last 50 years is SCARY!

    1. Thanks Terra - I have read the first few pages of Wheat Belly, but never made it through the whole thing. Our culture as a whole definitely places too much emphasis on refined "healthy" grains! I'm definitely not anti-grain, but I definitely am not happy with the way most of it is produced. If you enjoy Wheat Belly, another great read would Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon.

  3. okay, you know I don't even really like milk but that post made me wanna come over and have a glass right now! Great job! :)