You may have never given milk much thought, we have trained from a young age that milk is good for you. But have you heard the many recent controversies of raw milk? Raw milk is as pure and natural as it can get. Rather than being sent to a plant to be pasteurized and monitored by the FDA, then off to a bottling factory; Raw milk is simply straight from the cow, to a bottle and to the refrigerator. Raw milk lasts for approximately 7-10 days, which is around the same time period as the milk we purchase from the grocer last once we get it. The difference is that the pasteurized milk we purchase last longer than that, it just uses up a great deal of its 2-3-week shelf life being processed, bottled and shipped all over the country. With fresh raw and local milk, there is no need for a longer shelf life with no travel time needed.
Have you ever been on the freeway and see a truck with a huge tank containing milk? That’s right, our milk that we are consuming is traveling around in a truck that could easily be mistaken for an oil tanker. Think about that the next time you pour yourself a glass of commercial milk. In recent years, local raw milk has become a hot topic, that up until then was only for the bravest of souls. But now, you can even find a black market for raw milk “dealers”. Raw milk still remains illegal or limited in the majority of the country, making it quite hard to obtain for most people, especially if you don’t live in a rural area. But what is the big fuss over milk? Is one that much better for you than the other?
Pasteurization Kills Healthy Bacteria
When milk is exposed to the “Pasteurization” process, the milk is heated to kill all bacteria and pathogens, including the beneficial bacteria, enzymes, and raw fat. According to, Farm Aid, raw milk has been accredited with reducing asthma, allergies, digestive health, and other health benefits to those who consume it through childhood. These benefits are seemingly due to the lack of pasteurization and the consumption of good bacteria and pathogens. Though pasteurization is in place to help keep people safe by making food safer for consumption, many people are very much against the pasteurization process. Milk isn’t the only healthy food that loses a lot of its good for you properties before hitting the store shelves, honey, for instance, is always best purchased locally and raw. But it doesn’t have the same risk factors as raw local milk.
The Risk of Drinking Un-Pasteurized Milk
While seeking out the healthiest, most unprocessed foods have become growingly popular; most people won’t even consider kicking pasteurized milk. Instead, people are purchasing and consuming organic milk. Un-pasteurized milk has its risk, that’s why we have a pasteurization process, to begin with. While the benefits of some of the good bacteria and pathogens could be immense, you also need to take into account that without pasteurization, you also have the bad bacteria and pathogens. The most common being E. coli and Listeria, which are killed during pasteurization. Foodborne illness is nothing new, but the big question is, is raw milk too risky?
According to the CDC, data studied the number of outbreaks from 2007 to 2013 showed that there were 81 outbreaks due to the consumption of raw milk. The outbreaks resulted in 979 illnesses and of those 73 people were hospitalized due to their illness. The majority of the illnesses were caused by salmonella. Out of the 78 outbreaks from raw milk, 59% of the people sickened were children under the age of 5. Young children, the elderly and people with weakened immune systems are far more likely to become sick from consuming raw milk. Their immune systems typically aren’t strong enough to fight the bacteria and pathogens found in raw milk.
Should You Be Eating Raw, Local Milk?
The decision to leave pasteurized milk behind you and set out on the hunt for local raw milk shouldn’t be taken lightly. Generally speaking, yes, it is just milk, but there is risk involved that should all be considered. If you are considering making the switch, be sure to do your research. The majority of contamination in raw milk comes from the farm and the milking process. Something as simple as a handler’s hands or equipment not being properly cleaned before milking could mean an outbreak of illness caused by the milk produced.
If you are choosing to make the switch you should always be sure you know where the milk is coming from. Seek out high-quality milk from grass-fed cows and be sure that the environment is sanitary. In some states, where raw milk is legal, there are procedures in place; farms that have passed inspection, certification and testing may sell their raw milk. In many areas, it is still illegal for them to even advertise the sale of raw milk, while in others you can occasionally find it in limited grocery stores.
As with everything, the choice to switch to raw local milk will involve weighing out the risk. While it is true that consuming raw milk can be risky if you turn on the news today, chances are you we see something about contaminated food making people sick; and chances are whatever food that is, is from a factory where it has been processed or even pasteurized. Some would say that you have just as much of a risk getting ill from pasteurized milk as you do getting sick from local raw milk. The reality is, it is a gable regardless of the choice you make. Both could just as easily make you sick. Choosing raw local milk could prove to be a beneficial part of you and your family’s diet. It could just as easily turn out to be too extreme for you. Choosing to make an informed and well-researched decision will help guide you to the answer of whether you should be eating raw, local milk.