Why Raw Milk Should Be Legal

Don’t get me wrong, pasteurization was one of the greatest moments in the history of fighting disease.  America’s milk supply was pasteurized nationwide in the 1890s, and this was a very good thing.  Prior to that, everyone drank raw milk, whether they wanted to or not.  Raw milk can carry a number of diseases, including tubercolisis (which is how Kafka died). 

Because of the way milk is distributed, one sick cow on one lone farm can contaminate the milk for an entire region.  Milk distribution has been centralized since the turn of the century before last.  Milk is collected at dairies across the region (fewer and larger dairies every day, I’m afraid) and is pooled in one big tank for processing.  Before pasteurization, that single large tank became an incubator for every disease present in every gallon that was collected. 

Fortunately no one is arguing that our national milk supply should no longer be pasteurized.  However, it doesn’t seem right that raw milk should be outright illegal.  There are many supposed benefits to raw milk, and whether or not you agree with them or are interested in buying raw milk, doesn’t it seem that people should be able to buy it if they like?

Foodies argue that raw milk tastes better than pasteurized milk.  Because it is less processed, and usually hails from small family-owned dairies, it appeals to the “locally grown” movement.  As a niche market to end all niche markets, raw milk sales are a huge help to small dairies which are struggling financially.

Some cheeses, including a proper Stilton, cannot be made without the use of raw milk.  These cheeses are perfectly safe, as the process of cheesemaking destroys any bacteria which may be present.  However, federal regulations still restrict the import and sale of these cheeses in states where raw milk is banned, because raw milk cheese is still legally considered a “raw milk product.”

Raw food advocates believe that raw milk is healthier for you than pasteurized milk, that the process of pasteurization destroys the nutrients.  This is certainly true in the case of the healthy bacteria which are found in milk, which are sold separately as probiotics.

Young children, pregnant women, and other sensitive demographics should certainly avoid drinking raw milk.  There is some risk – after all, we started pasteurizing our milk for a very good reason!  But despite these health risks, we still allow people to purchase cigarettes, vodka, and raw fish if they want.  We may restrict their sale to people of a certain age, and plaster them with warnings, but we still let people buy them.

In fact, this is the case in most countries other than the United States and Canada.  In the rest of the world you can typically buy raw milk alongside pasteurized milk.  The raw milk may be sold with a big scary warning sticker, but it is still sold, and most people are able to make a rational, informed decision about which kind of milk they want to buy.

This is not the case in 22 states, where the sale of raw milk is a crime, and transporting raw milk across state lines is a federal crime, to boot.  People in those states who want to buy raw milk have to sneak into a black market of the dairy underground, not unlike the moonshine runners of the Prohibition era.

Is this even remotely reasonable?  If you want the right to purchase raw milk, contact your state’s Department of Agriculture, or the USDA.  Personally I would never drink raw milk – too squeamish, too nervous about the prospect of serious illness – but I still think people should be able to buy it if they choose.

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HealthyHanna profile image

HealthyHanna 5 years ago from Utah

I drink raw milk when I can.

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