Raw Milk vs. Pasteurized Milk; Which is the best Milk to Choose?
Many people don’t think twice about buying a carton of milk at the grocery store and consider it to be a kitchen staple. There is a long accepted belief that milk is “good for you” because it is rich in calcium and vitamin D, which in part, provide the building blocks for growing strong healthy bones in children as well as avoiding osteoporosis in the latter years. But lurking behind the perception of an innocent wonder-food is a battle being waged among consumers, farmers, the FDA, lawmakers, nutritional experts and doctors, about the safety and availability of raw milk (this is unprocessed milk straight from the cow). At the center of the battle sits an otherwise innocent looking cold frothy glass of milk…which serves to prove that things are not always what they seem.
Most of the milk sold in grocery stores in the United States has been pasteurized, or in other words, heated to a certain temperature to kill harmful bacteria, and homogenized, a process that stops the cream from separating from the milk. While these two processes seem innocent enough, raw milk advocates argue that these processes create "dead" milk, meaning it no longer provides the nutritional benefits that it did before processing.
Variations in Pasteurization and "Dead" Milk
The growing interest in legalizing raw milk in states and countries where it is illegal, is on trend with getting back to unprocessed whole foods, benefiting both the environment and our health. Raw milk advocates feel this way and have begun seeking sources of raw milk, even if it takes more work to locate them. Currently 4% of milk drinkers in the U.S. choose raw milk, offering these reasons:
A Dairy Farmer's Point of View
Benefits of Raw Milk
- Homogenization restructures the fat molecules thereby deeming them more difficult to digest and even harmful to the human body.
- Pasteurization removes some of the friendly bacteria, such as lactobacillus and a significant percentage of vitamins B-1, B-6, B-12 and C
- The consumption of raw milk decreases the incidence of asthma and allergies
- Raw milk tastes better and makes a more flavorful cheese
- Consumers should have the right to choose
Some of the strongest advocates for Raw Milk include the controversial Westin Price Foundation and Dr. Mercola, an alternative medicine advocate, both of whom feel that raw milk gives superior nutrition, especially for growing children.
The Need to Pasteurize
Up until the mid-1800’s milk was consumed as a raw product and was a good source of nutrition. The need to pasteurize milk came about during the industrial revolution when families moved from the country to the city. At the time, they brought their cows with them, but the cows could no longer graze on a natural diet of grass and were instead fed grain. The cows were also kept in tight quarters which made it more difficult to adhere to a safe standard of cleanliness. This unnatural diet along with the unsanitary, confined conditions, led to the spread of disease through the human consumption of this milk. Pasteurization became a simple way to rid the milk of many diseases and make it safe; higher standards of farm cleanliness were no longer necessary to produce a safe product. Pasteurized milk has been the standard since that time; however, raw milk has consistently been produced and consumed on country farms without reported incidences of disease.
The Argument for Pasturization
The FDA, along with some law makers and most doctors, feel that pasteurized milk is still a better and safer choice. The FDA states:
Raw milk can harbor dangerous microorganisms that can pose serious health risks to you and your family…symptoms of foodborne illness include: Vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal pain, Flulike symptoms such as fever, headache, and body ache. While most healthy people will recover from an illness…within a short period of time, some can develop symptoms that are chronic, severe, or even life-threatening.
Dr. Weil, founder, professor, and director of the Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine, recommends only pasteurized milk. He believes that the health claims of raw milk are anecdotal and the scientific evidence for such benefits is sparse. He states that if you insist on drinking raw milk “make sure that it is from a grade A dairy and that the milk is tested frequently by state inspectors.”
Dr. Oz, cardiothoracic surgeon, author and host of the television program “The Dr. Oz Show”, also feels that raw milk is unsafe, stating:
Drinking raw, unpasteurized milk is like playing Russian roulette. Somewhere down the line, you’re going to get a bellyful of bacteria, like salmonella, listeria and e.coli, which will put you in a world of hurt. And the elderly, small children and people with impaired immune systems could face life-threatening complications.”
Dr. Oz agrees that there are benefits from the bacteria ‘lactobacillus’, which is found in raw milk, but suggests that it can also be found through probiotic capsules such as Digestive Advantage, Sustinex or Affirm because they contain the “spore form” of the bacteria which survives in stomach acid. He also suggests looking for dairy products from grass fed cows because grass “improves the fatty acid ratio in their milk”
While raw milk may offer some great health benefits, they don’t seem to outweigh the possible safety concerns of raw milk. A safer alternative might be to look for pasteurized, grass fed milk that is not homogenized and look for an alternative probiotic source of the beneficial enzymes. If you still feel that raw milk is the best choice, make sure that it is from a grade A dairy and that the milk is tested frequently.
Facts About Milk
- Human beings have consumed raw milk exclusively prior to the industrial revolution and the invention of the pasteurization process in 1864.
- Many traditional French cheeses have solely been made from raw milk for hundreds of years.
- In some Eastern European Countries, unprocessed raw milk is available by automatic vending machines known as "Mlekomat". A european Union program supports the farmers with 50% of their investments in vending machines.
- The sale of raw milk is legal in 28 States.
The Moo Man, an independent film about the relationship between a farmer and his dairy cows
What is your Milk of Choice?
© 2013 Tracy Lynn Conway