The Raw Milk Debate

To heat or not to heat is indeed the question at hand regarding the long running debate over whether or not the consumption of raw milk is safe.
Freedom of Choice
For many, regardless of whether consuming raw milk is preferable to pasteurized milk, even the smallest safety issue is enough for them to avoid it. And that’s ok, everyone is different and must make decisions that resonate with them. The beauty of living in today’s world is, it doesn’t have to be one or another, we have the freedom to choose both if we so desire. So let’s roll up our sleeves and find out what this debate is all about.
Everyone from industry experts, health care officials, government entities such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (“CDC”) and everyday dairy consumers have an opinion, and often a firm stance, on this controversial topic.
The arguments on both sides of the issue are compelling enough to warrant a closer look at both raw milk and pasteurized milk and what benefits each has to offer consumers, as well as the possible negative impacts as well.
Pasteurized Milk
Pasteurization is a process that applies heat, in order to destroy potentially harmful pathogens present in foods upon human consumption, according to the International Dairy Foods Association (“IDFA”). This process heats each particle of milk or any milk product such as cheese or yogurt. The most common type of pasteurization in the United States is High Temperature Short Time (“HTST”) pasteurization, using metal plates and hot water for the process.
Raw Milk
Now having the definition of pasteurized milk, it is simple to describe raw milk, which is milk that has not encountered any steps involved with the pasteurization process. It is completely in a raw and natural state once the milk has been obtained from the cow or goat, at a dairy. The milk has not undergone any type of pasteurization or homogenization process to change it from its natural state. It goes literally from the cow to a container.
Proponents of Consuming Raw Milk
Proponents of raw milk cite numerous health benefits present in the consumption of raw milk over pasteurized milk. Raw milk contains healthy bacteria that produce a specific lactic acid that naturally protects against dangerous pathogens. Additionally, raw milk also allows the important amino acids – lysine and tyrosine – to remain stable in the milk and allows milk’s proteins to be readily available to the human body upon consumption, along with 22 other important amino acids.
Raw milk also features a larger percentage of preserved vitamin C, as well as an overall larger volume of water-soluble vitamins to help the human body take in vitamins naturally. Trace minerals, such as magnesium, calcium, phosphorous, potassium and more, are all preserved when milk remains in its raw state.
The digestion process of raw milk is also easier on the human body since the enzymes in milk are preserved when they do not undergo the pasteurization process. These same enzymes are necessary in building muscle and other bodybuilding factors, which include calcium. Some say that those who drink pasteurized over raw milk may be more likely to suffer from osteoporosis.
Essentially, raw milk helps to build the body’s gastrointestinal and immune systems with all of its preserved vitamins, minerals enzymes and amino acids. Perhaps most importantly, since the milk is protected by all of these natural nutrients, some say it is actually much safer than pasteurized milk and that conventional use of antibiotics is just a good excuse for poor sanitary conditions often found on conventional dairy farms.
Opponents of Consuming Raw Milk
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention disagrees and states that the benefits of drinking pasteurized milk over raw milk are basically the same and that the pasteurization process does little to change the basic nutritional components in milk. The main concern most opponents have is the chance of illness from pathogenic bacteria. They feel the risk of infection is significantly greater in raw milk than pasteurized milk.
Safety Matters Involved with Both Raw and Pasteurized Milk
Both forms of milk – raw and pasteurized – come with their own inherently potential risks since contaminating factors are possible in any environment in which a living animal is present and from which a product of their body is derived. Pasteurized milk does take away certain contaminating factors and the argument is strong for its use, in terms of avoiding the risk of pathogens if you are able, but the raw milk proponents contend that everything in milk naturally protects the human body against these foreign pathogens and has been consumed in raw form for many more years than pasteurization has been around.
The Difference in Taste Between Raw and Pasteurized Milk
The difference in taste between raw and pasteurized milk lies primarily in the fact that raw milk exists in its purest state, containing rich butter fats, which make the milk taste far richer and creamier than pasteurized milk. Pasteurization tends to remove the alkaloids in milk that gives it its luxurious flavor and texture.
Homogenization is the process in which milk is shaken vigorously and pressed through very tiny holes to get the milk fat to stay suspended in the milk so it doesn’t float to the top. Some say this was done in the early days to hide poor quality milk. A good quality milk was determined by the thick layer of cream on top.
How to Find Raw Milk and Raw Dairy Products
Finding pasteurized and homogenized milk is easy, it lines our grocery store shelves. But what about raw milk? Since the Federal Drug Administration (“FDA”) and CDC see no value in raw milk, it may be a challenge to obtain easily, but consumers can and do find it. It is usually only an internet search away using the key words raw milk, and your city or state.
Organic Milk
If you choose to purchase pasteurized milk, it is wise to choose organic. This ensures that growth hormones and antibiotics, fed to the animal does not make its way into you via the milk. What the cow was fed, does end up in the milk. Conventional cows are also fed genetically engineered corn, other animal byproducts and other “things” unnatural to a cows native diet. Choosing organic ensures these practices were not used in obtaining your milk.
The Choice is Yours
What type of milk you choose is up to you, educating yourself on the various types of milk and how they come to you is very helpful in making your decision.
Many people are lactose intolerant or sensitive to the protein casein found in milk. These people should avoid dairy for the inflammation and mucus it causes. People who are lactose intolerant sometimes find they tolerate raw milk just fine and the digestion of it much easier because of the live enzymes and probiotic bacteria within the milk.
I find raw milk simply tastes better and enjoy the live nutrients within it. I have been consuming raw milk since 2002 and have never been sick, what I have experienced however, is increased health and well-being.
International Dairy Foods Association, Accessed November 20, 2012
Midwest Dairy Association; John Vetrow, VMD, MBA, et al., Accessed November 28, 2011
Real Milk More About Raw Milk, Sally Fallon, 1999 Accessed November 28, 2012
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Accessed March 8, 2012
Real Milk Accessed November 28, 2012