Raw milk debate

17 Aug

As I mentioned last week, when I tell people about my job they tend to have a question ready for me about food.  My cousin that I haven’t seen in years wanted to discuss farm raised shrimp and salmon and my lawyer this morning asked my opinion about his decision to stop eating red meat… I will get back to both of those topics in later posts.  However right now I want to talk about the question that I would ask someone that I believed knew a lot more about the dairy industry than I do.  My question is why is the raw milk debate generating so much fuss.  Granted it is not on the same scale as the national debt or gay rights, but it does seem to get a lot of people very upset.

Personally, I do not have a strong opinion on the matter.  I grew up drinking pasteurized milk from the grocery store, my parents would have never considered any other options.  I have consumed unpasteurized milk a few times, but not because I thought it was healthier.  I was caring for a baby hippo in Africa.  A local farmer donated raw milk to the hospital and I had to taste the milk before the hippo got it to make sure it wasn’t turning.

Here is what I know: raw milk is unpasteurized milk.  There are laws in most states about the sale, consumption or distribution of raw milk.  People like raw milk because they believe that the pasteurization process kills pathogens, but it also reduces the nutritional benefits of the milk.  For this reason they want unpasteurized milk because they believe it is healthier.

Up until now there have been no proven medical or health benefits associated with raw milk.  That’s not to say that the benefits of raw milk are not real.  I don’t even know how much testing has been done.  Raw milk laws have been on the books since the 1930s.  Federal agencies like the FDA and CDC’s stance is that additional benefits from raw milk are unknown and that the risk from consuming the pathogens contained in milk are very real.  Over the last 10 years there have been an average of 100 cases of food illness associated with raw milk, including hospitalizations and deaths.  Therefore raw milk continues to be banned.

In roughly half of the US states the restrictions are raw milk are weakening.  And people are using loop holes.  In some states it is legal to consume raw milk but not buy it, so people are purchasing cows and then they are allowed to drink their own milk. Other states raw milk can be bought on a farm but not sold other places, so people travel to the farm.

I buy milk from local farms from time to time.  I used to get it delivered to my apartment (because the glass bottles made me feel special) but it was never raw milk.  I would not own a cow or join a private food club just to get raw milk, even if it was goat, sheep or camel milk.  It’s just not that high on my priority list, so I am constantly wondering why these other people care so much- and do they care this much about all of their dietary choices or just raw milk?



Posted by on August 17, 2011 in Uncategorized


4 responses to “Raw milk debate

  1. Nathan V

    August 17, 2011 at 2:52 pm

    Two reasons people chose raw milk.
    1. The taste. raw milk is much tastier, raw milk has to be better quality than what is pasteurized.
    If raw milk is to last more then a few days it must have a somatic cell count below 250,000.
    the legal limit for milk that is pasteurized is 1 million. this alone makes a difference in the taste.

    2. The health benefits if raw milk may be debated by the CDC but there are many consumers that have seen a huge difference in the digestibility of raw milk in there own lives

    • Michelle

      August 18, 2011 at 12:12 pm

      Thank you very much for your posts. I am so happy you took the time to give me some of the information I was looking for.

      I am glad that raw milk is not dangerous on a large scale and its unfortunate that so many other aspects of our food system are dangerous.

      I did not know about the numbers you posted, I will look more into that.

      And finally the reason that I said CDC has not had any conclusive findings is because I was looking for scientific findings. A lot of consumers feel very passionate about a wide array of products, but I wanted non-placebo effect, findings that could be applied to large sections of the population.

      Thanks again!

  2. Nathan V

    August 17, 2011 at 3:17 pm

    One correction on raw milk safety
    Thanks to a recent survey by the Centers for Disease control, we finally have the numbers we need to determine the statistical safety of drinking raw milk. Turns out, raw milk really is safer than just about any other food out there — including spinach, peanut butter, and eggs. The risk of contracting an illness from contaminated raw milk is ridiculously small

    Last I checked I was unable to find one death in the last 10 year that was from drinking raw milk.

  3. Liz Beavis

    August 19, 2011 at 1:12 am

    I was also wondering why raw milk was so controversial! I recently read “raw milk revolution” by David Gumpert, which has a pretty good explanation of the issues. Also “Nourishing Traditions” by Sally Fallon lists numerous studies into the health benefits of raw milk, this is not research that is well publicised, but it does exist. I have a bit of a conspiracy theory about the dairy industry suppressing this research and pushing for extra regulations so that they can prevent competition from farmers selling direct to the public. Read more on my blog if you’re interested.


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