Can I start off by saying that I really have missed writing? A lot. In my defense, I got married a month ago and you would think that all the stress and stress-related symptoms would disappear when the wedding is over, but that is just not true. Your body takes a beating when it is stressed and sleep deprived, and it takes real time to heal and get back to normal. And for me at least, while feeling that way, the urge and the ability to write is pretty much nonexistent. On the positive side, my wedding was completely amazing, the honeymoon was perfect, and I am back to putting my blog as a priority. And yes, for those of you who are into that sort of thing, there will be a wedding post with lots of pictures coming soon but today’s topic is about the benefits and risks of choosing raw milk over pasteurized store bought milk.
Let’s first start off by explaining what makes milk raw milk. It is simply milk that has not been pasteurized, or heated up until it kills the pathogens in the milk. Raw milk can be a carrier of dangerous bacteria including salmonella and E. coli, which can not only be dangerous but also deadly. Hence why the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) and CDC (Center for Disease control) believe that it is necessary to pasteurize milk before the consumer can buy it. It is actually illegal to buy or sell raw milk in quite a few states. In my own home state of Michigan, it is illegal to sell raw milk, however, you can join a herd share and receive milk that way. The logic of the herd share is that you own part of the cow and pay for its room and board so you therefore have a right to what it produces. And there genuinely is a risk when choosing to consume raw milk instead of the pasteurized milk. Chris Kresser does a fantastic job of breaking down the actual statistical risks that CDC found and reported about raw milk and other foods that cause food borne illnesses. The findings basically come down to saying that there is a larger risk drinking unpasteurized milk than drinking pasteurized milk. However, it is only 9.4 times more likely to cause illness, and is actually last on the list of most common foods causing illnesses. Bear in mind that these “illnesses” we are referring to are not necessarily just E coli and salmonella. This can refer to any illness like an upset stomach or diarrhea, and although food poisoning seems horrible while one is suffering from it, it is not necessarily life threatening. Personally, when I think about what foods are dangerous to eat and cause illnesses, my first thought is actually peanut butter or spinach. Now given the rate that peanut butter is consumed compared to raw milk is exponentially higher but it also proves that pretty much anything can have risks, and shouldn’t our concern be the source of the food, not the food itself? When pasteurization first became a requirement in America, there had been a huge TB breakout in New York. The tuberculosis was thought to be spread by milk, and most likely rightfully so. This was also during a time that doctors were just starting to finally accept that there lack of hand washing was what was killing newborns and their mothers. It’s hard to compare the knowledge of germs and sanitary conditions of the 1930’s to now. And again, source is so important. The more mass produced something is, the higher the risks for contamination. Mass produced milk has to be pasteurized.
So we agree that raw milk does carry a greater risk of illnesses and the CDC says that drinking pasteurized milk loses no nutritional value. So why drink raw milk? To start off, there are believed to be many health benefits, however, none completely proven, albeit more because of a lack of studies. Raw milk contains fats, good bacteria, and enzymes helpful to digestion. Because of it’s helpfulness in digestion its thought not only to help your immune system but also to even cure allergies. This sounds a little far fetched but as science continues to grow and develop about food allergens, we are more and more coming to understand that much of it comes down to gut health. Raw milk also contains lactase, which is the enzyme that helps to digest lactose. Those of us who are lactose intolerant can greatly benefit from the bacteria that creates those enzymes. I, myself, am one of those who does not have the certain broken gene that allows me to digest lactose well. I quit drinking milk in high school because of serious digestive issues and in an attempt to get my eczema under control, and it worked well for me. However, give me a glass of raw milk and I can drink it down with no negative side effects. I’ve actually seen an improvement in my ability to digest other foods but that is of course, only anecdotal evidence. And fat. Oh fat. The macro nutrient that has been vilified for so long. Fat is good for you. It’s good for brain development. Its satiating in ways that carbohydrates can almost never be. Breast milk is almost entirely made from fat and most people and experts agree that it is incredibly important to breast feed children. Even Dr. Oz is coming down in favor of “good fats“. I need to make the disclaimer that I definitely do not agree with everything that Dr. Oz points out in that video as good for you but getting the message out that fat can help with weight loss, wrinkles, and bone health is a definite improvement.
So we have anecdotal evidence of improved immune system, easier digestion, and healthy fats that help with overall health. But I believe that there is a moral responsibility in not supporting milk producers that use industrial raised cows. The milk that I drink comes from local, grass fed cows. Whereas these industrial raised cows are fed grains. Cows cannot digest grains well. As many people know, cows do that lovely thing where they chew grass, and chew and chew and chew grass until the grass becomes cud and then they swallow. The cud enters the first compartment of the stomach and is often regurgitated and chewed some more until the cow is able to digest it. Cows are not able to do this with grains. Their inability to do so can actually cause bloat and kill a cow rather quickly. Yes, we feed an animal something that can kill it and then expect it’s meat and milk to be good for us. So because of this, the cows are given antibiotics to help keep them alive. As well as animal byproducts and arsenic (at least for chickens but how long before its cows as well). They are kept in unclean conditions, spending a large part of their lives in their own filth, and then when ready to slaughter are shipped to more containment, mistreated, and slaughtered in unclean conditions. And dairy cows are not above this treatment. They, too, are given antibiotics to treat all the illnesses that inflict confined animals, to levels that are high enough to actually violate the FDA’s laws and leading to arrests in both Ohio and Idaho. These animals are genuinely sick and mistreated and we expect their products to be good for us. And not to get all hippy dippy on you, readers, but I just can’t believe that eating animals that have been treated that way is going to come back to you in a good way. God said that we shall have dominion over the land and the animals but we were meant to be caretakers of this world, and the mistreatment of animals does not fall under the role of caretaker.
I’m sure many of you can see that I come down on the side of raw milk. The farm that I get my milk from cares about their animals. They are well treated and the owners are open and honest. Visit their farm anytime, check out their equipment, and feel free to ask questions. They explain honestly that they do not regularly give any of their animal antibiotics, however, if one of their cows became sick, they would give them the necessary medicine to make them better. The cows have pasture upon pasture to eat and are happy, bright eyed animals. And I’ll be honest, I like the family. The husband and wife owners are genuine and interesting, and the children are gorgeous and active. It’s a small farm but I feel completely safe getting my milk, yogurt, and cheese from them. And it has, I believe, genuinely helped me. I feel better when I have it. I feel more satiated for longer. I have a better digestion. My overall skin health is also improved, which goes along with better digestion, less eczema.
Am I advocating that every person drink raw milk? Nope. I believe that if you think it is dangerous then you absolutely have the right to choose to not take the risk. I also believe that I should have the right to drink whatever milk I choose to drink. Our health, our food choices should be our own. Allowing the government to dictate the milk we drink is in a lot of ways opening the door for other things. We are all right with raw milk being banned because most people believe it’s dangerous. How long before consuming the eggs that come from our own chickens becomes a food borne illness risk in the government’s eyes? Is buying organic produce from a local farmer going to be health risk at some point? It sounds a little paranoid, but we always have to think about the consequences of every law and how far reaching they can be. I’m so glad the federal government is doing raids in order to protect me from the dangerous Amish like this (sarcasm alert!). Raw milk or pasteurized milk, it should come down to our right to choose.
How about you? Do you drink raw milk? Would you? Do you believe that we should allow no one to assume the risks or should it be a personal choice?