When I was a child, the dairyman down the road delivered our milk to our doorstep in large glass pickle jars. My mother refrigerated the raw milk overnight. In the morning, she skimmed the cream that had risen to the top into a Mason jar. We used the cream for butter, biscuits, ice cream, and lacing strawberries and peaches.
Today, most of the milk produced in this country comes from large commercial dairy operations and is pasteurized and homogenized. Pasteurization is the process of heating milk to a certain temperature for a specific period of time to kill bacteria. Through homogenization, milk particles are pushed through tiny holes at high pressure. This process breaks up the fat globules so they are incorporated in the milk.
Stringent laws regulate milk production and sales, and in many states it’s illegal to buy or sell raw milk. To understand this situation, let’s go back to the history of commercial milk production. Prior to the early 1900s, most people got their milk from their own herd or a small family farm. As demand grew though, commercial dairy operations opened. Crowded, dirty conditions and unhealthy cows led to unsanitary milk capable of causing serious illness.
Federal regulators stepped in and changed all that in the 1930s. Strict laws required routine testing of the herd’s health. Milk had to be pasteurized and chilled within a certain period of time after milking, and milk was inspected and graded for quality.
The Benefits Of Raw Milk
The regulations of the 1930s were probably necessary then, but they’ve caused some unintended consequences. Pasteurizing milk certainly reduces the risk of diseases like listeria, but it also increases our risk of long-term health problems. Why?
As our nation’s food supply became more industrialized and we strayed from whole, nutrient-dense foods, several well-known researchers and nutritionists, including Frances Pottinger, Agnes Faye Morgan, and Dr. Weston A. Price predicted a substantial rise in the incidents of cancer, heart disease, high blood pressure, and diabetes. These early pioneers believed that processed, “dead” foods can’t sustain health, and the result of consuming these foods is chronic disease. Their prediction was correct. Not only has the incidence of heart disease and type 2 diabetes skyrocketed, but many of our children suffer from auto-immune diseases, autism, asthma, and ADHD.
Frank Oski, M.D., former head of pediatrics at John Hopkins University, wrote that grade A pasteurized milk is responsible for a host of illnesses, including acne, anemia, asthma, ear infections, eczema, and even anti-social behavior.
In the 1940s, Frances Pottinger conducted experiments with cats and milk. Large groups of cats were fed nothing but pasteurized milk, while another group of cats were fed raw milk. Those who ate raw milk thrived, while the group fed pasteurized milk had many health problems, including infertility, cardiovascular disease, and anti-social behavior.
Raw milk is one of the whole, natural foods that can maintain good health. Raw milk is a living food, rich in vitamins A, C, and B and essential enzymes. These enzymes allow the body to absorb maximum amounts of calcium and other nutrients from raw milk. When raw milk is pasteurized, these essential nutrients are destroyed.
The Risks Of Raw Milk
Improperly handled raw milk can carry certain diseases, including listeria, E. coli, and salmonella. The risk is small and most cases results in diarrhea that is treatable with antibiotics. For a few people, though, including pregnant women, infants, very young children, the elderly, and those with compromised immune systems, these diseases can be serious.
For most consumers, the potential benefits of drinking raw milk far outweigh the risks. To ensure a safe milk supply, make sure your dairyman regularly tests herd cows for TB and brucellosis. Milk should be tested weekly by an independent lab to ensure that it is free of contaminants and bacteria. Milk must also be chilled quickly and refrigerated for safe storage.
How Can I Get Raw Milk?
If you’re interested in raw milk, you’ll probably have to do a bit of searching. Chances are, you’re not going to have a dairyman deliver milk in a pickle jar to your doorstep. In some states, finding raw milk may be downright impossible, depending on state laws. However, as consumers demand the freedom to buy raw milk, this may slowly change. The fight over a consumer’s right to purchase raw milk has heated up in most states. Currently, a few states, including California, Washington, Idaho, Arizona, and New Mexico, allow the sale of raw milk at the farm as well as in stores. The milk must be clearly labeled with a health warning.
Many states, including Utah, Oregon, and Texas, allow consumers to purchase raw milk at a farm, but it cannot be sold in stores. These states may also have laws about how raw milk can be used. For example, raw milk can be sold as fresh milk, yogurt, or cream cheese, but not as butter or cheese.
In a few states, including Colorado, raw milk must be purchased through a farm-share program. Consumers buy a “share” in a cow or goat, which allows them to buy raw milk products. Additionally, a monthly boarding fee is typically charged, as well as a bottle fee. A handful of states allow the sale of raw milk for animal consumption, but not human use. And, in eleven states, including Nevada and Montana, the sale of raw milk for any purpose is illegal.
If you live in a state that allows the sale of raw milk in some form, visit RealMilk.com to find a dairy near you. On the other hand, if you live in a state where it is completely disallowed, your choices are very limited. You may, of course, raise your own dairy cow or goats. If you’re near a state that does allow milk sales, you may be able to buy milk there. Check with local laws though, since it may be illegal to bring the milk across state lines.
Get involved in raw milk legislation by writing to your state representative. In several states, the efforts of a few articulate, well-educated advocates are turning the tide in the debate over raw milk.