Wednesday, February 25, 2009

The Fourfold Path to Healing Conference, part 3: Milk: The Raw Story

Let's talk about raw milk. The "experts" have told us confidently that raw (unpasteurized) milk is bad. Just like they've told us confidently that butter is bad, and margarine is, I mean, bad. (They change their minds every so often.) So what is the real story of raw milk? The short version: Once upon a time, all milk was "raw milk". That's how it comes out of mammals. As the industrial revolution surged forwards, and milk started to be produced on an industrial scale, it became uneconomical for large dairy conglomerates to maintain hygienic conditions. So they stopped trying. After selling unhygienic milk for a while, sickening and killing people, they decided to start pasteurizing their milk to kill off pathogens. Due to their political clout, they were able to convince governments and the medical establishment to support compulsory pasteurization for all milk producers. This put all dairies, large and small, on basically an even footing. So what's the problem? Who needs raw milk, anyway?
  • First of all, nowadays, it is now quite easy and practical to deliver healthy raw milk from animals to consumers.
  • Raw milk contains vitamins, enzymes, and other bioactive components destroyed by pasteurization which are very likely to confer benefits to the immune, reproductive, and digestive systems [reference]. (Lactase is one example. Lactase is the enzyme necessary for the digestion of lactose, a component of milk. Roughly 75% of adults worldwide [reference] are not able to produce adequate lactase on their own. Thus, for most people in the world, raw milk is more digestible than pasteurized milk.)
  • Raw milk contains a dynamic balance of bacteria that actually makes it less prone to spoiling than the sterile pasteurized milk, which is like an unpeopled frontier waiting to be overrun.
  • Because of this balance of bacteria, raw milk is more versatile when making cultured milk products (cheese, yogurt, kefir, etc.).
  • etc.
For more of the story, visit In particular, check out the various reports they have linked there. I don't normally recommend or even condone the use of Microsoft PowerPoint, but it's worth it to view this excellent and well-researched presentation. See also: Nourishing Traditions, by Sally Fallon; The Revolution Will Not Be Microwaved, by Sandor Ellix Katz; and Milk: The Surprising Story of Milk Through the Ages, by Anne Mendelson. The "raw milkists" don't want to take away anyone's right to drink pasteurized milk. They simply want everyone to have access to healthy raw milk, and to unbiased information about it. Is that so much to ask?


foodoro said...

I consider myself a pretty adventurous eater but "raw milk" always had a a scary connotation for me... Unpasteurized? No way!

I used to feel the same way about raw/undercooked eggs and medium rare pork, but these days I prefer my eggs runny (or even raw for shabu shabu) and I order pork chops medium rare without hesitation. It just tastes better that way. Maybe one day I'll work up the nerve to try chicken sashimi!

It's all about educating consumers. I'm not sure that I've ever tried raw milk but a tall frosty glass sure does sound good right about now. And don't even get me started on raw milk cheese...

Anonymous said...

I adore raw milk. I drink it when I can. And that's the only time I drink milk. But in Boston, it is virtually impossible unless your pockets are lined with gold.

My frustration regarding RM in the Boston area is that it costs an arm and a leg just to source. In Chicago, there's a far more virtuous model for raw milk source: - there's no onerous weekly charge for membership, just a one time fee. You pick up your order at a host's house each week and they offer a range of products, including ewe's milk, goat's milk, cow's milk and meats.

Why can't we have a buying club here that makes more sense?