This is Part 3 of a three-part series on raw milk.
Last week I attended a meeting given by the Santa Barbara chapter of the Weston A. Price Foundation (WAPF) on raw milk. The guest speaker was Mark McAfee, CEO of Organic Pastures. If you are following this series on raw milk, you’ve already learned a bit about the differences between factory farmed milk and raw milk (click here for Part 1) and how raw milk relates to the all the good bacteria in your body (click here for Part 2). This is Part 3 of the series.
In standard dairy pasteurization, raw milk is heated to 161 degrees F and kept there for 15 seconds. This process will generally kill harmful bacteria in the milk. However, like antibiotics, the pasteurization process does not discriminate and also kills the good bacteria too. Mark is not a fan of pasteurization and continued his session with a whole bunch of reasons why. As you read this list, some make obvious sense and others require a bit more explanation (I’ll do my best to relay Mark’s enthusiasm on the subject). In my opinion, some of these reasons are not directly a result of pasteurization, but more of an after-effect of the new dairy production world, post-pasteurization.
Pasteurization was revolutionary because it allowed for a completely different way of raising cows. No longer did the dairy cows need to remain disease free or kept in clean and sanitary quarters because pasteurization would kill all the harmful bacteria.
#1 Antibiotic effectiveness for all of us
These days factory farms raise dairy cows and beef cattle in utterly disgusting conditions. Cows are fed corn and grain instead of the grass they were meant to eat which causes chronic infection. Hormones and over-milking lead to infection of the mammary tissues. The animals live in such a state of disease and sickness that routine antibiotic use is standard. Many scientists worry that this will eventually cause resistance and will render antibiotics useless when we (and the cows) really need them.
#2 The American family farm & #3 The farm to consumer connection
There used to be several family dairy farms in every populated area in the United States. Factory farms bought out family farms and CAFO’s (Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations) emerged. The remaining independent farmers have to contract with large dairy companies to compete and the farmer-to-consumer connection has completely disappeared.
Contracted farmers are generally tied to huge amounts of farm equipment debt and their net profits are extremely low. Many choose not to live this way and either sell their farm or, very sadly, choose to end their own life (there is a high incidence of farmer suicide).
#5 Jobs (by outsourcing)
The amount of farmers in this country continues to decline and, as we now import milk from other countries too, things are not looking good for the job market.
#6 Cows & #7 Green pastures Ruined water supplies
Long gone are the thousands of picturesque family dairy farms with colorful cows living on grassy pastures. Instead we have cows that rarely ever see a blade of real grass and produce massive manure lagoons which ruin our water supply.
#8 Air Quality
A quick Google search on CAFO air qualify issues, and a 2003 study from the University of Iowa pops up. When you click on the Air Quality section, the term, “Particulate Matter” is explained:
“Particulate matter associated with CAFOs is composed of fecal matter, feed materials, skin cells, and the products of microbial action on feces and feed…Components of feed include plant proteins, starches and carbohydrates; feed additives such as vitamins, minerals, amino acids and other supplements; and antibiotics.”
- CAFO Study from University of Iowa
Does this sound like air you want to breath? I can’t imagine what the lungs of the factory workers must look like. The cow poop has nowhere to go and either ends up in the manure lagoon or dries up and is blown into the air. Note to self, turn on the “recirculate air” option in car and hold breath for as long as possible when driving by the infamous CAFO on the I-5!
#9 Milk Quality
The milk quality has deteriorated dramatically and no longer is the healthy, natural substance it once was. Think about it, would you rather drink water from a clean, bubbling stream or boiled water from a stagnant cesspool? Just because the boiling process will kill the harmful stuff doesn’t mean we should, or would want to, drink the scary water.
#10 Digestibility of milk
Raw milk activists believe that the digestibility of milk has been “killed” in the pasteurization process of killing enzymes and helpful bacteria.
#11 Bone density & #12 Pasteurization is racist
In addition, it’s the the missing phosphatase enzymes and helpful fats lost during heating and processing that they think contribute to loss of bone density. This is also the reason Mark sites as why people of certain ethnic races cannot digest milk.
#13 The dairy markets
Lactose intolerance is extremely common and many have stopped buying dairy products (this trend has caused dairy markets to decline) or have turned to alternatives such as almond, rice, hemp, and soy milk.
#14 Asthma suffers & #15 Scientific integrity
According to one of Mark’s slides, milk is the most common allergy-provoking food in children and is especially problematic for asthma sufferers. A 2007 agrees and gives this study conclusion (raw milk is called farm milk in Europe):
“Our results indicate that consumption of farm milk may offer protection against asthma and allergy. A deepened understanding of the relevant protective components of farm milk and a better insight into the biological mechanisms underlying this association are warranted as a basis for the development of a safe product for prevention.”
Even with this study and a 2008 Yale study which found that, “‘Friendly’ bacteria protect against type 1 diabetes”, the FDA maintains that pasteurized milk is not missing any nutrients and that raw milk is dangerous. Some conclude that the systematic denial of scientific information showing raw milk beneficial is killing the scientific integrity of the CDC and FDA.
The bottom line is that while pasteurization is touted is a lifesaver, it might have done more harm than good to the consumer, Mother Earth and the poor cows.
I left the meeting without a measly taste of Organic Pastures raw milk, but instead a small jug of the stuff (thanks Mark!). The milk was great tasting and my 3-year old loved it. If you consume milk regularly, do yourself a favor and do a little research. Raw milk is not the evil elixir it’s made out to be. Can raw milk be dangerous? Absolutely, if you are buying it from an non-reputable source or buying a raw product that was made from factory raw milk meant for pasteurization. Understand the risks including: salmonella, E. coli and listeria all of which can be especially dangerous to pregnant women, children, the elderly, and people with weakened immune systems. Is it worth the risk? For healthy people, I say yes, IF you can afford to buy raw milk (it’s expensive, but I say pay now for good health or pay later) AND you’re buying from an extremely reputable source such as Organic Pastures. It is important to note that raw milk does not last long in the fridge (mine went sour in 4 days) like pasteurized or ultra-pasteurized milk (I smell a future blog post). I recommend only buying what you’ll drink in a short period of time or learn how to make kefir/yogurt from the raw milk.
Unfortunately, raw milk is not readily available, easily accessible, or is outright illegal in many states (find out about your state here). There is a battle over having access to raw milk and it comes down to whether or not you believe you have a right to choose what dairy products are best for you and your family. To see where you can get raw milk in your area, visit www.RealMilk.com.
Not sold on raw, but still want your milk? Buy organic, whole milk from dairy companies that raise their cows in the same manner as Organic Pastures (see this blog post on the Organic Dairy Scorecard from the Cornucopia Institute to find the best brands).
Organic Pastures: If you live in Santa Barbara, several of their products (raw butter, milk and cheese) are available at Lazy Acres. My brother found it at Henry’s Market in Aliso Viejo ($8.49/half-gallon). Visit their website at www.OrganicPastures.com for more information and locations.
Resources & Other Reading:
Farm to Consumer Legal Defense Fund
(battle over access to raw milk & state-by-state raw milk laws)