By Dr. Mercola
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) commonly warns against drinking raw milk, citing numerous “outbreaks” linked to the product.
But drinking raw milk produced by grass-fed cows from clean, well-run farms is actually far LESS dangerous than drinking pasteurized milk. In fact, not only does raw milk contain good bacteria that are essential for a healthy digestive system, raw milk also offers protection against disease-causing bacteria.
CDC data show there are about 412 confirmed cases of people getting ill from pasteurized milk each year, while only about 116 illnesses a year are linked to raw milk.1 Eventually, as the numbers of raw milk dairies increase, and so too do their happy customers, the CDC may be forced to change its tune.
No Illnesses Linked to Raw Milk in Arkansas
Last year, Arkansas Governor Mike Beebe signed into law HB 1536, which legalized the sale of locally produced raw milk from the farm. Four months after the bill took effect, as of January 20, no illnesses have been caused as a result of this increase in raw milk sales. According to Arkansas Online:2
“Four months after a state law took effect allowing the sale of unpasteurized milk, the Arkansas Health Department has yet to identify an illness 'definitively linked' to consuming the beverage.”
The new bill impacts both cow and goat milk. Previously, Arkansas allowed farmers to sell up to 100 gallons of raw goat milk per month at the farm, but HB 1536 will increase that to 500 gallons. Additionally, raw cow’s milk is now also allowed, with a few caveats. According to RealMilk.com:3
“Arkansas permits the sale of up to 500 gallons of raw cow or goat milk per month directly to consumers on the farm where the milk is produced.
Farmers must post a sign at the farm and their products must display a label noting that the milk is not pasteurized. Farms and cows are not state inspected and buyers assume all liability for any health problems that may arise from drinking raw milk.”
So far, those “health problems” are non-existent, adding further support for those seeking to legalize raw milk sales across the US.
Health Risks? What About the Health Benefits?
Public health agencies are conspicuously silent about the proven benefits linked to drinking unpasteurized dairy products versus their conventional pasteurized counterparts.
For instance, school-aged children who drank raw milk were 41 percent less likely to develop asthma and about 50 percent less likely to develop hay fever than children who drank store-bought (pasteurized) milk, according to one study that used data from more than 8,000 children.4
And while public health agencies are quick to say that there are no nutritional differences between raw and pasteurized milk, this study suggests otherwise. The researchers believed that the beneficial effect may have been due to whey proteins, including bovine serum albumin (BSA) and alpha-lactalbumin, in the raw milk, which were destroyed by the heating process in the pasteurized milk.
While the study didn't find an association between any health outcomes and the bacterial contents of the milk, it did demonstrate noted differences between raw and pasteurized varieties, which the CDC continues to deny. Additionally, high-quality raw milk has a mountain of health benefits that pasteurized milk lacks. For example, raw milk is:
- Loaded with healthy bacteria that are good for your gastrointestinal tract
- Full of more than 60 digestive enzymes, growth factors, and immunoglobulins (antibodies)
- Rich in conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), which fights cancer and boosts metabolism
- Rich in beneficial raw fats, amino acids, and proteins in a highly bioavailable form, all 100 percent digestible
- Loaded with vitamins (A, B, C, D, E, and K) in highly bioavailable forms, and a very balanced blend of minerals (calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, and iron) whose absorption is enhanced by live lactobacilli
The Real Issue Here Is Your Food Freedom
Increasing numbers of small farmers and Americans are challenging the “nanny state” mentality that the government should tell you what you can and can’t eat. If you desire to drink raw milk, and you have found a farmer who wants to provide it to you, should that not be your inherent right to eat the food of your choosing?
There have been some positive strides made, including not only the Arkansas legislation but also a bill has passed the Wisconsin Senate that would allow dairy farmers to sell raw milk directly to consumers. In Oregon, too, sales of raw milk from small farms directly to consumers are legal, but advertising that such milk is available is not (a restriction that’s currently being challenged).
Truth be told, many people should not consume dairy, as they are allergic to the milk proteins, whether it is raw or pasteurized. Additionally, many who are seeking to lose weight, have high blood pressure, or diabetes would likely be better avoiding raw or pasteurized milk, as it has the dairy sugar lactose and those carbs can worsen insulin/leptin resistance.
However, if you are healthy and want to drink milk, then it makes more sense to fear drinking pasteurized milk. While there has not been one single death due to raw milk between 1998 and 2008,5 the United States' largest recorded outbreak of Salmonella resulted from pasteurized milk. Yet this and other outbreaks of illness resulting from the consumption of pasteurized milk are kept from public knowledge, and escapes warnings from the CDC.
Do You Know How to Identify High-Quality Raw Dairy?
Ultimately, where you get your milk really matters and this is true of raw milk in particular. It’s contrary to reason that milk (and many other foods) that comes from concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) is thought of as safe, while raw milk sourced from a small carefully run farm is not. In CAFOs, large groups of animals are kept in a small space, oftentimes without natural light or access to the outdoors.
The conditions are filthy, with animals standing in one another's waste. Needless to say, harmful bacteria naturally thrive in these conditions. As a result, drinking CAFO milk raw would be extremely dangerous. It must be pasteurized for safety. On the other hand, milk from grass-fed cows raised on smaller, clean farms can be safely consumed without being pasteurized, provided the farmer is committed to providing a safe, quality product.
Getting your raw milk from a local organic farm is one of the best ways to ensure you're getting high-quality milk, but even then if you're thinking about purchasing milk from a small farmer, it would be very wise to visit the farm in person. Look around and ask questions about the following general conditions, which should indicate a source of high-quality raw milk.
Low pathogenic bacteria count (i.e. does the farmer test his milk regularly for pathogens?) ||
The milk comes from cows raised naturally, in accordance with the seasons
The cows are not given antibiotics and growth hormones to increase milk production
The milk is quickly chilled after milking
The cows are mainly grass-fed
Cows are well cared for
You Can Stand Up for Food Freedom!
The fight for food freedom isn’t just for those who love raw milk – it’s for everyone who wants to be able to obtain the food of their choice from the source of their choice. Raw milk isn’t the only food on the chopping block. Raw-milk cheeses and heritage-breed pigs are also being targeted, and there’s no telling what other small-farm, niche foods may be next. So please, get involved! I urge you to embrace the following action plan to protect your right to choose your own foods:
- Get informed: Visit www.farmtoconsumer.org or click here to sign up for action alerts.
- Join the fight for your rights: The Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund (FTCLDF) is the only organization of its kind. This 501(c)(4) nonprofit organization provides a legal defense for farmers who are being pursued by the government for distributing foods directly to consumers.
Your donations, although not tax deductible, will be used to support the litigation, legislative, and lobbying efforts of the FTCLDF.
- Support your local farmers: Buy from local farmers, not the industry that is working with the government to take away your freedom.