Mark McAfee is the founder of Organic Pastures, one of the largest producers of raw milk in the United States and clearly, one of the leaders in this industry.
In this interview, McAfee details the many health benefits of raw milk, and explains the process of raw milk production.
Did you know there are two types of ‘raw milk’ in America?
As Mark McAfee explains, there’s the raw milk intended to be consumed raw, and then there’s the raw milk intended to be used for pasteurization, and contrary to popular belief, they are NOT the same.
When buying raw milk, it’s very important to make sure you’re buying milk that has been produced with the intention of being consumed raw, and not just raw milk from conventionally-raised cows that hasn’t gone through the pasteurization process yet.
There’s a vast difference between the quality and safety of milk from organically-raised, grass-fed cows, and conventionally-raised, grain-fed livestock.
How Can You Identify High-Quality Sources of Raw Milk?
Right now, only six states permit the retail sale of raw milk:
However, it’s important to realize that each state sets their own standards. California, specifically, has its own special set of standards for raw milk for human consumption, in which farmers must meet or exceed pasteurized milk standards, without pasteurizing.
However, since many raw milk producers are very small farms, and the standards that do exist vary from state to state, how do you go about identifying solid, high-quality producers of raw milk if you can’t just buy it in a store nearby?
This is a complex question since the environmental conditions will vary from location to location, and from season to season. However, there are a few general conditions you should look for, including:
- Low pathogenic bacteria count (ie does the farmer test his milk regularly for pathogens?)
- The milk is quickly chilled after milking
- The milk comes from cows raised naturally, in accordance with the seasons
- The cows are mainly grass-fed
- The cows are not given antibiotics and growth hormones to increase milk production
- Cows are well cared for
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, such as:
- Does the farmer and his family drink the milk themselves?
- How long has he been producing raw milk?
- Are the cows clean?
- What conditions are the cows raised in?
- Are there any obvious sanitation questions?
If a cow is covered in filth and manure, stinks, is wet and cold and doesn’t look particularly comfortable, that could be a warning sign that her milk is less than ideal for raw consumption.
Only Healthy Grass-Fed Cows Produce Healthy Raw Milk
Naturally, fresh grasses for foraging are not available year round in many areas of the US, so it’s also important to take a look at what the cows are being fed during winter months. According to McAfee, acceptable winter feed includes dried alfalfa, timothy grass, and other cut pasture or forage that has been dried.
A key point to remember is that cows that are fed a lot of grain and raised under substandard conditions will likely produce milk that is unhealthy to drink raw because grains, antibiotics, growth hormones, and filthy living conditions change the pH balance and the natural bacteria present in her gut, which in turn affects the natural bacteria and pathogens present in her milk.
This is particularly problematic because so many Americans have depressed immune function, leaving any pathogen introduced into your gut free to wreak havoc.
“So, as an American citizen going out and finding raw milk, if you have a depressed immune system there is an exceptional challenge there, whereas somebody who is searching out raw milk in California, who has been on raw milk before and their immune system is in pretty good shape, it’s less of a problem.
But if you got a really depressed immune system and… find some bad milk from somebody who is intending their milk to be pasteurized… that’s kind of a marriage made in hell. That’s not a good thing at all.
And that’s where I think a lot of the outbreaks happen.
You see people doing research on the internet saying, “Oh, I have a really depressed immune system. I have common cold. I get irritable bowel syndrome. I got asthma. I got allergies. I need to fix that and they say raw milk will fix it.”
But they don’t have raw milk in their area that’s safe. [Milk] that is intended for people, so they go out and find a local dairy that takes pity on them, and they buy raw milk that is intended for pasteurization, and that’s where you start seeing real problems.”
Like McAfee says, “when you work with cows to produce raw milk, you can’t cheat!”
Why the FDA Doesn't Want You to Have Raw Milk
For a fascinating review of what the current position of the FDA isregarding raw milk I would strongly encourage you to read this recent enlightening article that will reveal some of their hidden agendas
The Many Health Benefits of Raw Milk
Organically-raised, grass-fed milk naturally contains hundreds of healthy, “good” bacteria, including lactobacillus and acidophilus. There are also several coliform families of bacteria. It’s important to realize that there are over 230 different kinds of E. coli., and only two or three of them are actually pathogenic and will cause you to get sick. The rest are actually beneficial for your gut.
Raw milk also contains vitamins, which are virtually eliminated by the pasteurization process of commercial milk. But it’s the presence of beneficial bacteria are what make raw milk such an outstanding food source to promote the growth of healthy bacteria in your intestine, which in turn has a significant, beneficial impact on your overall immune function.
Other health promoting ingredients in raw milk include:
- Valuable enzymes that are destroyed during pasteurization. Without them, milk is very difficult to digest. So if you have lactose intolerance, it may very well disappear once you start consuming raw dairy products.
It also contains phosphatase, an enzyme that aids and assists in the absorption of calcium in your bones, and lipase enzyme, which helps to hydrolyze and absorb fats.
Enzymes are deactivated when you get above 120 degrees. By the time you get to 150, 160 degrees, almost all of them are completely inactivated, which is why you will not get ANY of these benefits from pasteurized milk.
- Natural butterfat, which is homogenized or removed in pasteurized milk. Without butterfat, it becomes very difficult for your body to absorb and utilize the vitamins and minerals in the water fraction of the milk. Butterfat is also your best source of preformed vitamin A, and contains re-arranged acids with strong anti-carcinogenic properties.
- Healthy unoxidized cholesterol
- Conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), which fights cancer and may help reduce your body fat.
- High omega-3 and low omega-6 ratios, which is the beneficial ratio between these two essential fats
Pasteurizing milk, on the other hand, destroys enzymes, diminishes vitamins, denatures fragile milk proteins, destroys vitamin B12 and vitamin B6, kills beneficial bacteria, and actually promotes pathogens.
In my opinion, there’s no reason to drink pasteurized milk, ever.
Unfortunately, the FDA and other health agencies do not acknowledge the inherent differences between pasteurized milk and raw milk.
They claim raw milk and pasteurized milk have precisely the same kind of nutritional values, completely disregarding the value of enzymes, the probiotic value of beneficial bacteria, and the importance of healthy fats.
It truly is imperative to recognize that nutrition is a holistic thing.
You cannot take bits and pieces of nutrients and think you’re going to end up with good health. It is in fact the food as a whole that makes it good for you in terms of nutrition.
“When you look at the complete assessment of food, raw milk is a rock star when it comes to dietary meaningfulness.”
I agree with McAfee when he says that hopefully, someday, the FDA will come around and acknowledge the fact that we should look at the whole of the food instead of just pieces of the food. Right now, their assessments on most foods are partial and woefully incomplete, and unfortunately, this is having a major, detrimental impact on your health.
Should Humans Drink Cow’s Milk?
Some people believe that cow’s milk is food for calves only, and should not be consumed by humans to begin with.
However, this may be too simplified a view. As McAfee explains:
“Cows have four stomachs, so they can eat grass… They are literally that animal between us and the sun. They are solar sun convertors. They take sunshine expressed as grass on the ground (because the grass obviously grows when the sun hits the ground and [with] water the grass grows).
We can’t eat the grass but the cow can eat the grass, and then we can eat what the cow provides… [which] is very, very nutrient dense and very digestible by humans.”
I believe that’s an important point, and it’s an area of nutrition that few pay any attention to -- the area of biophotons.
But biophoton research explains the underlying principles of why it’s so vital to eat a diet of mostly RAW food, including raw milk.
As you know, without the sun it is virtually impossible for most life forms to exist. For example, we now know that without appropriate sun exposure, you will become deficient in vitamin D, which will have very far ranging consequences for your health.
Vitamin D influences at least 2,000-3,000 genes (that we know of), and without sufficient amounts of vitamin D, your body becomes susceptible to a staggering amount of diseases. But you can absorb sun energy via your food as well as through your skin (although this should not be confused with being able to alter your vitamin D status).
Every living organism emits biophotons or low-level luminescence, and the higher the level of light a cell emits, the greater its vitality and the potential for the transfer of that energy to the individual who eats it.
Hence, the more light a food is able to store, the more nutritious it is. Naturally grown fresh vegetables, for example, and sun-ripened fruits, are rich in light energy.
The capacity to store biophotons is therefore a measure of the quality of your food, and a very strong reason for making sure milk producing cows are allowed to forage for the healthiest, freshest grasses.
What about Raw Milk for Vegans?
As for vegans and strict vegetarians, unfortunately many of them end up not getting sufficient amounts of healthy fats in their diet, which can have a very detrimental effect on their nervous system.
Yes, the plant kingdom does offer some very important fats, but other fats are entirely animal-based, and they complement each other on a functional level. When all animal-based foods are excluded from your diet, you run the risk of developing a deficiency, which can have both physiological and psychological consequences.
In terms of consuming an animal-based food that is humane, drinking grass-fed milk from an organic dairy farm is perhaps one of your healthiest alternatives for the best of both worlds.
Pasteurized milk, on the other hand, does not offer any of the benefits available from raw milk, such as healthy fats, and a good case can be made that it does not fit the nutritional needs of humans.
I strongly recommend you avoid pasteurized milk entirely.
Explanation and Position of Organic Pastures on A-2 Milk and A-2 Testing
About five years ago, OPDC attempted to have the A-2 Corporation test all of our cows for A-2 genetic traits. At that time the “A-2 Corporation” was doing business in the Upper Midwest in the USA. The A-2 Corporation refused to test any cows unless all the milk was branded under the A-2 Corporation brand. They also required that all A-2 Corporation milk be pasteurized.
Because OPDC is 100% organic and never pasteurize our raw milk….that was the end of any A-2 testing idea for OPDC. The A-2 testing mandates and ideas broke all of our rules.
About a year ago, OPDC again attempted to contact the A-2 Corporation in an attempt to have its cows tested for A-2 Genetic traits. It was discovered that the A-2 Corporation had gone bankrupt in North America and had just skeletal operations in New Zealand. It took months to get an email through or contact via phone. The answer from A-2 was that they were not providing the patented test to anyone at that time and that perhaps in the future that the test may become available.
As of March 2010, the A-2 Corporation is not providing tests to American Dairymen.
There are some people in the raw milk movement that say that they have a way to get cows tested for A-2 traits, but it is questionable whether these tests are actually the original A-2 test and these people want lots of money to do the test.
It is also still very questionable whether the claims made by A-2 are accurate. The authors of “The Devil in the Milk” book claim that cows made a genetic split about 5,000 years ago and that Holsteins and some other breeds were more domesticated because of calmness and other traits ( they were to become more A-1 dominant ). We have no way of knowing that this is true or not. No other research confirms these historical concepts. Also…it is claimed that A-2 cows ( Jerseys )produce milk which is far better than cows that are tested and found to be A-1 genetics.
We disagree with this analysis and remain unconvinced of its value. If the split occurred 5000 years ago and A-1 is the source of modern heart disease and makes autism worse….then this does not match up with other researchers at all. Modern diseases began with grain feeding and confinement just 75 to 100 years ago. Modern diseases are much more likely to be associated with modern processing of milk and lack of grass feeding etc.
When evaluating the “67th amino acid” differences in A-2 milk, we ask a much bigger question, when pasteurized milk is observed microscopically it is a massive destruction zone. It looks as if it has been hit with a bomb and everything is dead, broken and twisted. Everything is in little pieces and nothing is alive.
How can a slight 67th position nuance of a single amino acid matter at all in the bigger scheme of massive amino acid changes during pasteurized milk destruction. This makes zero sense.
At OPDC about 50% of our cows are Jersey and 30% are Jersey-Holstein crosses. The rest are Holstein.
At OPDC we believe that the cow is a part of the environment and her milk reflects her conditions and her feed. We feed 100% pastures all of the time. These conditions will reflect in the raw milk that she produces.
Presently, we are being approached to test our cows for A-2 traits by people that do not work for A-2 Corporation. These tests are very expensive and we have no idea what the results would mean or what value they would bring or if they are actually A-2 tests at all? Who knows what they are.
For now, at OPDC, the jury is out on A-2 v. A-1 cows. We are approached every week by people that try to sell us something new to make our products better. We are always open to new ideas….but most of the time we stick with the very oldest of ideas. We stick with mother nature and grass and sunshine. We are not going to slaughter or sell off our perfectly good cows based on one book and a concept which has not been verified by anyone except for the authors.
Both of the founders of A-2 are now dead and no one is verifying their work.
In our calculation the very best milk is raw milk from cows grazed on green pastures and tested to assure that no bad bugs are present. This is the raw milk that makes people healthy, rebuilds human immune systems regardless of animal genetics.
The FDA will not allow OPDC to explain what things raw milk improves medically.
Trust us….Grass fed, tested, Raw Milk is a highly effective medical food.
See www.californiarawmilk.org for details that cannot be explained here.
For more information, I urge you to listen to the interview in its entirety above. The full transcript is also available.
Mark McAfee’s experience and knowledge base on this topic is phenomenal, and the interview covers many of the facets involved in raising healthy cows and producing healthy raw milk, as well as the numerous health benefits, and potential pitfalls, of raw milk.