By Dr. Mercola
Did you know that kids who drink raw milk have fewer asthma and allergies than kids who drink pasteurized milk?1 Raw grass-fed milk can even be tolerated by most people who are lactose intolerant and contains whey proteins that may actually improve cases of asthma.
Increasing numbers of doctors are even starting to prescribe raw organic dairy for children with asthma, recurrent ear infections, or chronic inflammation, rather than just telling them to quit dairy altogether. This is because they recognize that in most cases, it's not the dairy itself—the problem is pasteurized dairy.
This is quite a different position than the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) take, which describe raw dairy as some sort of hazardous material unfit for human consumption.
It’s not at all uncommon for armed federal agents to swarm upon unsuspecting raw dairy farmers, confiscating their food and threatening them with arrest. While Congress has never banned raw milk outright, it is the only food banned in interstate commerce.
This makes it challenging (though not impossible) for small farmers to share their raw milk products with people living across state lines, and this was, of course, the point. The tide is beginning to turn, however, because you can’t keep the truth concealed forever. Eventually, it will prevail, and this is precisely the case with raw dairy.
The Raw Milk Revolution
In 2014, 40 bills have been introduced in 23 states seeking to legalize raw milk within state borders.2 Over the last decade and a half, the Washington Post reported:3
“…seven states have passed laws or regulations allowing people to buy into cow- or herd-sharing programs to get raw milk. An additional three states have approved raw milk for pet consumption.
Arkansas has eased its ban on sales of raw milk and allows purchases from farmers. Ten other states have eased restrictions that blocked dairy farmers from selling to retail establishments.”
Of course, if you have a dairy allergy you should avoid all milk. But for most people raw dairy from grass-fed cows is full of nutrients that your body will thrive on, including healthy bacteria, raw fat, and cancer-fighting conjugated linoleic acid (CLA).
If you are overweight, have diabetes, or high blood pressure, it is likely that you suffer from insulin resistance, and it is best to avoid even raw milk, as it is loaded with lactose that can worsen insulin resistance.
It's not uncommon for people who drink raw milk to report improvement or disappearance of troubling health issues – everything from allergies to digestive trouble to skin problems like eczema.
And as for safety, CDC data shows 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.4
And research by Dr. Ted Beals, MD, featured in the summer 2011 issue of Wise Traditions, the quarterly journal of the Weston A. Price Foundation, shows that you are about 35,000 times more likely to get sick from other foods than you are from organic raw milk.5
Drinking CAFO (concentrated animal feeding operation) milk will also expose you to antibiotics, and in many cases the genetically engineered growth hormone rBGH (unless labeled as being rBGH-free), which has been linked to an increased cancer risk.
It’s important to understand that the pasteurization process transforms the physical structure of the proteins in milk, such as casein, and alters the shape of the amino acid configuration into a foreign protein that your body is not equipped to handle. This is why lactose intolerance is typically associated with pasteurized milk.
Research has also shown that whey proteins, including bovine serum albumin (BSA) and alpha-lactalbumin, exist in raw milk, but are destroyed by the heating process in pasteurized milk.6
Organic Dairy Farmers Belong to Industry Group Fighting Against GMO Labeling
For those following the battle to label genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in the US (and if you value the right to know what you’re eating, you should be), here’s some surprising news.
The International Dairy Foods Association (IDFA) has filed suit against the state of Vermont, to try to overturn their mandatory GMO labeling law (the first in the US).
This in itself isn’t surprising; other industry groups, like the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA), have also pledged to file suit against Vermont to keep you in the dark about what’s in your food.
However, some of the leading organic dairy companies are members of IDFA, and as such are indirectly supporting its mission to sue Vermont and also prevent any state from passing mandatory GMO labeling laws (a federal bill that IDFA publically supports). This includes the following organic dairies:
- Organic Valley
- Aurora Organic
- White Wave/Horizon Organic
To be fair, the organic dairy companies told the Organic Consumers Association (OCA) that they had “collectively and formally protested” IDFA’s decision to sue Vermont and were in “continued discussions” with IDFA to reverse the decision.
However, OCA asked the organic dairies to withdraw from the IDFA entirely as well as publically state their opposition to the Vermont lawsuit and clarify their position on a mandatory national labeling standard, but they have not yet done so.
Organic Dairy: Is It Good Enough?
Organic milk does have some superior qualities to conventional milk. It typically contains less omega-6 fats and more omega-3 fats,7 for starters, and will not contain the growth hormone rBGH, nor will the cows have been fed pesticide-laden GMO feed. Organic milk is also much more likely to come from (at least partially) grass-fed cows, but make no mistake: what you’re really looking for when it comes to dairy is full pasture-fed. To be certified organic, only 30 percent of the cow's feed is required to come from grazing at pasture during a four-month long grazing season each year, so there is much room for improvement.
It’s important to understand, too, that many organic farms are owned by industry giants. The Cornucopia Institute has been on the forefront of the movement to keep the organic movement truly organic. As many of you are aware, there's plenty of "greenwashing" going on as large corporations try to get a piece of the organic market share. The very first campaign the Cornucopia Institute launched was on factory dairy farming posing as all organic. Dean Foods, the largest milk bottler in the US (a $12-billion company; the size of Monsanto) had just bought Horizon, which was (and still is) the number one organic dairy brand.
"When we started… they were buying from a 10,000-cow farm in California with no pasture. We don't think that size is the determinant. It's not about corporate scale. It's about corporate ethics. There are some corporations that have invested in organics and have done it right—but not Dean Foods."
The Cornucopia Institute filed a number of legal complaints, which eventually, after much delay, resulted in sanctions against a select number of dairies that failed to conform to organic practices. The Institute has also helped push through stricter organic standards and regulations. The problem is that despite the fact that the laws exist, large factory farms are not always being re-inspected to ensure that they're conforming to the new, stricter organic standards.
Plus, most organic milk is also pasteurized, which is an unhealthy way to consume dairy. So, unfortunately, an organic label really isn’t enough to gauge quality food. You still need to know what the farm looks like, how big it is, and what type of practices are going on. If you want my opinion… don’t buy pasteurized milk even if it’s organic. Get it directly from a farmer, raw, instead.
The Milk You Drink Is Only as Healthy as the Cow That Produced It
When you think of a cow in its natural environment, doing what it naturally does, you likely will picture it grazing. Is it grazing on stalks of corn? Of course not; it’s grazing on GRASS. Grass is a cow's natural food. Corn and other grains are not. When cows eat grains, their body composition changes. Most importantly for you, these changes include an alteration in the balance of essential fats. Milk (and meat) from cows raised primarily on pasture has been repeatedly shown to be higher in many nutrients, including vitamin E, beta-carotene, and the healthy fats omega-3 and CLA.
It’s contrary to reason that milk (and many other foods) that comes from 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.
This type of milk 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
Join the Movement: Raw Milk Direct from the Farm
The issue of food freedom, including your right to purchase foods of your choice from small farms near you, is gaining momentum. In 2012, the Farm-to-Table Caucus was formed in Texas to help educate lawmakers and introduce legislation that supports family farms and sustainable efforts, and helps expand the local farm-to-table movement. Beginning in May 2014, the Farm-to-Table Caucus began listening sessions across the state, which provides an opportunity for legislators and farmers to meet, allowing farmers to speak about issues that could assist in their growth (or that which impedes it).8
If you live in the state and are a farmer or another stakeholder, these are important opportunities to get involved in. This isn’t only about raw milk; it also impacts farmers selling produce, people who would like to sell canned goods from their home, and even those who would like to sell other locally produced goods at neighboring farms. On an individual level, getting your raw milk from a local organic farm or co-op is one of the best ways to ensure you're getting high-quality milk.
The fight for food freedom isn’t just for those who love raw milk, though – 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. You can locate a raw milk source near you at the Campaign for Real Milk Website. The Farm to Consumer Legal Defense Fund also provides a state-by-state review of raw milk laws.