Making the Decision to Switch to Raw Milk

drinking raw milk

Story at-a-glance

  • The latest “trend” toward raw milk isn’t a trend at all; it’s an example of people reverting to traditional sources of food that have not been adulterated and processed
  • Increasing numbers of states are introducing legislation to loosen restrictions regarding intrastate sales of raw milk
  • Raw milk is unfairly targeted as a “dangerous” food while millions die each year from consuming other foods (including pasteurized foods)


This is an older article that may not reflect Dr. Mercola’s current view on this topic. Use our search engine to find Dr. Mercola’s latest position on any health topic.

By Dr. Mercola

Many people, upon taking their first sip of raw milk — dubbed real milk by some — are surprised at its richness and flavor. Raw milk from a high-quality source is a far cry from the pasteurized, homogenized version sold by most U.S. grocery stores.

You may scarcely believe it actually comes from the same animal.

In fact, raw milk and concentrated animal feeding operation (CAFO) milk may come from different types of cows, with potential differences. A1 cows include the black and white breeds like Holsteins, which are commonly used by the large-scale industrial CAFOs.

A2 cows, such as Jerseys, are primarily used in European dairy products and may be used to produce some U.S. raw milk products (this isn't a guarantee though; you'll need to ask the farmer to be sure).

The evidence is far from conclusive, but observational evidence suggests many people have more difficulty digesting protein in the milk from A1 cows, which may also be associated with a range of health conditions.

Anecdotal evidence also suggests milk from A2 cows is creamier and may deliver nutrients more efficiently. This is, however, just one reason why some people make the switch to raw milk.

Why Make the Switch to Raw Milk?

If you're a milk drinker, you may be curious about the latest "trend" toward raw milk. But this isn't a trend at all; it's an example of people reverting to traditional sources of food that have not been adulterated and processed.

For some, tasting raw milk again brings back memories of growing up on a farm. For others, the trip to the farm to pick up fresh raw milk is an experience of its own, connecting people to their food in a way that's intrinsically pleasant.

It's an experience that's sorely missing from most food options in the modern world. In an article for Chicago Now, a writer by the name of Genevieve shared her own experience in making the switch to raw milk.1

She described the health advantages, as pasteurizing milk destroys many of the natural immune boosters and good bacteria in the milk, and touched on the A1/A2 difference.

But, primarily, she described the way raw milk is satisfying in ways her old milk (pasteurized skim) could never be:2

"The bottom line in my personal experiment? After only a few short months of consuming raw milk, I'm a believer. It took a quick minute to become accustomed to, as raw milk is not like the watery, nondescript substance we're used to acquiring in grocery stores.

More so it is a delicacy that differs by season, farm, and cow, an experience that is different with every jar I bring home …

I also have to admit that I look forward to my farm visit every week to see the goats, cows, horses, ducks, chickens, turkeys, dogs, and cats that call the lively place their home, as well as the wonderful conversations I share while I'm there with the farmer, someone I have already come to call my friend.

… A farmer named Jonathan Crickmore hits the nail on the head when he says, 'We have lived in the age of mass, low-quality food production for too long.' I couldn't agree with him more and I'm working every day to change my lifestyle in accordance."

International Dairy Foods Association Tries to Halt Raw Milk Movement

Food Business News recently published a misleading interview with Cary Frye, vice-president of Regulatory and Scientific Affairs at the International Dairy Foods Association (IDFA).3

It features the type of fear mongering and statistical manipulation that is common in the war against raw milk — and for the IDFA, winning this "war" is crucial to protect their bottom line.

As more Americans demand the right to purchase and consume food of their own choosing, increasing numbers of states are introducing legislation to loosen restrictions regarding intrastate sales of raw milk. Raw milk, by the way, is the only food banned from interstate commerce.

Bills in favor of making it easier for consumers to obtain raw milk are pending in at least a dozen states, from Hawaii to Utah to Wisconsin.

IDFA is actively opposing the legislative efforts and, not surprisingly, has sent letters to state committees warning that allowing raw milk sales would be "opening up consumers to the inevitable consequence of falling victim to a foodborne illness."4

Really? Frye quotes data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to show how "dangerous" raw milk is, but the CDC is well known for putting out misleading data regarding raw milk.

CDC Twists Raw Milk Data to Make It Seem More Dangerous

Public health agencies had previously stated there were 21 reported illnesses linked to raw milk in Minnesota from 2001 to 2010. But that doesn't exactly scream "danger," does it? A CDC study then claimed more than 20,500 Minnesotans were actually sickened.5

How they arrived at this number demands scrutiny. If a person was sickened by campylobacter, E. coli O157:H7 or salmonella during the study period, and had consumed raw milk in the week before, the illness was blamed on raw milk (even though many foods could have caused the illness).

Even using the above criteria, this only raised the illness to 530, which were then multiplied based on an assumption that the illnesses were underreported. The Food Business News article then goes on to make a statement that:6

"It seems in this day and age with food safety front and center after Chipotle's recent situations, and other issues with Listeria in ice cream and cheese and E. coli on leafy vegetables, consumers would want to err on the side of caution."

This explains the absurdity behind raw milk bans in a nutshell. You can get sick from eating any food — a burrito, a piece of cheese, a fresh salad or, yes, even a bowl of pasteurized ice cream.

The Hypocrisy in Banning Raw Milk While 'Legal" Foods Kill Millions

After three people died due to listeria bacteria in Blue Bell ice cream products, no one suggested that pasteurized ice cream be banned from sale, or that Blue Bell Creameries, which has a history of ignoring contamination at its plants, be shut down.

But the sale of raw milk continues to be illegal across much of the U.S., while the government continues to target peaceful raw milk farmers producing a safe, healthy food for people who want it. Outrageously, aggressive armed raids by federal agents against Amish raw milk farmers are not uncommon.

Raw milk isn't the only food on the chopping block, either. 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. Sprouts, oysters, and just about anything else may also be headed to a processor in the future.

When this happens, direct sales may become illegal, thereby taking control away from the small farmers and putting it into the hands of agribusiness conglomerates, fixing prices, and forcing consolidation for the sake of "efficiency" standards.

Meanwhile, other foods are killing and sickening millions. According to the CDC, 48 million people are sickened by foodborne diseases each year, including 128,000 hospitalizations and 3,000 deaths.7

What's Caused Recent Listeria Outbreaks? (Hint: Not Raw Milk)

According to the CDC, 1,600 illnesses and 260 deaths due to listeriosis occur every year in the U.S. Listeriosis is often touted as a major risk of drinking raw milk, it is nowhere on this list of recent listeria outbreaks. According to CDC data:8

  • 2011: Whole cantaloupes were responsible for 147 illnesses, 33 deaths, and one miscarriage. This was the largest listeriosis outbreak in U.S. history.
  • 2012: Pasteurized Frescolina Marte-brand ricotta salata cheese sickened 22 people, and four deaths occurred.
  • 2013: Three types of pasteurized cheese made by Crave Brothers Farmstead Cheese Company of Waterloo, Wisconsin sickened six people, with one death reported.
  • 2014: Pasteurized cheese products made by Roos Foods have sickened eight people with one death reported.

Other foods found with listeria contamination in 2014, 2015 and 2016 include pre-packaged caramel apples, organic and conventional spinach, packaged salads and hummus. A 2011 study also revealed deli meats to be the most risky choice. Ready-to-eat foods like these can become contaminated after cooking during the packaging process.9 According to the 2011 report, the risks associated with deli meats from the supermarket deli are five times higher than for prepackaged deli meats.

Raw vegetables are also a potential source of contamination, as are other meats. A report produced by the Interagency Food Safety Analytics Collaboration (IFSAC), a partnership of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the FDA and the CDC, also revealed which foods are most likely to make you sick. CAFO (concentrated animal feeding operation) beef and vegetables (often contaminated by CAFO pollution) were the top sources of foodborne illness.10

The majority of foods that are making people sick are coming not from small organic farms selling raw-milk products. They're coming from CAFOs and the mega-companies that use their products.

If You're Insulin Resistant, Should You Drink Milk?

Truth be told, many people should not consume dairy whether it is raw or pasteurized, as they are allergic to the milk proteins. Additionally, if you're insulin resistant, you would likely be better off avoiding raw and pasteurized milk, as it contains the dairy sugar lactose, which can worsen insulin/leptin resistance.

However, if you are healthy and want to drink milk, raw milk from a high-quality source is generally superior in nutrition and flavor. It will also help to decrease the likelihood of insulin spikes from the milk sugar, courtesy of the thick layer of cream on top. Raw dairy farmer Max Kane explained:

"The cream is perhaps the most important part of the milk because the cream is where all the energy is that's needed to digest the milk protein casein. That's why it's important to consume full-fat dairy products instead of non-fat or skim dairy products. The cream is also responsible for regulating the sugar absorption into your blood. It decreases the likelihood of insulin spikes.

The cream naturally floats to the top of the milk, and it can be skimmed right off the top. Traditionally, people would use the cream line as a visual aid to help them assess the quality of the milk … Homogenization [is] an industry process that fractionates the cream molecule, the fat molecule, into small little pieces.

This was done for the purpose of making the cream line non-detectable to the human eye … That's how they standardized the milk, by taking away the viewable quality assessment from the consumer, and ultimately left the consumer with no real visual way to assess the quality and the value of the milk."

Join the Fight for Food Freedom

The fight over raw milk stands as a symbol of the much larger fight for food freedom. Who gets to decide what you eat? You? Or the FDA? If the FDA and other government agencies are allowed to impose their view of "safe food" on consumers, raw milk won't be the only thing lost — all food will be pasteurized, irradiated, and genetically engineered.

The effort to reclaim our right to buy and consume raw milk is leading the way for everyone who wants to be able to obtain the food of their choice from the source of their choice. So please, get involved! I urge you to get involved with the following action plan to protect your right to choose your own foods:

  1. Get informed: Visit or click here to sign up for action alerts. To review the raw milk laws in your state, see the's Raw Milk Nation page.
  2. 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.
  3. Support your local farmers: 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. You can locate a raw milk source near you at the Campaign for Real Milk Website. California residents can find raw milk retailers by using the store locator available at

As with all foods, the source matters, and this is just as true with raw milk as any other food. If you're interested in raw milk, here are tips for finding high-quality raw milk sources.


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