Q. What is real, raw milk?
Real milk is milk that comes from pastured cows, that contains all the fat and that has not been processed in any way—it is raw and unhomogenized.
For a brochure summarizing the safety and health benefits of raw milk, see our Campaign for Real Milk Brochure.
For an extensive and fully referenced presentation on the safety, health benefits and economic benefits of real raw milk, see our Campaign for Real Milk PowerPoint Presentation.
For an overview on the safety, health benefits, and economic benefits of real raw milk, see Fresh, Unprocessed (Raw) Whole Milk: Safety, Health and Economic Issues.
Q. Is it safe to drink real, raw milk?
Real milk that has been produced under sanitary and healthy conditions is a safe and healthy food. It is important that the cows are healthy (tested free of TB and undulant fever) and do not have any infections (such as mastitis). The cows should be eating food appropriate to cows, which is mostly grass, hay or silage, with only a small amount of grain, if any. The milk should be full-fat milk, as many important anti-microbial and health-supporting components are in the fat. The cows should be milked under sanitary conditions and the milk chilled down immediately.
For information on safe handling of raw milk, see Safe Handling – Consumers’ Guide
Preserving the Quality of Fresh, Unprocessed Whole Milk available from the Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund.
To read David Gumpert’s remarks from the Raw Milk Debate at Harvard Law School, see “Raw Milk Safety vs. Rights: Striking a Balance.”
Q. What makes real raw milk safe?
Raw milk contains many components that kill pathogens and strengthen the immune system. These include lacto-peroxidase, lacto-ferrin, anti-microbial components of blood (leukocytes, B-macrophages, neutrophils, T-lymphocytes, immunoglobulins and antibodies), special carbohydrates (polysaccharides and oligosaccharides), special fats (medium chain fatty acids, phospholipids and spingolipids), complement enzymes, lysozyme, hormones, growth factors, mucins, fibronectin, glycomacropeptide, beneficial bacteria, bifidus factor and B12-binding protein. These components are largely inactivated by the heat of pasteurization and ultrapasteurization. For further information, see Part I of our Campaign for Real Milk PowerPoint Presentation.
This five-fold protective system destroys pathogens in the milk, stimulates the Immune system, builds healthy gut wall, prevents absorption of pathogens and toxins in the gut and ensures assimilation of all the nutrients.
So powerful is the anti-microbial system in raw milk that when large quantities of pathogens are added to raw milk, their numbers diminish over time and eventually disappear. For a discussion of scientific papers showing the pathogen-killing properties of raw milk, see Does Raw Milk Kill Pathogens? by Dr. Ted Beals.
It is important to stress, however, that even this magnificent anti-microbial system can be overwhelmed by highly unsanitary conditions. That is why we do not recommend raw milk from confinement dairies, or raw milk that is produced under unsanitary conditions.
Q. How safe is real raw milk compared to other foods?
It is very difficult to determine the risk of drinking raw milk on a per-serving basis compared to pasteurized milk and to other foods. For starters, the risk of illness from all dairy foods, raw and pasteurized, is very low compared to other foods—amounting to only 1 percent of all illnesses.
A government document published in 2003 indicates that on a per-serving basis, deli meats are ten times more likely to cause food-borne illness than raw milk (Listeria Monocytogenes Risk Assessment: Interpretive Summary, Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, Sept. 2003, page 17).
For an analysis of the comparative safety of raw versus pasteurized milk see Those Pathogens, What You Should Know by Dr. Ted Beals. On a per-serving basis, raw milk is as safe or several times safer than pasteurized milk. See our press release on these findings, Government Data Proves Raw Milk Safe, and this Safety of Raw Milk Summary PowerPoint Presentation.
Q. Why do we hear about raw milk causing health problems so frequently?
Health officials are highly biased against raw milk and published reports reflect that bias. Very often raw milk is blamed for an outbreak of illness without proof, or even for an outbreak that affected many people who did not consume raw milk. For example, an outbreak in Wisconsin in 2001 that sickened many hundreds of people was blamed on a raw milk cow-share program even though only a few of the hundreds of cow-share participants got sick (see Wisconsin Campylobacter Outbreak Falsely Blamed on Raw Milk).
For a discussion of the bias against raw milk and some of the techniques used to create that bias, see the following:
- Summary: Response to Anti-Raw Milk Position Paper by Bill Marler, JD (PDF)
- Rebuttal to the FDA article: “Raw Milk Misconceptions and the Danger of Raw Milk Consumption” (PDF)
- “The Safety of Raw vs. Pasteurized Milk” (PDF), chapter 15 of The Untold Story of Milk by Ron Schmid, New Trends Publishing
- For an analysis of every published report claiming that raw milk caused illness, see Response to Anti-Raw Milk Article Published in Clinical Infectious Diseases (PDF)
- For a response to testimony by John Sheehan, head of dairy safety at the FDA, see Response to the Testimony of John F. Sheehan (PDF)
Q. Is real, raw milk safe for babies?
A homemade formula made from real, raw milk is safe for babies and has saved hundreds from having to consume commercial formula—indeed has saved many lives. In the formula, raw milk is diluted with water and whey and supplemented with lactose, cod liver oil and certain oils to give it a profile more in line with human milk. For a discussion on the use of raw milk for babies, see Is Raw Milk Safe for Babies? For instructions on making raw milk formula along with questions and answers, see Recipes for Whole Foods Baby Formula.
The alternative to our raw milk formula is commercial formula, which has been a source of many outbreaks of infection, often fatal. Recently in China, many infants developed kidney failure after consuming infant formula tainted with melamine.
In studies comparing raw and pasteurized human milk, there were fewer infections and better growth in children receiving raw human milk (see Pasteurization Does Harm Real Milk).
See also “Raw Milk and Children” (PDF), chapter 16 from The Untold Story of Milk by Ron Schmid, New Trends Publishing.
Q. Are there any health benefits to consuming real raw milk?
There are many health benefits to consuming raw milk. Early studies showed that children consuming raw milk had greater resistance to disease, better growth and stronger teeth than children consuming pasteurized milk. Animal studies indicate that raw milk confers better bone structure, better organ development, better nutrient assimilation, better fertility and even better behavior than pasteurized milk. (See Part II of our Campaign for Real Milk PowerPoint Presentation.)
Q. Can real raw milk cure asthma and allergies?
We have received many testimonials of raw milk curing asthma and allergies. Several recent European studies indicate that children who receive raw milk are much less likely to develop allergies and asthma, especially if the raw milk is given at a young age, in the first year of life. See:
- Studies Showing Raw (Farm) Milk Protective Against Asthma and Allergies
- How Glutathione Protects Against Asthma
Q. Is real raw milk helpful for adult diseases?
Although there are no published studies on the use of raw milk in adults, we have received many testimonials on the beneficial effects of raw milk for osteoporosis, arthritis, digestive disorders, fatigue, weight loss and even cancer.
Q. Is real raw milk easier to digest than pasteurized milk?
Raw milk contains enzymes and encourages beneficial bacteria that contribute to easy digestion and ensure that all the vitamins and minerals are absorbed.
Pasteurization warps and distorts the enzymes and other proteins in milk so that the body thinks they are foreign, and has to mount an immune response. This makes pasteurized milk very difficult to digest. In fact, the market for fluid milk has been declining at 1 percent per year for the past thirty years. Fewer and fewer people can digest processed milk.
Q. Can people with lactose intolerance drink real raw milk?
In 2007, the Weston A. Price Foundation conducted a survey of raw milk drinkers in Michigan. Of those diagnosed with lactose intolerance, 82 percent stated that they could drink raw milk without any problems (Pilot Survey of Cow Share Consumer/Owners, Lactose Intolerance Section).
Q. What are the state laws about selling real raw milk?
For a summary of state laws on selling real, raw milk, see our Raw Milk Nation map on the State Updates page. In summary, raw milk can be sold in stores in ten states and purchased at the farm in about 28 states. Raw milk is available as pet food in four states, and through cow- and herd-share agreements in several other states.
In no state is it illegal to purchase, possess or consume raw milk.
For details about various state laws, see our Summary of Raw Milk Statutes and Administrative Codes.
Q. Why is real, raw milk a good thing for farmers?
In the conventional dairy system, farmers receive about $12 per hundredweight of milk, less than their operating costs. This is why small and medium dairy farms are going out of business at such a high rate—in 2002, dairy farms went out of business at the rate of 16 per day.
When the farmer produces raw milk and sells directly to the public, he gets from $50 to $250 per hundredweight—enough to make a decent living.
For details on the economics of raw milk, see Part IV of our Campaign for Real Milk PowerPoint Presentation.
Q. Where can I find real raw milk?