Fresh, Unprocessed (Raw) Whole Milk: Safety, Health and Economic Issues

Safety-FreshMilk-600x626The Safety of Raw Milk

PROTECTIVE COMPONENTS: Raw milk contains numerous components that assist in:

  • Killing pathogens in the milk (lactoperoxidase, lactoferrin, leukocytes, macrophages, neutrophils, antibodies, medium chain fatty acids, lysozyme, B12 binding protein, bifidus factor, beneficial bacteria);
  • Preventing pathogen absorption across the intestinal wall (polysaccharides, oligosaccharides, mucins, fibronectin, glycomacropeptides, bifidus factor, beneficial bacteria);
  • Strengthening the Immune System (lymphocytes, immunoglobulins, antibodies, hormones and growth factors) (Scientific American, December 1995; British J of Nutrition, 2000:84(Suppl. 1):S3-S10, S75-S80, S81-S89).

PASTEURIZATION HARMFUL: Many of these anti-microbial and immune-enhancing components are greatly reduced in effectiveness by pasteurization, and completely destroyed by ultra-pasteurization (Scientific American, December 1995; British J of Nutrition, 2000:84(Suppl. 1):S3-S10, S75-S80, S81-S89).

DANGERS EXAGGERATED: Although raw milk, like any food, can become contaminated and cause illness, the dangers of raw milk are greatly exaggerated.  In an analysis of reports on 70 outbreaks attributed to raw milk, we found many examples of reporting bias, errors and poor analysis resulting in most outbreaks having either no valid positive milk sample or no valid statistical association (Response to Marler List of Studies).

USDA/FDA STATISTICS: Based on data in a 2003 USDA/FDA report: Compared to raw milk there are 515 times more illnesses from L-mono due to deli meats and 29 times more illness from L-mono due to pasteurized milk. On a PER-SERVING BASIS, deli meats were TEN times more likely than raw milk to cause illness (Intrepretive Summary – Listeria Monocytogenes Risk Assessment, Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, Sept. 2003, page 17).

OUTBREAKS DUE TO PASTEURIZED MILK: Due to high-volume distribution and its comparative lack of anti-microbial components, pasteurized milk when contaminated has caused numerous widespread and serious outbreaks of illness, including a 1984-5 outbreak afflicting almost 200,000 people.  In 2007, three people died in Massachusetts from illness caused by contaminated pasteurized milk (Real Milk Powerpoint, slide 30).

FORTY-YEAR-OLD SCIENCE AND ANCIENT HISTORY: Claims that raw milk is unsafe are based on 40-year-old science and century-old experiences from distillery dairy “factory farms” in rapidly urbanizing nineteenth century America.

MODERN ADVANTAGES: Compared to 30-50 years ago, dairy farmers today can take advantage of many advancements that contribute to a dramatically safer product including pasture grazing, herd testing, effective cleaning systems, refrigeration and easier, significantly less expensive, more accessible and more sophisticated milk and herd disease testing techniques.

UNIQUE FOOD: Raw milk is the ONLY food that has extensive built-in safety mechanisms and numerous components to create a healthy immune system.

Health Benefits of Raw Milk

BENEFITS IN EARLY HUMAN STUDIES: In early studies involving humans, raw milk was shown to be superior to pasteurized in protecting against infection, diarrhea, rickets, tooth decay and TB; and children receiving had better growth than those receiving pasteurized milk (Real Milk Powerpoint, slides 54-56, 58).

BENEFITS IN EARLY ANIMAL STUDIES: In early animal studies, animals fed raw milk had better growth, denser bones, greater integrity of internal organs, less anemia, fewer signs of anxiety and stress, and fewer signs of nutrient deficiency than animals fed pasteurized milk (Real Milk Powerpoint, slides 57, 59-64).

ASTHMA: Three recent studies in Europe found that drinking “farm” (raw) milk protected against asthma and allergies (Lancet. 2001 Oct 6;358(9288):1129-33; J Allergy Clin Immunol. 2006 Jun;117(6):1374-8; Clinical & Experimental Allergy. 2007 May; 37(5) 627-630).

RAW HUMAN MILK: In recent studies, infants on pasteurized human milk did not gain weight as quickly compared to those fed raw human milk (J Pediatr Gastroenterol Nutr. 1986 Mar-Apr;5(2):248-53) and premature babies given raw human milk had more rapid weight gain than those given pasteurized human milk. Problems were attributed to pasteurization’s destruction of lipase (J Pediatr Gastroenterol Nutr. 1986 Mar-Apr;5(2):242-7).

THE MILK CURE: In the early 1900s, the Mayo Clinic administered the “Milk Cure,” which consisted in drinking 4-5 quarts of raw milk per day, obtaining favorable results for a range of illnesses including cancer, weight loss, kidney disease, allergies, skin problems, urinary tract problems, prostate problems and chronic fatigue; these results are not obtained using pasteurized milk.

DANGERS OF PASTEURIZED MILK: Many studies have linked consumption of pasteurized milk with lactose intolerance,  allergies, asthma, frequent ear infections, gastro-Intestinal problems, diabetes, auto-Immune disease, attention deficit disorder and constipation. During a period of rapid population growth, the market for fluid pasteurized milk has declined at 1% per year for the past 20 years. Fewer and fewer consumers can tolerate pasteurized (and ultrapasteurized) milk (Don’t Drink Your Milk, Frank Oski, MD, 1983).

LACTOSE INTOLERANCE: In a survey of raw milk drinkers in the state of Michigan, over 80 percent of those advised by a healthcare professional that they were lactose intolerant were able to consume raw milk without problem. (Pilot Survey of Cow Share Consumer/Owners Lactose Intolerance Section).

POSITIVE TESTIMONIALS: Hundreds of testimonials involving reversal of failure to thrive in infants; allergies, asthma and behavior problems in children; and digestive disorders, arthritis, osteoporosis and even cancer in adults (TestimonialsMichigan-Raw Milk Health Testimonials-PDF).

NUTRIENT DEGRADATION BY PASTEURIZATION:

Vitamin C Raw milk but not pasteurized can resolve scurvy. “. . . Without doubt. . . the explosive increase in infantile scurvy during the latter part of the 19th century coincided with the advent of use of heated milks. . .” (Rajakumar, Pediatrics. 2001;108(4):E76).
Calcium Longer and denser bones on raw milk (Chapter 14 from History of Randleigh Farm-PDF).
Folate Carrier protein inactivated during pasteurization. (Gregory. J. Nutr. 1982, 1329-1338).
Vitamin B12 Binding protein inactivated by pasteurization.
Vitamin B6 Animal studies indicate B6 poorly absorbed from pasteurized milk (Chapter 14 from History of Randleigh Farm-PDF).
Vitamin A Beta-lactoglobulin, a heat-sensitive protein in milk, increases intestinal absorption of vitamin A. Heat degrades vitamin A. Said and others (Am J Clin Nutr. 1989;49:690-694. Runge and Heger. J Agric Food Chem. 2000 Jan;48(1):47-55).
Vitamin D Present in milk in protein-bound form, assimilation possibly affected by pasteurization. Hollis and others ( J Nutr. 1981;111:1240-1248).
Iron Lactoferrin, which contributes to iron assimilation, destroyed during pasteurization.
Iodine Lower in pasteurized milk. Wheeler and others (J Dairy Sci. 1983;66(2):187-95).
Minerals Lactobacilli, destroyed by pasteurization, enhance mineral absorption (MacDonald and others. 1985).

Economic Potential of Raw Milk

CONVENTIONAL SITUATION: Thirty cows in a confinement situation; high-protein feed to increase milk production; cows produce 190 hundredweight of milk each year; farmer sells milk to co-op and receives about $12 per hundredweight:

  • Income is about $1.50 per gallon or $68,400 per year
  • Farmer receives no subsidies (only corporate farms get these)
  • Farmer has high cost of feed, vet bills, replacement cows, artificial breeding, interest on equipment loans.

In 2002, dairy farms in the U.S. went out of business at the rate of 16 per day.

DIRECT SALES OF RAW MILK FROM PASTURE-FED COWS: Thirty cows on 100 acres; cows are fed grass, hay and silage from the farm; cows produce 100 hundredweight each per year.

  • Income on raw milk or raw dairy products is $4 – $8 per gallon, or $150,000 – $300,000 per year.
  • If the farmer is making cheese, cream or butter, he has whey and skim milk, free food for pigs
  • Additional farm income from pork, beef, eggs, chicken, produce, etc., possible in a diversified farm based on dairy, could be $50,000 – $100,000 per year.
  • Total gross income to farmer $200,000 – $400,000 per year
  • Costs for feed, vet bills, interest are much lower; no replacement cow costs.

RURAL REVIVAL: Every $1 earned on the farm = $5-7 for the local community; if 10 percent of the population would buy raw milk and other products directly from the farm, we would need 75,000 farms, all making at least $200,000 per year. Raw milk sales hold the potential for a huge rural revival.

Raw Milk Nation Map from Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund

CURRENT SITUATION FOR RAW MILK SALES

  • Retail sales are legal in 10 states
  • On-farm sales are legal in 15 states
  • Herdshares are legal in 4 states
  • There is no law on herdshares in 6 states
  • Pet food sales are legal in 4 states, implying that human consumption is feasible
  • Raw milk sales are illegal in 11 states and the District of Columbia

SITUATION IN EUROPE: Raw milk sales legal in England, Wales and most of Europe; sold in vending machines in several European countries.

Raw Milk Vending Machine in Italy

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34 thoughts on “Fresh, Unprocessed (Raw) Whole Milk: Safety, Health and Economic Issues

  1. I’m doing a paper arguing that the sale of raw milk to consumers should be nationally legalized. I need information from both sides of the issue. Any help would be appreciated.

  2. I have to move to FL for health reasons and right now I live in CT where I can buy raw milk from any of my fav local dairy farmers and even some farmers markets. When I read that I can’t buy raw milk in FL, unless it’s for a pet, I am so upset.

    I am lactose intolerant and get very sick from the disgusting processed milk sold in grocery stores, I can’t enjoy store bought ice cream, or any dairy from the store, How dare they tell me what I can eat, or drink?
    It’s my body and my money! Unbelievable! This is the USA Where is the freedom?

      • check where you are going – I lived in FL for a while – raw goat milk sold in natural health grocery store labeled ‘for pet consumption only’ – I drank it, as did many others – it was great! It is what the stores have to do to provide legally for you to have… it is fit for human consumption – legally they aren’t allowed to say so. Look for farms & farm stands/farmers’ markets too – many of them in season in the area I was :)

    • Do the research folks. I’m not for the government telling anyone what they can or cannot eat or drink but the fact is if you put pasteurized milk and raw milk next to each other, other than being homogenized their components are exactly the same. No scientist would be able to tell the two apart because their compositions are exactly the same. Pasteurization does not affect the composition of the milk what so ever only the taste. There are tons of scholarly articles disproving the articles saying that pasteurization kills good enzymes, proteins, etc. I just think everyone should make very informed decisions for themselves before jumping on any band wagon just because one person said it helped them and they’ve never gotten sick. But by all means in my opinion if you are informed and still choose to drink it then it’s your choice just like tobacco or alcohol.

      • The test for pasteurization is that the enzymes are gone so I don’t understand how you can say “There are tons of scholarly articles disproving the articles saying that pasteurization kills good enzymes, proteins, etc.” We have listed a number of articles under “Key Documents” with “tons” of scholarly articles that do find a difference between raw and pasteurized milk. I do agree with you that everyone should make informed decisions for themselves. That is the purpose of this website–to provide information on raw milk that is backed by scientific evidence, and then to help consumers find sources of raw milk.

        • The real issue is not whether raw milk obtained from grass-fed cows is safe. Rather, it’s that milk from commercially raised cows is actually dangerous to consume unless it is pasteurized. Factory-farmed animals are routinely fed an unnatural, high-protein soy- and corn-based diet and given shots of BGH (bovine growth hormone) to artificially increase milk production. This diet is so contrary to their biology that it causes severe illnesses that can only be combated by continually injecting the cows with antibiotics. These animals, kept in inhumane conditions far from their natural environment, are subject to enormous stresses. Drinking raw milk from these cows would be an exercise in stupidity.

          Raw milk from healthy, grass-fed, and pasture-raised cows is in a league of its own. Organically raised cows are happy, fed on their natural diet of grass and other cow-friendly foods. They enjoy access to sunshine and pasture grazing in summer, and in winter they feast on nutritious hay or silage.

          Natural health advocates have long cautioned against drinking milk because of the increased risk of ear infections, asthma, and eczema associated with its consumption. This applies only to commercially produced milk, not raw milk from organic farms. Raw milk actually helps protect against allergic reactions and boosts the immune system.

          Raw milk is an incredibly complex whole food, complete with digestive enzymes and its own antiviral, antibacterial, and anti-parasitic mechanisms conveniently built into a neat package. It is chock-full of both fat and water-soluble vitamins, a wide range of minerals and trace elements, all eight essential amino acids, more than 60 enzymes, and CLA—an omega-6 fatty acid with impressive effects on everything from insulin resistance to cancer to cardiovascular disease. Raw milk is delicious medicine.

          Commercial producers know their milk cannot be sold unpasteurized. To admit this would jeopardize their entire operation. Instead, they demonize raw milk, despite the fact that humankind has safely consumed milk in its natural state for thousands of years.

          Both sides of the raw milk debate feel strongly about their respective positions, and both share valid concerns. Federal and state health agencies view the consumption of any raw milk as risky to human health. To them, milk is milk, and the only way to protect the public from the potential danger of pathogens such as salmonella, E. coli, and listeria is through pasteurization. According to statistics used by the FDA, raw milk has been linked to 1,837 cases of illness between 1998 and 2009. These led to 195 hospitalizations and two deaths. While the feds feel justified engaging in armed raids on farms, is this where we want our SWAT teams?

          Raw milk advocates are upset that the government is denying their right to choose unpasteurized milk from healthy cows because of the problems associated with conventionally produced milk.

          Numerous studies document the benefits of raw milk, including the “milk cure” used by the Mayo Clinic in the 1900s for diseases ranging from cancer to weight loss to chronic fatigue. A comment in a report prepared by the Weston A. Price Foundation helps explain the contradictory stances on this ancient food: “The literature implicating raw milk in food borne illness exhibits a systematic bias against this food. In many cases, this bias is not intentional, but is a product of sloppy scientific principles.” The report concludes, “It appears that most investigators are thoroughly convinced that raw milk poses a major threat to public health, and thus they often rush to judgment to implicate raw milk even when the science is not fully supportive.” Now there’s food for thought.

      • you my dear are mis misinformed and ignorant! I have ulcerative colitis and started drinking 1 gallon of raw milk daily because it is the only food that for one help my problem and two has all 22 essential minerals and vitamins! it helps coat intestinal track and is easily digested due to the fact it still has its digestive enzymes intact! So please pedal your nonsense elsewhere because I really believe you are working in government, if not you should because you are ignorant enough! The government with the help of pharma and commercially subsidized farms are killing americans daily!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Bet you voted for obama also because he loves socialism and communism just like you!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

      • What a misleading post, Shannon. You sound like you are either very young and inexperienced or not really interested in health. Or perhaps you are a student and have been taught conventional ideas of nutrition. Are you an employee of a public relations firm, hired to do damage control?

        Fact is, raw milk has been consumed throughout history – safely. However, as Brad says, below, the real problem is that modern factory farm milk is not safe to drink unless it has been heated/pasteurized, as there are lots of nasty things in it. They heat it to destroy the pathogens in the milk due to unclean living conditions. Most animals throughout history have been raised in pastures and meadows and were able to eat their food of choice – green, leafy vegetables – grasses – herbs. Animals in factory farms are force fed things that are not natural for them to eat, such as grains, and they are kept in close quarters which is rife with filth – just drive by a factory farm and you will not want to eat or drink anything that comes from it.

        Heat kills enzymes and changes the construction of molecules. That is why flavor, color, texture and nutrient content change when you cook fruits and vegetables. Compare a stalk of raw broccoli vs broccoli cooked to death by an English cook such as my mother. Too much heat destroys life. At 118 degrees F, digestive enzymes are GONE. The two foods are not at all the same. Perhaps a chemical analysis would yield the same mineral content, but one is alive and the other is dead… very dead. Dead food does not a healthy body make.

        I saw one essay that said it’s ok to eat cooked food because our own internal digestive enzymes will take care of what we eat. That’s true to a point. But once you have used up your digestive enzymes, it becomes difficult to process food. This is what happens as people age. It is why they are unable to comfortably eat and drink what they once were able to joyfully eat and drink.

        The taste factor is no small issue in my book. I prefer my foods to taste good… don’t you?

        • You can’t actually “use up” enzymes. Part of the very definition of an enzyme is that it catalyzes chemical reactions without being used up.

          • Emily, if our food does not contain enzymes because it has been cooked and the molecular structure has been changed, then our own digestive enzymes will be needed to process the ‘dead food’. Most people in our society eat most of their foods cooked. I think this website says it well… “After years or decades of eating patterns that lack enzymes, your body will eventually use up its own digestive enzymes *or the building blocks needed to make them*. What may show up at this point are a host of side effects that include acid reflux, gas, belching, heartburn, indigestion, nausea and upset stomach.”

      • there are hundreds of institutions all over the world it’s not one person that says bad things about pasteurized milk … that is actually one of the most carcinogenic products .
        There is a whole science about this just read up or watch some videos ….

    • I bought raw milk at the Gainesville Farmers Market when I visited the state in late 2007. I had to say it was for my pet, as requested, but it was understood that humans drink it. It was fantastic milk.

    • I live in Florida too & have just become interested in the use of raw unpasteurized milk. I too was upset to learn it is not legal except for pets. What’s to say if we buy raw milk for a pet but consume it ourselves?

  3. It’s not about health , we all know it …. it ‘s about controlling ….
    Government will bully , and stretch it till we have enough and make a Revolution .
    That’s what we did in Romania and our President and his wife where executed .
    And of course , here in Canada we have a lots of other means of fighting but we constantly have to fight the evil ….

  4. I was recently diagnosed with h.pylori, in my research on this and for curative solutions to this bacteria. raw milk was listed for those with this disorder.

  5. your web is good but please help me to answer the question as to why there is high consumption of unboiled milk among kettle keepers

  6. Just picked myself up bottle of raw milk out here in Cali. Going to be my first time giving it a go. I’m kinda excited to see how it compares to the pasteurized organic milk I have been drinking

  7. i live in new york and have been trying to register with realmilk.com and can't seem to get passed invalid password and username despite having being emailed both can you give me any ideas on said:

    It seems almost impossible to get raw milk even if I am willing to pay registration fees and more for this product. Could someone give me a clue how this can be done

  8. You are using two definitions of hundredweight.
    Using your figures, I get hundredweight = 8 gallons for conventional farm, and 12.5 gallons in the direct sales farm.
    The Wiki definition depends on weight: 108 lbs (15th century), 100 lbs (US & Canada), 112 lbs (Britain).
    The CAFO cow above produces 190 x 8 = 1520 gallons x $1.5 = $2,280 a year… 30 cows = $68,400 the same as your equation.
    But when the Pasture cow hundredweight is 8 gallons, the numbers don’t add up: 100 x 8 = 800 gal x $4 = $3,200 x 30head = $96,000.
    Whoa, $150,000?
    Starting from $150,000 reversing your equation, I return to a hundredweight that means 12.5 gallons!
    Pasture cow 100 hundredweight = 1,250 gal x $4 = $5,000 x 30 = $150,000.
    Is the author confused or deliberately fudging figures? If a pasteurization proponent showed such a graph, I would certainly think he/she is rigging the study.

  9. Farmer here. Grew up farming, milk from the tank. University graduate, Post Doc animal sciences. Without doubt and anyone who argues the enzymatic degradation of milk due to pasteurization has never studied the process and has no understanding of simple pathology.

    If you make hot cocoa with tank milk, you are drinking pasteurized milk.

    Those who believe pasteurization is an FDA control pitch have never farmed and are clearly disturbed and belong on the periphery far from the intellectuals working to preserve our health. I’m not pro-big government, but to suggest digestive enzymes are derived from food is simply, patently and inarguably wrong.

    Perhaps that is why this is considered a cook site?

    • Response from Sally Fallon Morell, president of The Weston A. Price Foundation:

      Dear Sir,

      Phosphatase is a digestive enzyme. It is destroyed by pasteurization. This is the test for successful pasteurization.

      Lipase (a digestive enzyme) in raw milk is destroyed by pasteurization. This is given as the reason babies don’t do as well on pasteurized human milk vs raw human milk.

      I would suggest you read Enzyme Nutrition by Edward Howell. He was the expert on enzymes in food.

      I am a farmer and I happily drink my own raw milk. I would not describe myself as “disturbed.”

      Sally Fallon Morell, President
      The Weston A. Price Foundation

    • A complete deficit of enzymes is the final test to ensure that pasteurized milk can be sold, so what do you know about enzyme degradation? You can say that you aren’t pro-big government, but all the same you are slashing at the “cook” (kook?) periphery that threatens the establishment, albeit in an unconscious manner. My suggestion- Take the fluoride out of your drinking water, take a long walk in the woods while deep breathing, and pray for knowledge and discernment. Facts don’t change. The only thing that changes is what we perceive to be factual. Be kind, and unless someone is a chef, don’t call them a “cook.”

  10. Here’s a little family history: My great-great grandfather, William died of tuberculosis, a deadly disease from raw milk. His son, Storrs then married his first wife soon after William’s death, Susan and Storrs had a son named Marvin. Both Marvin and Susan died of tuberculosis. Many years later Storrs fell in love again and married his second wife, Barbra. Then, Storrs had a son named William named after Storrs’ father. When William was only a year old he succumbed to tuberculosis but miraculously survived. Four years later Storrs died of tuberculosis widowing his wife and leaving his only surviving son without a father at the age of five. Two years after Storrs’ death they invented pasteurization. I sincerely hope this has changed the mind of some of the people who support this site.

    • That it is possible to get a variety of illnesses from raw milk is true, but that is true for most foods. Whether it is probable is another matter, and one is far more likely to get foodborne illnesses from many other types of foods, per CDC data. Historically, there was a period of greater risk of illness from raw milk during the phase when milk production was changing from pasture-based to filthy, crowded confinement operations, often from cows fed spent mash from distilleries (“swill dairies”).

      Raw milk can be safely produced today. Note this does not mean 100% guaranteed safe, because that can never be said of any food. But as shown by government data, it is actually safer than any other food they track, including raw produce, deli meats, eggs, etc. Cows should be eating grass outside as much as possible, with hay and silage in winter. Milking parlors should be clean, udders cleaned before milking, milk captured in clean stainless containers and immediately chilled, etc. Cattle should be tested regularly for a variety of illnesses, including TB, and the milk should be tested regularly. (The Raw Milk Institute and Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund offer detailed guidance on raw milk production; this is just a summary.) We now have the knowledge to greatly reduce risks that were not well understood in the mid-late 1800s and early 1900s.

      We also know more now about bovine TB vs. human TB. The risk of transmission of bovine TB to humans is low. See Ted Beals’ article, The Risk of Bovine TB from Raw Milk Consumption with a Focus on Michigan for more about this.

    • Reply from Sally Fallon Morell: “The vitamin B12 content of any milk depends on the feed/pasture of the cow. But raw milk contains B12 Binding Protein which ensures that all of the B12 is absorbed. B12 Binding Protein is largely inactivated by pasteurization, which is why children drinking a lot of pasteurized milk are likely to be anemic. Sally”

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