In 1940, the West of Scotland Agricultural College at Auchincruive carried out a study comparing the health of calves fed on raw and pasteurized milk. The researchers observed two groups, each of eight calves, for ninety days. One group was given raw milk and the other was given pasteurized milk.
In the raw milk group, all the animals finished the trial without mortality. In the pasteurized milk group, two died before they were thirty days old, and a third died on the ninety-second day, two days after the experiment finished. The remaining calves in the pasteurization group were in ill health at the end of the experiment, while all of the animals in the raw milk group were in excellent health. The results were reported in an obscure journal, Nature’s Path, March 1941.
Not a single agricultural college or university has seen fit to repeat this interesting experiment—with calves or with any other research animal—in the last seventy years. So, we decided to do our own experiment here at Glencolton Farms, involving just two calves, one fed raw milk and one fed pasteurized milk.
In order to gain acceptance by the scientific community, you need to meet their demands and do a study involving a hundred to a thousand calves. Otherwise they will say that whatever results you achieve could have been due to chance. Of course, we could not do a study on this many calves. The experiment cost us five thousand dollars in milk alone. Since we don’t have any corporate sponsors, this has been a significant cost for us as a small dairy.
In 1994, I asked the Canadian government to carry out a research project jointly with our farm, but I received no answer. The simple fact that governments and universities refuse to do this research has given me even a greater confidence that the results we have seen with these two calves are credible and significant. In fact, our findings support those of Pottenger in his cat study as well as the West of Scotland calf experiment.
When the trial started, the two calves had roughly the same weight. The raw milk calf received four liters per day of raw, whole milk from our farm; the pasteurized milk calf received four liters of whole pasteurized (not ultrapasteurized) milk purchased from the supermarket. The calves also consumed hay and pasture. Both calves were male, born on the farm. We raise and milk Canadienne breed cows; we have a closed herd, so the mothers of both calves had similar genetics.
For the first eight weeks, they gained weight at the same rate. Then the pasteurized milk calf started falling behind.
During the four-month trial, there was a constant difference in smell and the consistency of the manure. The raw milk calf had mostly well-formed manure with the normal smell you would expect. In contrast, the manure of the pasteurized calf was runny and the color mostly grey or almost white during the feeding trial. We did not treat either of these calves for any medical problem, although we would have done so had either calf developed a life-threatening condition.
The hair on the raw milk calf was shiny and strong. On the pasteurized calf, the hair was dull and easily pulled out.
The alertness of the two calves was another major difference: the pasteurized milk calf seemed very uninterested in his surroundings and was lethargic, while the raw milk calf was more alert. After about five months we could see that the pasteurized calf would have had difficulty surviving without medication and supplements, so at that time we butchered the two calves. At that time, the raw milk calf weighed 200 kg while the pasteurized milk calf weighed 115 kg. Most significantly, the testicles of the pasteurized milk calf appeared to be about 30 percent smaller than the testicles of the raw milk calf.
It was when we butchered the calves that the differences became most obvious. The liver of the pasteurized milk calf was pale; the liver of the raw milk calf was a dark color and of a stronger consistency. Likewise the kidney of the pasteurized milk calf was pale, while the kidney of the raw milk calf was a deep red color. The vet who was on hand for the slaughter was amazed at the appearance of the kidney and liver of the raw milk calf; he said the kidney and liver of the pasteurized milk calf looked “normal,” meaning that was what he was used to seeing.
There was a huge difference in the two digestive tracts. The stomach of the raw milk calf had solid contents without a disagreeable odor. The stomach contents of the calf fed pasteurized milk were runny and smelled disgusting.
We then sent the livers and the meat to Chef Chris McDonald, owner and executive chef of Cava Restaurant in Toronto. The meat and liver were labeled A and B, so the chef did not know which was which. He prepared the livers and the meat in various ways and served them to the gathered patrons. There was an obvious difference in the livers: one was darker and firmer, the other pale and mealy. However, opinions were divided on the meat, and the differences were less obvious. The tasters were split on which calf tasted better. Perhaps most people are accustomed to eating calves fed pasteurized milk.
Admittedly, I am a farmer, not a scientist. There are significant flaws in the scientific method of this trial, and some questions remain unanswered. We should, of course, have done this study with many calves, and the observers should have been “blinded,” that is, not knowing which calves received which type of milk.
Nevertheless, the results are in line with the findings of Francis Pottenger, and under normal circumstances would have elicited enough curiosity from university researchers to lead to a more scientifically conducted study. But these are not normal times, and most researchers have their hands tied by the exigencies of corporate funding.
We, however, are not so constrained, so we are going forward with further research on raw and pasteurized milk using two groups of rats over several generations. This time the study will involve a trained pathologist to oversee the feeding protocol, observe the development of the animals and carry out proper autopsies. Stay tuned!
Michael Schmidt has been a biodynamic farmer for over 33 years. Born in Germany, he came to Canada in 1983 and has been instrumental in massive changes towards the awareness of the cultural importance of agriculture. He is leading the fierce battle to legalize raw milk in Canada.
Read more about him here: