Raw Milk: What Exactly Is It, and Why Should You Care?
Depending on where your interest in health food lies on the spectrum from “I order salads at McDonald’s” to “I make my own green juice every morning,” you may or may not be aware of the debate over milk. Recently we found ourselves deep in research hole around the nutritional value of dairy products, and ever since we’ve been digging up dirt on raw milk. Keep reading to find out what it is and why you should care.
Raw milk is milk that has not been pasteurized. It’s taken straight from the animal, rapidly cooled, filtered, and bottled, without processing and without additives.
In order to understand the difference between raw milk and the milk you see on your grocery store shelves, you have to understand pasteurization. The primary purpose of pasteurization is to kill germs and prolong the shelf life of milk. Of course, killing dangerous disease-carrying bacteria is beneficial, but in the process, pasteurization destroys plenty of good bacteria too. It also destroys a substantial portion of the vitamin C in milk. Due to the sterilization and homogenization commercially produced milk goes through, the bioactivity of vitamin B6 and the absorption of vitamin A are also negatively affected.
Although the FDA acknowledges that pasteurization depletes a significant amount of vitamin C, they maintain that it doesn’t reduce milk’s nutritional value. Sound a little contradictory? To remedy that inconsistency, the CDC argues that milk is not a major source of vitamin C in the U.S. diet. Independent studies have shown that raw milk contains higher levels of fat-soluble vitamins, a wide range of minerals and enzymes, and all eight essential amino acids. Grass-grazing cows also have high levels of a beneficial fatty acid known as CLA (conjugated Linoleic Acid).
Given all of the glorious benefits of raw milk why aren’t we all drinking it? Well, there are a few risks involved. Since raw milk skips the germ-killing step, it can contain salmonella, E. coli, and listeria. But, as raw milk advocates are quick to point out, any food can get contaminated. It’s all about how it’s produced and handled. The most important thing to remember is that not all raw milk is the same. Do your homework to find out how the cows are fed and raised, and how the milk is collected. Organic milk from healthy, grass-fed, pasture-grazing cows that’s collected at clean facilities and stored properly is the safest type of raw milk you can drink.
Though raw milk consumption has increased significantly in the past two decades, don’t expect to find it popping up on supermarket shelves. Because the production is so difficult to regulate, government agencies are still cautioning consumers against raw milk. In fact, retail sales of raw milk are illegal in over a dozen states. Curious about your state? Click here to find where your state stands on milk laws. Choosing raw milk is a personal decision. As with any choice you make, you have to weigh the pros and the cons for yourself.
What are your thoughts on raw milk?