Real Raw Milk Facts

The Raw Milk Debate: Rawness and Rationality By Author Anne Mendelson

Highlights from Anne Mendelson's piece published in Mother Earth News:

Every time I hear any discussion of raw milk, I know I can look forward to repetitions of a few misleading claims on both sides, with no attention to taste (which is my agenda).

Most of those who want consumers to have unfettered access to raw milk insist that pasteurization destroys nutritional value. Sometimes they also assert that raw milk tastes better. Neither claim is unconditionally true. On the other side, adherents of pasteurization are bent on warning the public that without it we can expect the unhindered spread of milk-borne pathogens. This, too, is only partly true.

Certainly a glass of raw milk sampled at the farm is going to taste different from supermarket milk. But pasteurization is only one of the industrial processing steps responsible for the difference. Virtually all the pasteurized milk that reaches us has been separated, recombined and homogenized. These steps do more to denature milk than anything else that happens to it. The creamier mouthfeel and fresher flavor of whole raw milk at a well-run farm reflect not just actual freshness but the fact that the basic milk structure is intact. You can get nearly the same effect from unhomogenized pasteurized milk — at least, if it comes to you fresh and was not ultrapasteurized.

This brings us to the second great factor usually left out of the debate: At one time, milk was pasteurized at a low temperature for a long time, which eliminated harmful bacteria with minimal impairment of flavor. The faster, more cost-effective approaches that are almost universal today impart a slightly more cooked flavor while denaturing some of the proteins — but it’s hard to attribute particular flavor effects to these techniques alone, because they are almost always carried out together with homogenization.

Then there’s the intrinsic quality of the milk itself. Rawness and pasteurization have nothing to do with the fact that milk produced by farmers with sane priorities tastes better than milk cranked out with an eye only to volume.

The most frequent pro-raw-milk argument I hear is that pasteurization destroys the vitamin C and most enzymes in raw milk. Quite true — but not of great importance to anyone’s health. Compared with other plentiful sources of vitamin C, milk contains little in the first place. As for the enzymes that disappear, they are an aid to the digestive systems of newborn calves and don’t need to concern nonbovines — except cheesemakers, who are sorely handicapped by the enzymatic changes caused by pasteurization.

Read the whole article:

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