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Friday, February 19, 2010

Raw Milk: The Ugly

The following is part 4 of Dale’s series - Raw Milk: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

The battle between raw milk advocates and pasteurization advocates is heating up and it may get ugly. Here are some of the arguments.
Raw milk advocates:
“There are health benefits of raw milk.”
“Legalizing raw milk is a way to connect consumers with local farmers and it keeps dollars in the local economy.”
“I want to buy raw milk so that I can make my own raw milk cheese which is safe.”
“The government lets you smoke when we know that smoking kills, but you can’t drink raw milk.”
“Every year hundreds are killed by drunk drivers, but we still don’t crack down on them. If fact, legally you can have a couple of drinks and still drive. But you can’t drink raw milk and drive.”
“We are on the verge of legalizing marijuana, but you still can’t buy raw milk.”
“Outlawing raw milk is a conspiracy by the large milk cooperatives to put the little farmers out of business and to maintain control of their market.”
“The government wants to regulate everything, including what we eat.”
The Farm Bureau and dairy farmer associations:
“If the public hears of a case of food poisoning from tainted milk, demand for dairy products will plummet, even if it was raw milk. Remember what happened to the spinach farmers.”
Organic Valley and Horizon organic dairy cooperatives:
“We pay our farmers a large premium for their organic milk. It isn’t fair for our farmers to take advantage of our marketing efforts by selling the same raw milk directly to people.”
Health departments and health care workers:
“Food poisoning from dairy products is almost completely preventable through pasteurization. It seems a small price to pay for public health.”
“Pasteurized milk is not significantly different from raw milk and it is fortified with vitamins.”
“Pasteurizing is cheaper than the health care costs of food poisoning.”
“Uninformed consumers may buy raw milk from dairy farms that do not maintain proper cleanliness.”
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals and the Human Society:
“Let’s close down all animal agriculture and eat vegiburgers and tofu.
“Soy milk is a great substitute for cow milk.”
Dale Johnson
I am torn by this issue. I agree with all of the above statements except for PETA and HS. I am a member of “People Eating Tasty Animals” and anyone who says soy milk is a great substitute for cow’s milk cannot be taken seriously.
A coworker of mine who is an animal scientist told me pasteurization does not change the structure of milk, that the enzymes and other components are unaltered by the heating process so that the claim of health benefits of raw milk are bogus. I am an economist by training, but I cannot believe that heating milk does not change it in some way. We may not be able to observe changes with our current scientific tests, but I wouldn’t be surprised if, in the future, we detect significant changes from pasteurization that diminish health benefits.
Maryland outlaws all raw milk sales. Pennsylvania allows regulated raw milk sales by farmers directly to customers. Virginia allows cow shares but in practicality it is a very cumbersome process for the farmer and customer. I haven’t researched the regulations in other states. A farmer in Ontario, Canada was acquitted of 19 charges of distributing raw milk because the judge said he was distributing it to joint owners of his cows and not the public at large. I hope that Myron Martin is successful in his crusade to legalize raw milk sales in Maryland.
My experience is that most people who want to drink raw milk are those who scrutinize everything they eat and that this leads to healthy diets that may reduce obesity, diabetes, heart disease and other diet related illnesses. What are your thoughts about raw milk?
This is a satellite photo of Threemile Canyon Farms near Boardman, Oregon. There are over 20,000 cows at this industrial milk factory. It put 200 family farms similar to Myron & Janet Martin’s farm out of business.

A group of Pennsylvania farmers (many Amish) at a “pasture walk” learning from each other how to improve their management so that they can try to compete with Threemile Canyon Farms.

Here is how I want my milk made - cows contently graze in the early morning fog of a bucolic Maryland pasture.


Wendy said...

I would agree with you that the people who want raw milk are the people who scrutinize everything they eat. We avoid most industrial foods, including meat and all processed foods, and we drink raw milk.

Anecdotally, my twelve year old seems to have a problem with processing pasteurized milk. She seems to be able to drink all of the raw milk she wants with nary a problem. If she'd had the same symptoms on raw milk, we'd have looked at other options. That's enough proof for me.

As for substituting soy for cow's milk, soy contains some estrogen-like properties, and *may* increase a woman's risk of some types of cancer. That aside, 98% of the soy products sold in the US are derived from GMO crops, which sometimes contain genes from things that aren't even plants. Whether pasteurized or raw, at least I know the milk I drink is *natural* and not something that was developed in a laboratory.

Julie said...

We're also raw milk drinkers (in Arkansas, it's sold from farmers as 'pet milk' - my family is my pet! :)

My son gets a runny nose from pasteurized milk, but can drink raw with no problems. He's 5 and can discern the difference with blind taste tests.

At Christmas, he accidentally drank some pasteurized milk and immediately spit it out and said, "BLECH! This tastes awful." Made my heart sing.

katiegirl said...

Thanks for the series, Dale. I've got some firsthand experience with dairies, after working on several dairy farms (one being a very large corprorate organic farm) and while I can say I don't think conventional pasturized milk is bad for you, I'd rather drink raw milk. Really, I want to be able to produce my own food as much as possible. I have a dairy goat now, and once I get a large enough piece of property, I'll have a cow. Plus, raw milk just tastes so much better to me.

Katie said...

We used to drink raw milk but drifted away from it because of the cost.

I wonder if people would be able to tell the difference between raw and pasteurized milk from the same batch. Obviously if you're talking about raw family farm milk vs. grocery store pasteurized, that's not a fair comparison.

"that the enzymes and other components are unaltered by the heating process"

He's got to have a caveat in there somewhere. I thought one of the key principles of enzymes is that many of them are very heat sensitive (over 115°-120°).

Dale Johnson said...

Pasteurization and Homogenization both change the taste and texture of milk. Whole milk from the store is reduced to 3.5% butterfat. A lot of milk directly from cows is over 4% butterfat, from Jersey cows over 5% butterfat - Yum Yum!

Some people like the taste of store milk better than raw milk.

Dale Johnson said...

In some countries that I work in (see Raw Milk: The Ugly) I only trust UHT milk (ultra high temperature pasteurization). It has a caramelized taste hardly recognizable as milk but I like milk and it is better than nothing.

Amy @ Homestead Revival said...

Just found your site and had to add my 2 cents worth. We've been drinking raw milk for a couple of years and never had an issue. Certainly there can be a "first time", but seriously, what do we think people did for the last 6,000 years or so? Those who drank milk, drank raw milk. Even after pasteurization, many people who grew up on a farm continued to drink raw milk with little or now problems. If you practice good health with your animals, you will reap good milk. And I'm totally convinced that it is more nutritious.

The problem came about when we moved away from the land and tried to feed people from long distances and had to "store milk" for longer periods of time. As a nation, can't see the forest for the trees anymore on this issue. At this point, if I had to switch back, I'd just quit consuming milk altogether.

Kristie said...

Great series on raw milk.

Enzymes do get denatured at high temperatures, that's Biology 101. I would like to see the studies done to compare raw milk and pasteurized milk.

As far as pathogens go, I don't know very many people who don't live by the 10 second rule. I think I have a higher chance of getting killed by stepping off the sidewalk than I do by drinking raw milk.

Why do some people want to regulate everything for everyone? If they don't want to drink it, then they don't have to, but leave everyone else alone.

I have an article from The Standard Journal from Friday, September 26, 2008 that says "PETA wants moms, not cows milked for B&J icecream. PETA wants world-famous Ben & Jerry's Homemade Ice Cream to tap nursing moms, rather than cows, for the mild used in its ice cream. People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals is asking the ice cream maker to begin using breast mild in its products instead of cow's mild, saying it would reduce the suffering of cows and calves..."

Enough said?

Katie said...

Kristie -- the PETA thing is satire. They don't actually want ice cream to be made out of breast milk. It's to get people thinking about what milk really is (bodily fluid of a cow). I'm pro-milk; I'm just saying, it really is a little gross when you think about it ;-)