Milk Decisions – Raw Milk or Not?

Awhile back, I posted about my switch from lower fat milk to whole milk. That’s a decision I’m delighted with, and I still shake my head at how much time I spent drinking lower fat milk. At the bottom of that post, I mentioned that a natural next step would be to switch to raw milk, so I started looking into my local options for raw. Then a commenter on that post, Amy of My Suburban Homestead, said this:

I have an alternate, unpopular view of raw milk. My view is based on reading the actual stories of people (mostly children) who’ve become very seriously sickened with lifelong debilitating complications. You can read my views, should you wish, here.

I honestly hadn’t given drinking raw milk that much thought. I prefer to start with unprocessed as the default and work from there if needed/desired, rather than starting with “modern” as the default. However, I also like for my decisions to make sense and to be based in reality. Here was someone suggesting that more research was in order, and I’m usually happy to undertake research on an interesting topic, especially if it might be controversial.

I browsed around the different posts and links at My Suburban Homestead and landed on a site called Real Raw Milk Facts. This site is definitely anti-raw milk. I had to dig a little deeper in the links and references there to make sure that Real Raw Milk Facts (RRMF) was representing the facts in a way that I agreed with, and ultimately I came to agree.

Some of the claims that RRMF covers don’t really interest me. Some people might claim that raw milk cures autism or cancer or whatever, but I never believed anything like that, and those things don’t factor in at all to my decision about what milk to drink. The thing that does seem relevant to me is the safety. Here’s what I understood from the RRMF site:

  • Yes, raw milk is safer today than it was in the 30s when pasteurization first became common, because refrigeration and sanitation have improved, plus some diseases like bovine tuberculosis have been nearly eliminated.
  • Also, raw milk from pastured cows is likely safer than raw milk from feedlot cows. Feedlot cows have higher levels of E. coli. However, pastured cows can still have pathogens, and in recent years, many E. coli and Campylobacter outbreaks have been linked to pastured cows.
  • Either way, there are still many harmful bacteria that can be in raw milk, including BrucellaCampylobacterListeriaMycobacterium bovisSalmonellaE. coliShigellaStaphylococcus aureusStreptococcus pyogenes, and Yersinia enterocolitica. E. coli is scary stuff. There have been several recent cases of children almost dying from E. coli contaminated raw milk. Campylobacter is the most common outbreak-causing-pathogen found in raw milk. It usually causes a few days of fever, diarrhea, and cramps, but in rare cases can lead to paralysis.

You can, of course, get sick from all kinds of foods. One argument RRMF makes about milk is that it is created in an environment that is difficult to keep sanitary. The care of farm animals involves the management of a lot of shit, and for milk to be contaminated with fecal bacteria is not really unusual. So your fruits and veggies shouldn’t have shit on them anyway (I’m looking at YOU, bagged spinach!), and you also have the ability to wash them. Milk is pretty much expected to come in contact with shit now and then, and you can’t wash it. RRMF argues that products likely to come in contact with shit – raw beef, poultry, fish – should be cooked. For milk, “cooking” is pasteurization.

So, one question that comes to my mind is how many cases of illness are we talking about here? It’s one thing to read about scary outbreaks, but it’s another to look at the actual numbers and percentages. According to the CDC:

“Raw milk is a well-documented source of infections from Salmonella, Escherichia coli O157:H7, Campylobacter, Listeria, Mycobacterium bovis, and other pathogens. In 1938, before widespread adoption of milk pasteurization in the United States, an estimated 25% of all foodborne and waterborne outbreaks of disease were associated with milk. By 2001, the percentage of such outbreaks associated with milk was estimated at <1%. During 1998–2005, a total of 45 outbreaks of foodborne illness were reported to CDC in which unpasteurized milk (or cheese suspected to have been made from unpasteurized milk) was implicated. These outbreaks accounted for 1,007 illnesses, 104 hospitalizations, and two deaths. Because not all cases of foodborne illness are recognized and reported, the actual number of illnesses associated with unpasteurized milk likely is greater.”

The RRMF site has this to say about the CDC numbers:

“Since…only about 1-3% of the population drinks raw milk, the number of illnesses reported show that the actual risk of getting sick from drinking raw milk is tremendously higher than drinking pasteurized milk.”

If there are safety concerns with drinking raw milk (and there clearly are) then the next step in my research was to find out if there’s anything that concerns me about the pasteurization or homogenization processes.

Pasteurization is heating milk to a certain temperature for  a certain amount of time (the exact temp and time depends on which kind of pasteurization you’re talking about.) Proponents of raw milk claim that this heating destroys any beneficial components of milk, but it doesn’t look to me like this is the case. Some parts of milk are destroyed or diminished through the pasteurization process, like vitamin A, vitamin C, and some enzymes. Many things remain, as well: some vitamin A, calcium, vitamin D, thiamin, riboflavin, vitamin B12, iron, etc. There’s plenty of good stuff left in pasteurized milk.

I guess some people might be bothered about some of the nutrients being destroyed in the pasteurization process, but if you think of pasteurization as cooking, which is basically what it is, it makes sense to me. When we cook foods, sometimes some nutrients are diminished and sometimes other nutrients are made more available for us. It doesn’t surprise me or bother me that milk is changed by pasteurization, but I don’t think those changes are harmful to me or negate the usefulness (and yumminess) of drinking milk.

Homogenization is the process of forcing milk through small holes or tubes at high pressure to break up the fat globules. This prevents the milk from separating out into a cream layer. This doesn’t seem to have much effect on the nutrition of the milk, although it has some other effects like making the milk taste blander, yet creamier, and making it less likely to pick up other flavors from your fridge.

Homogenization doesn’t have anything to do with safety, though, so my first thought after all this research was that I’d look for pasteurized yet not homogenized milk. Unless there’s a reason for the increased complexity and technology, I prefer a simpler choice. I figured I didn’t need a special process to prevent my milk from separating. All you have to do is shake up your bottle of milk to mix it back up, and that’s easy enough to do. Plus, then we’d have cream at-the-ready when we needed it, too.

The natural grocery store near me, Earth Fare, carries a pasteurized, non-homogenized milk. Yay! The milk even comes in glass bottles that you pay a deposit on and can return. This was great news all around. Non-homogenized milk, glass bottles, and reusing the bottles over and over again. It seemed like a perfect match. Unfortunately, I didn’t like the taste. I tried several times to get used to the taste of the milk, but it was strange and I couldn’t settle into it. I could only use it on something really flavorful, like a sugary cereal. But, I like to drink milk by the glass, and I just couldn’t drink this stuff. After several bottles, I went back to my regular organic milk.

So that’s the end of my decision-making about milk. I started out drinking non-fat organic, moved to full-fat organic, considered raw, rejected raw, tried non-homogenized, rejected non-homogenized, and settled back at full-fat organic. I really thought raw milk would be the next addition of “from the farm to the table” products around here, but the safety issues with raw milk trump my desire to be “natural”.

As a side note about raw milk, just so I’m 100% clear, I think that raw milk should be legal to sell. People should be able to put what they want to into their bodies. I do not think it is the government’s job to protect people from their own bad decisions. Warning labels are fine with me, tiered “grades” of product are fine, regulating the packaging is fine. But, if people want to buy raw milk (and they clearly do) they should be allowed to do so.

How about you? What kind of milk do you drink and why?

(Photo credit: grongar)


  1. Nicola says

    I wasn’t even aware that raw milk was readily available over here. I thought unless you had your own milk producing mammal it was all treated produce. After doing, all be it a brief bit of research, I found that there are numerous companies producing it and will deliver it regularly straight to your door.

    My husband and I are not big milk drinkers, personally I can’t stand milk unless it has been flavoured. Bad I know. But my 2 children love their milk and go through gallons of it. I personally wouldn’t buy raw milk purely based on the potential health issues that may arise. If I wanted it for me and there was some negative outcome that would be fine because I chose it, but if I chose it for my child knowing the risks and they suffered for my decision, I don’t feel that’s right because it is not me that lives with the consequences. I feel that although I am responsible for my children and what goes into their bodies, it is not MY body and although it may be years down the line I have to hand responsibility over. I think too many people make decisions about their children and their bodies based on what they want to do with their own bodies regarless of risks ( and I’m not just referring to raw food products, but chemicals in foods and junk food ect) and forget to remember that it’s not just their own bodies and lives they are impacting.

    Having said that it is the individuals decision as to what is acceptable risk. Ultimately people should have the right to choose what to put in their bodies. And a responsible parent know what is best for themselves and the child they are nurturing.

    We drink both organic full fat and organic semi skimmed milk. Full fat for the children, semi for my other half and I get whatever bottle comes out first.

    Ibuy organic in the hope that because the farmers have to pay out a fair sum of money to obtain organic status they might actually treat the cows with respect, dignity and the conditions they deserve. It always plays on my mind the fact that I just don’t know for sure though, every time I pick up the bottle I always take a moment and wonder.

    • says

      Parents can’t really avoid making decisions that affect the bodies of their kids, and parents have to make their own individual assessments of risk. Thinking of Dylan definitely affected my decision on raw milk. I was pregnant when I first started researching this, and my conclusion was that even if I might normally be willing to take on this risk, there was no way I would do it while pregnant and no way I would give raw milk to a child.

      I buy organic as well, hoping that means something better for the life of the cows.

  2. aed939 says

    “I prefer to start with unprocessed as the default and work from there if needed/desired, rather than starting with “modern” as the default.”

    I suggest you follow your own principle. So starting with raw milk from a good farmer, why should you instead choose to consume processed milk? There are many negatives to the processed milk:
    * A cocktail of 20 chemical residues,
    * A1 beta casein,
    * Culinary uses (does not sour properly–cannot make creme fraiche, whey, etc.; cannot separate cream)

    • says

      Uh… did you read the post? I did start from my principle of unprocessed. I started from the assumption of raw milk and went from there. It turns out there’s a very good reason to pasteurize milk – preventing serious illness from harmful bacteria. There may very well be downsides to pasteurized milk, but they do not seem serious enough to me to outweigh the very real, very immediate risk of these serious illnesses.

    • says

      I suggest you follow your own principle. So starting with raw milk from a good farmer, why should you instead choose to consume processed milk?

      This is exactly the topic of the post. She started out assuming that she would want to drink raw milk, then went through a process of discovery that led her to choose processed milk. Did you read the post?

  3. Vyviane says

    I personally think all milk tastes nasty and it makes my tummy hurt so it’s not really something I worry about to much. I buy the milk alternatives that are cheapest for Chris’s cereal and an occasional glass for Taran. For the few recipes that need actual cow milk I just grab horizon organic as I find that the least offensive tasting of any milk I have had. It’s stupid expensive and I wonder how people cough up $4.50 a cartoon and then let their kids drink glass after glass of it.

    That all said you may want to look into powered milk if money is a concern. I hear among the thirty/cheap bloggers that it’s cheaper then buying prepared milk, especially if you buy it in 50 pound sacks. Most thrifty people that use it mix it half powered milk and half regular milk for drinking but use it straight up for cooking. They also mix it up and leave it in the fridge overnight which is suppose to improve the taste.

    • Kitty says

      Powdered milk is always non-fat. The fat is taken out during the process, and the proteins are really messed up. There are lots of reasons not to drink it. Putting it in the fridge does help with the taste, but it is still pretty icky.

    • says

      I’m one of those people who coughs up the money for organic and then drinks a shit-load of it. I prefer the taste of organic. Some people can taste the effects of the high-heat ultra-pasteurization that organic milk gets and don’t like it, but I apparently like it. Also, I really prefer organic or anything that’s marginally nicer to the animals when available. I’m less concerned with organic produce and I often balk at the price, but for milk, I’m willing to pay the extra.

      I drank some powdered milk once as part of a photo shoot, and it was the most disgusting thing I’ve ever done for money. I guess as much as I’m willing to pay for organic milk, I wasn’t willing to pay for it just to pour over myself. I use it as an ingredient sometimes (like in bread), but I was literally gagging at the barest taste. If I ever do that again, I will try the suggestion to refrigerate it overnight.

      • says

        When I lived in the Arctic, I got used to powdered milk. Where I lived, EVERYTHING had to be flown in (I was on an island) and the cargo rates were something like $1.65 a kilo I think, so liquids were ridiculously expensive. Three bags of milk (equilvalent to a gallon) was $10 and that was in the early 90s. Cans of pop were $2, which made a case of pop (24) almost $50. CRAZY. You just got used to kool-aid and powdered milk. I don’t love it, but it’s tolerable.

      • Vyviane says

        Your photo shoot is making me laugh out loud in a very quiet peaceful coffee shop.

        I hear you on having things you are willing to cough up money on. I bought a $5 head of cauliflower the other day because I was having a hankering for really good cauliflower and I find the non-organic mass produced stuff just doesn’t cut it. For the little bit of meat we eat I buy really nice truly grass fed,allowed to run around, as nicely butchered as possible lamb and the price is shocking especially when you see how much lamb Taran can eat!

        • says

          We may have excess lamb in the future, if you wanted a whole one for the freezer. There’d be a drive up here, but it’d probably be much cheaper. I’d probably be shocked at the price of lamb, given that they can be so cheap if you let them eat grass.

          • Vyviane says

            That would be great. I would be happy to purchase lamb from you. I actually drive through Knoxville several times a year so the drive would not be much of an issue.

  4. Kitty says

    Your decisions makes complete sense. Raw milk can be dangerous. I prefer it when I can get it, but I am a rather healthy adult with a strong digestive system. I don’t think I would drink raw milk while pregnant or breastfeeding, and I also would not give it to a small child. I do think I would give it to an older child, over 7 or 8 years old.
    Since only a few people have died from it I am willing to risk it for myself no question. And if I get sick then my body needs to cope, and get stronger. For me taste is the important thing, raw milk just tastes like what I think milk should taste like. I drank it quite a bit as a child myself (with no ill effect that I know of). Organic whole milk tastes almost as good, so I don’t go out of my way much to get raw. However, if raw was easy to get, I think I would only get raw.

  5. Lee says

    I think milk is pretty gross generally and don’t drink it much. I do cook with it and bake with it, but I am not someone who likes the taste of milk period really.

    When I was a kid, most of my milk experience was the skim/non-fat crap my mom drank or the non-pasteurized stuff my grandparents drank. The milk I drank at grannie and pops came from cows that live in the pens in the back of the house. It was terribly tasty, but they did not (nor now) drink very much of it, at least in part because of the illness factor.

    There are things you can’t do with pasteurized milk, making cheese is the big one, and I have sought out farm fresh milk for that reason, but it makes me wary to drink the mammary fluid of a farm animal that was not raised by me or my family.

    Your process to me seems sound, you went for all the alternatives, tried what you thought to be best, made rational decisions and lighted on a stance. For me, the possible health risks and general annoyance of trying to get raw milk outweighed any possible benefits.

    • says

      From what I’ve read (but not tried), many sources say it works just fine to use pasteurized milk for cheese making, but that you might need to add a small amount of calcium chloride to aid in curd formation. We’ve started adding calcium chloride to crisp up our homemade pickles – it’s definitely easier to find than raw milk! These same sources agree that ultra-pasteurized milk (which is all organics, I believe) would not be suitable for cheese-making.

      • Kitty says

        Organic milk works just fine for Cottage Cheese. So the curd part works ok. I don’t know if it work for the aging part. I will let you know once I get some wax and a figure out a good place to leave cheese.

  6. says

    I have read the argument that humans are the only species to drink the milk of another species and to drink it past infancy, and that is problematic on many levels. The body is not really good at digesting it. I get that argument, and for someone like me who USUALLY walks the walk on things I believe, I just can’t give up cheese and yogurt. They are my total guilty pleasure. PS Did you know in Canada, milk comes in BAGS (much less plastic) as well as full fat milk is called “HOMO” milk on the package, where the other fat contents are called 2%, 1% or skim. Most people think buying HOMO milk is particularly hilarious, never mind in a bag. and

      • says

        Nah, bags are not inconvenient at all. Mind you, it’s all I’ve ever known. Also, it breaks a gallon into three bags, so if one bag spoils, you’ve still got 2/3rds sealed in the fridge. A gallon is also crazy heavy to lift, and after my car collision and hand injury, I’ve become more sensitive to stuff like that. It’s also a colossal waste of plastic.

        • Sarah says

          I love the bag milk! There is less plastic, less expensive, and it gives me a chance recycle my juice jars to hold the milk. I like the taste of milk out of a glass jar. I am sure there isn’t a true difference, but the milk seems colder and I like really cold milk!

    • Ashley says

      Yeah, but large swaths of humanity has been consuming dairy for about 3000 years. Milk, butter, and dairy cows are hugely important in the Rg Veda, for example.

  7. says

    No baby cow food for me…nowadays, it’s hemp milk. Rice or coconut sometimes – hemp milk ice cream is heavenly, thick and creamy. Never have used cow milk for anything other than cereal or cooking, and I haven’t done that in years (except for recipes specifically calling for heavy cream).

    I do use half/half in my coffee, though!

    Ultimately, like you, I think people can do whatever they want but I def try to be as dairy-free as possible (without being a jerk about it).

  8. Mary W says

    Great post! I’ve been thinking a lot about this lately.

    A friend of mine who is huge raw food proponent became really sick from raw milk. I don’t need to go through that. That said, I’d have to drive to another state to get it and I don’t drink enough milk to justify it. We tried buying regular pasteurized instead of ultra- and it went bad before we even opened the containers. I hate wasting food, so unless I know I’ll be using the milk the same day, we’ll be buying ultra-pasteurized, full-fat.

    I’ve switched to full-fat yogurt and it has made a huge difference in how long I can last between breakfast and lunch.

    • says

      I really appreciate the longer shelf life of ultra-pasteurized, even if it comes with other downsides. I buy about three gallons of milk at a time – even as fast as I drink it, I wouldn’t be able to do that with regular pasteurized.

  9. charlee says

    Growing up, we had a dairy farm down yonder that we always bought our milk from. It was pasteurized but not homogenized. Hence, I always had to shake it up before using it to mix the heavy cream and the milk together. The taste was awesome for the first 48 hours or so but after that it seemed to take on an almost “cow” taste which seemed to be almost to the point of souring. I can’t explain the taste any better than that. You’d know it once you’ve tasted it. My mother had said she put it in our baby bottles too. I drank that until I was 10 years old which is when we moved into the college town away from the country and started drinking store bought milk. Then it went from whole down to skim.

    Yuck, skim milk! You might as well be drinking cloudy water! I eventually settled on 2%. Whole milk is just too thick and 1% is too thin yet. In Florida, I did the renting glass bottles at the local health food store and purchased 2 % Organic milk through them. Crazy expensive. In Atlanta, I had less money and no where close to purchase this same arrangement, so I just bought regular 2% at the store. Until after graduation…then I started buying Organic 2% again but from the grocery store. Here, in NC, I’ve been thinking about going back to the glass bottles, but it is a long haul to the nearest health food store and I’m good with my carton right now. Besides, I recycle. I do miss the taste and temperature of the milk that you get from glass though.

  10. Ashley says

    I’ve been drinking raw milk for about 5 years and have been very happy with it, and have never had a negative effect. I started going for raw milk because I wanted local, family farmed milk, and the only option for that in my area is raw milk from the Amish. I would never purchase raw milk from a farm where I or a good friend hadn’t met the farmer, seen the operation, etc. and thus far it’s worked pretty well for us. We finally have a small local organic milk producer in the area, and depending on how things go with our new farmer (last farmer decided to get out of milk) I may switch.

    • says

      I completely understand the desire for local, family farm milk. If I could find a local, smaller operation that used pasteurization I would definitely give that a try. I know those exist; I just haven’t seen a local one.

      I’ve seen a lot of people mention the idea of meeting the farmer, seeing how they operate, etc. That’s a great thing to do to ensure that the animals are treated well and the business uses practices you want to support. However, it’s important for people to realize that that doesn’t necessarily translate to the bacterial safety of the milk. Yes, a sloppy organization will be more dangerous, but even very careful practices cannot completely eliminate the possibility of fecal contamination of the milk. The anatomy of the cow just doesn’t make that possible.

  11. Leah says

    As always, this is a very interesting post and discussion. I’m a little surprised to be the first to mention grassfed milk as a personal choice. I grew up drinking skim milk, often reconstituted from powder and chilled overnight, and have always found it palatable, but not especially yummy. As an adult I still drink some milk, but not a lot. My 3-1/2 year old son loves milk, and drinks at least 3 small glasses a day. I gave him full fat milk when I first introduced it to him, but gradually transitioned him over to fat free because that is the only kind I can drink (the fattier ones are too thick for me).

    Around the time I started trying to conceive, I started trying to make healthier eating choices to reduce my intake of unfriendly chemicals. Part of that process involved switching to grass-fed beef and organic milk. I was surprised the organic milk didn’t seem to taste different from “conventional” milk. Then I discovered a local health food store carried grass-fed milk, and I tried it. It tasted the way I remember “fresh” milk tasting when I was growing up, and was much richer and more delicious than the conventional and simply organic milk. I figured that if the flesh of grass-fed cows is healthier for your body, which there is quite convincing evidence of, the milk should be, too. In my opinion, it tastes better, at least! I am also fortunate to have a local source for gallon jugs of organic grassfed milk that costs less than most organic (presumably conventionally fed) milk in my area, so that’s what I buy!

    All that said, I suspect some of the previous posters are, in fact, drinking grassfed organic milk, but I thought the distinction was worth drawing.

    • says

      I wondered if the non-homogenized milk I bought was grass fed. It wasn’t organic. It had a more “animal-y” flavor, which might be accounted for more by the diet of the cow than the homogenization or not of the fat. I find grass fed beef to taste *very* different and a little hard to get used to, although not unpleasant. I was pleasantly surprised to discover that the taste of our lamb had the same different flavor I associate with grass fed cow… which makes sense!

  12. says

    honestly after all the research and things like that I grew up on Vitamin D mild and I turned out happy and healthy. I have strong bones and friends of mine have had bone density problems from always using low fat or 1%. It has less in it and honestly I think they might as well have added water to the milk to water it down like 1% and still get the nutrients.

    • says

      I tried to water down whole milk once. I figured since I didn’t mind lower fat milk, I could buy the whole milk, add a little water, and be able to stretch a carton a little longer. It turns out that it just doesn’t work that way. 1% or nonfat milk is not just watered down whole milk. Lower fat milk still tastes like milk and has the consistency of milk. Watered down whole milk basically tastes like water and has the consistency of water.

  13. says

    I went through a similar process, and I drink raw milk because 1) it doesn’t upset my stomach like any kind of pasturized milk does, and 2) it is cheaper than the local, grass fed, non homogenized milk in the store. (and, 3, I’ve never seen heavy cream that is thick enough to spoon!) I go through only about a half gallon per week.

    The test to see if milk has been pasturized is to see if an enzyme has been deactivated, so there is a change in enzymes during pasturization. Whatever this change is, it upsets my stomach.

    In addition, milk that is to be pasturized comes from the same location on a cow, the only difference is that any fecal matter is then cooked into the milk. It won’t make you sick, but still doesnt sound like something tasty.

    Yes, drinking raw milk is dangerous, just like eating food and working with livestock. And, if I were pregnant making this choice, it would be a lot harder. But, as a healthy, not pregnant adult, raw, whole milk is the choice I make.

    (by the way, my partner has tried both raw milk and non homogenized grass fed milk, and dislikes both. He drinks regular milk from the store.)

  14. says

    I have been consuming raw milk for 15 years. At the age of 47 I have not been to the dentist in 15 years and have teeth like a horse. Not a single cavity …. forget about root canals and gum disease! Raw milk is nature’s interferon so all these claims about it being dangerous pretty much get ignored on my part. The real reason “people” are up in arms against raw milk to the point of fabricating illnesses associated with it, is because I suspect it keeps many from having to visit Doctors. Let me add that because I travel extensively throughout the U.S. and have farm shares accordingly, I find it interesting that I have NEVER been ill from drinking it regardless of the different sources for obtaining it. The dangers of raw milk are a running joke in Maine where I reside most of the year. In over 100 years I am told by the dairy farmers that they have NEVER heard of anyone contracting a raw milk related illness. In fact claims of being CURED of diseases are mounting in numbers. The monocarpins in particular have wonderful healing properties. The most dangerous disease is ignorance. If one continuously heeds the media and “doctors” you will certainly contract it! Learn to think for yourselves and stop being so dependant on superficial means of “knowledge”.

    • says


      No one can deny your experience, and it is your right to make decisions for yourself based on whatever criteria you prefer. Myself, I prefer a scientific method of determining knowledge. You have been consuming raw milk for a long time and you have good teeth. Congratulations. What should convince me that the two have anything to do with each other? I have drunk commercial milk my whole life and also have great teeth. Should that be held up as a counterpoint to your argument?

      I’m glad that you have not gotten sick from drinking raw milk. I wouldn’t wish salmonella on anybody. Do you think that the CDC is just making up their numbers about the occurrence of disease from raw milk?

      These farmers you know who have never heard of an outbreak of raw-milk-related disease: were they around in 1992, when an outbreak of campylobacter in central Maine was traced to the consumption of raw milk? This is just a newspaper reference that I was able to find with a few minutes of Google searching. I’m sure if I lived in Maine and raised dairy, I would know of a few others that had occurred in the last 100 years. Maybe these farmers from which you buy raw milk are not as well-informed as they ought to be. What other things don’t they know or aren’t they telling you?

      Here’s a link to a newspaper story on the outbreak, just so you know I’m not making it up:,520443

      Learn to think for yourselves and stop being so dependant on superficial means of “knowledge”.

      This is an incredibly insulting thing to say. Because Issa doesn’t come to the same conclusion as you, she (and, presumably I as well) must be “not thinking for ourselves” and “dependent on superficial means of knowledge”? Intelligent people can disagree.

    • says

      It’s also important to point out that, when a person from Maine talks about raw milk, they are not talking about the same product that most people are talking about. Maine is one of ten states that allows the sale of raw milk from licensed and inspected producers. Maine’s standards for allowable levels of coliform bacteria in raw milk are equivalent to the national standard for pasteurized milk. It stands to reason that a person buying raw milk from a licensed and inspected Maine producer is probably not taking much higher risk than someone buying pasteurized milk.

      Now, ask yourself whether you think the average small dairy selling milk in a cow-share is doing as much as a licensed and inspected Maine producer? Are they testing their coliform bacteria levels, for example? In a lot of cases, I suspect the answer is no, and this is why raw milk is associated with higher risks of disease.

      Those of us (the majority) living in states where gray-market raw milk is the only option simply say, “raw milk,” and mean the gray-market kind. In a national conversation, it may be meaningful to distinguish between the kind of raw milk found in Maine (and nine other states), and the “gray-market” kind.

  15. Renee says

    I’ve contracted latent TB from who knows where and who knows when. I would question the claim that bovine TB has been elliminated. There have been cases of TB in all warm-bodied animals including pets like dogs, cats and livestock and game like deer. It spreads from humans to animals and vice versa. I keep imagining the horrors if my previously undetected disease had become active. My pets would have been euthanized, and I’d be in quarantine alone. It’s modern age has helped us so much. We shouldn’t forget the plagues that hit us fifty years ago. The risks are still there even though we’ve been told not to worry about them.

  16. Louisa says

    I am a raw milk fan. I am not one of the people who thinks everyone should be drinking raw milk, because there are very real health risks, however, after researching the requirements to be certified to sell raw milk in my state(extensive. Less than 20 farms in the whole state of NY are legally certified to sell raw milk), the conditions on the farm that sells it(organic grass fed cows. And their barn is spotless.) and talking to the vet that takes care of their cows and people who have been drinking their milk for years and after all that I feel perfectly safe drinking the milk.

    I love tasting the seasons in it. The spring milk tastes like flowers, delicate and light. The summer milk is rich and full flavored. The fall and winter milks are milder in flavor, but rich and creamy. In addition, my boyfriend cannot drink the processed milk-it gives him digestive issues. So, raw milk in our house, at least as long as we live near this farm!

  17. says

    This post makes me want some milk. ;) And Louisa’s comment makes me want to try raw milk, but alas, I live in Canada, and it’s illegal here. Milk and I don’t get along so well (digestive issues), and I’ve heard that some people do better with raw.

    What was it about the taste of the non-homogenized milk that you didn’t like? I didn’t even know there was such a thing. What did it taste like?

    • says

      Have you tasted grassfed vs cornfed beef? The difference was similar. As in, it’s obviously the same product, it just has a different edge to it. It might even have the same reason – the cows in question for the non-homogenized milk I tried may have been grassfed. The milk had a more… animal-y taste, maybe?

      • says

        Hmmm, I’m not sure if I’ve tasted the difference between those types of beef before. I think most beef here is grassfed…but don’t quote me. A more animal-y taste makes sense.

        Up above, Joshua mentioned that in Maine and 9 other states, they have higher standards for raw milk safety. I was just wondering what the 9 other states were?

  18. Kkelly says

    The problem with allowing people to ‘put anything in their bodies’ that they want to, is that when that person picks up that bottle of milk in the store, how do you know that they have done their research properly? You don’t. I’m not for big time government oversight, but it’s a complex issue. Personally, I don’t believe there is anything ‘healthy’ about milk. Of all the food groups, it is probably only good for taste and preference, and can be left off the list more than anything else and still be healthy. I use almond milk to fill my ‘milky’ desires (because it isn’t a need – people have no business drinking the milk of another species)

    • says

      It doesn’t matter to me if they’ve “done their research”. Research isn’t a prerequisite for bodily autonomy.

      I’ve heard people make the “milk of another species” argument before, and it sounds kind of dumb. We’re omnivores. Milk (of many species) is yummy, often sweet, calorie dense, nutrient dense, available from easily domesticated animals, etc. It’s no weirder to eat it than it is to eat the flesh of an animal or eggs, or, say, something like honey.

  19. says

    Hello – I found your blog via the SITS community and thought I’d pop over for a visit. I don’t drink milk at all as I’m lactose intolerant but my kiddos love it, especially my son – he’d drink milk all day long if we let him! Right now they’re on whole milk as our government recommends that for kids until they’re 2 – but I do buy organic as I read somewhere it was healthier, not sure really though.

  20. Kat says

    I came across this post because I just started drinking grass-fed, lightly pasteurized, non-homogenized milk. I was googling to see if anyone else had the experience I’ve had and your blog came up. I’m Asian and we’re a famously lactose intolerant people. But I LOVE milk and will normally put up with a few tummy aches and an extra trip to the bathroom just to enjoy it. I actually switched over to grass-fed cow’s milk because it’s supposed to be much healthier for you. Cows fed on corn and soy feed produce a lot of Omega 6 in theirmeatamd milk, which leads to an imbalance in humans (we need to maintain a good balance between Omega 3 and 6 to be healthy; some people say the imbalance is a root of cancer). Cows fed on grass (as nature intended) have more Omega 3 and help us humans stay more balanced.

    Anyway, a side bonus to having made the switch is that I realized that the non-homogenized milk (which tastes SO much creamier and richer than normal modern milk) didn’t upset my stomach the way normal milk did. It looks like some of your commenters have had similar results. I’m so happy about this.

    One thing I am curious about: You question the government wanting to control the sale of a possibly harmful substance like raw milk. Do you think the government should also stay out of people’s decisions to consume harmful things like heroin? I’m just curious about people’s standpoints when they make statements about government control.

    • says

      I love questions about governmental control. It’s an interesting and surprisingly complex topic. My opinion about this isn’t static – I might feel differently next year. Here is where I’m at right now: Yes, I think heroin should also be legal. I favor something like the cigarette model, which would try to keep heroin away from people under 18 but would make it readily available for people over 18. Generally, when I think about control of potentially harmful products, I favor the government participating in offering information, but not prohibition. For example, I don’t mind if raw milk comes were to come with warning labels. I also approve of regulating bodies giving “seals of approval”, sort of like we have with organic foods now. I raise meat animals, and if I’m going to eat them myself they can be slaughtered, butchered, and packaged any ole way, but if I’m going to sell them to a customer they have to be USDA processed. I agree with the existence of the USDA seal of approval but I disagree with making the sale of non-USDA meat illegal. I’d like my customers to be able to choose for themselves. In your questioning, you jumped straight to heroin (which is valuable thought-process tool, I agree) but it’s interesting to think of other nearby products without making the extreme jump: for example, raw hamburger is for sale to anyone in any grocery store. It is FAR more dangerous than raw milk if eaten undercooked. It comes with a warning that it should be cooked to a certain internal temperature. Couldn’t raw milk come with the same warning? Then if I want to support local farmers by buying raw milk for soap making, I can do so. Or if I want to drink it I can cook/pasteurize it at home. Just like I do with my hamburger.

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