By now, you've heard of the growing interest in raw milk. Or maybe you haven’t. You may be perfectly happy with milk from the store. And when you hear a comment or report on the radio, you dismiss it out of hand. Turn the page. Turn off the radio. Who are the nut jobs who are into that stuff? Haven’t they heard of the outbreaks of sickness and deaths in the U.S. that led to the pasteurization of milk? Don't raw milk proponents know that raw milk is dangerous and full of bacteria?
On behalf of all the nut jobs out there, let me answer these questions. The answers are: yes and no. Yes, we know when and why pasteurization began, and no, we’re not worried. We know that raw milk is full of bacteria, but we believe that a lot of that bacteria is good for us, in the same way that bacteria in yogurt and other “super foods” is good for us. We don't believe raw milk is any more dangerous than other real foods.
Let me address this last concern first. In 2013, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) indicated that nearly half of foodborne illnesses in the U.S. from 1998 to 2008 were linked to fruits, nuts, leafy greens, and other vegetables. People are not steering clear of these foods today. My point? Any food can be mishandled and become a carrier of pathogens (bad bacteria). Rather than being afraid of food, we need to look to find ways to make sure we get it from the safest, cleanest source.
In fact, this is why pasteurization was applied to milk in the first place. There was an interest in making our milk “safe” or "safer." People were becoming sick because they were drinking milk from cows kept in poor sanitary conditions. But rather than changing the conditions of the cows, the idea was to pasteurize (or heat up) the milk to eliminate the pathogens. Unbeknownst to us, pasteurization changed the milk drastically--from a living product to a dead one. Pasteurization killed the bad bacteria, indeed. But it also got rid of the good stuff at the same time. It resulted in a product with a good long shelf life, but that wasn't good for our lives. Despite ads to the contrary, this milk doesn't do a body good.
In contrast, raw milk, from healthy cows in good conditions, is an amazing healthy food, teaming with good bacteria (and pathogen-fighting bacteria that “kills” any bad guys that crop up). Even the Mayo clinic in the 1930s had a program for using milk to kill a variety of ills, called "the milk cure." Yes, doctors once considered raw milk good and healing, when produced in sanitary conditions.
I equate milk pasteurization with meat irradiation. In 2000, the USDA passed a regulation allowing for meat to be irradiated to avoid spoilage and to keep it "safer" for consumers. Why wasn't it safe from the get-go? Unsanitary slaughterhouse practices were causing feces (and bad bacteria) to splash onto the meat. Rather than correcting the problem at its root (the slaughterhouse), they opted to blast our beef and poultry with radiation.
Personally, I trust whole, real foods, more than I trust what others tell me is best. And I also listen to others' experience. More and more people struggle with digesting "safe" pasteurized dairy products. While those drinking raw milk and eating raw cheeses are finding healing.
Listen to this week's podcast episode with Charlotte Smith for one example. (Click here or go to Stitcher or westonaprice.org.) As a young mom, she was looking for a cure for her children's eczema. She came upon raw milk and became so convinced of its beneficial impact that she started a micro dairy (three cows only). I have to say, hers is a very mooooving story! (I couldn't resist the pun!)
You may find yourself completely unswayed by the above. Rawesome. I urge you to keep your eyes and ears open. Apply your own skills of observation to the situation (and to your own body, should you decide to try it out). I am eager to hear what you conclude!