In the past century, with dairy herds expanding and production rates increasing, herd management became a challenge. Milk was being transported longer distances and stored for longer periods. In these conditions, pasteurizing milk is necessary in order to mitigate the concerns of public health outbreaks. Pasteurized milk does have good nutritional value, and as far as disease outbreaks, carries a very good public health track record. We are aware of the basic reasons. Pasteurization is a result of scientific advancement in germ theory that has saved many countless lives and we benefit from it every day. Unfortunately, the healthy components of raw milk are largely inactivated by the high heat of pasteurization, a trade-off we inherit from the industrial revolution. We know that the proteins, fats, organic acids, vitamins, and minerals take a hard knock when subjected to high temperatures, and for a period, this trade-off was necessary.
Sadly, some studies linked consumption of pasteurized milk with lactose intolerance, allergies, asthma, frequent ear infections, gastro-Intestinal problems, diabetes, auto-immune disease, attention deficit disorder and constipation. Fewer and fewer consumers can tolerate pasteurized milk (Frank Oski, 1983) and even the byproducts made from milk such as cheese and yogurt.
But things are getting better, and we are learning more about what nature has done for us. Raw milk, like any food, carries the risk of becoming contaminated and cause illness. With careful preparation, modern laboratory testing, and the superior sanitation and refrigeration techniques of today, these risks can be eliminated. From the nostalgic home dairy farms of the past to the commercial production facilities of today, dairy farming, although not the same industry it once was, is starting to return to some of the basics. So, what were we missing out on?
Healthy Cows, Healthy Milk
We should know already that raw milk is milk produced by dairy cattle that has not been pasteurized or homogenized. We would be surprised to see raw milk in the grocery stores, and it’s even a rare treat to get to see the cows that produce it. In the event we do see raw milk, we are confronted with labels strongly warning against drinking raw milk, and so have been led to believe that it can be dangerous. But, we should not be surprised to find that drinking raw milk could actually be a benefit to our health, and be great tasting too.
Raw milk can be a safe and healthy food if produced under sanitary and healthy conditions. There are laws to comply with. A certified raw milk dairyman must ensure that all cows are healthy and tested free from diseases such as tuberculosis and brucellosis. They must also ensure that the cow being milked does not have any health infections such as mastitis. If the cow does manage to get sick, it still needs to be milked, so the milk it produces should be separated from the rest of the production until the infection can be overcome. For the best care, the cows should be eating food appropriate to cows, which consists of grasses, hay or silage, with only a small amount of grain, if any. The cows must be cleaned and milked under sanitary conditions and the milk chilled down immediately. The milk produced by these cows will be high butterfat milk, and many important microbial and health-supporting components beneficial to a young calf will be in the fat. But why is milk being pasteurized if raw milk is good for us?
To Your Health
I like to think of raw milk as pre-engineered by nature. It’s surprising to find the amount of complexity there is in raw milk, delicately intertwined enzymes, bacteria, vitamins, minerals, proteins, fats and the plethora of other compounds functioning together to create a true elixir of life. It’s almost sad to think that this warm, delicate, living liquid is now regularly transformed into a diluted, dead, and cold sugar drink. Let’s look a little closer at what it really is and does.
Raw milk has been found to contain Lactobacillus (Fox, 1993), a large family of bacteria that produce organic acids such as lactic acid. These bacteria produce the acids that help us digest the sugars in milk that give milk its sweet taste. Many of us already have these beneficial bacteria in our systems, but those of us that are lactose intolerant may consider asking your doctor about giving raw milk a chance. This same lactic acid also inhibits the growth of bacteria, such as E. Coli, Salmonella, Listeria, and Campy, thereby inhibiting the deterioration of the milk. So the fresher the milk, the more benefit we receive. (Applications for Lactic Acid, n.d.)
Have you ever left a carton of pasteurized milk out on the counter for a few days? I’m sure you’ve experienced the scary putrid result of a bloated milk container sitting on your counter about to explode. With raw milk, you experience a different result. If the temperature and humidity are just right, the lactic acid producing microbes in raw milk transform it into a rich yogurt-like food with a strong sour flavor known as clabber. Clabber was commonly eaten for breakfast with some sugar or molasses to flavor it. It’s production virtually stopped with the advent of pasteurization. But this isn’t the only dish. All around the world, many cultures have created traditional beverages, dishes, and cheeses made from the raw milk; a wide pallet of healthy flavors and textures for us to enjoy.
With all the benefits to your health, it is no wonder that raw milk is becoming more popular, and that is no surprise to us at Finney Farm. Raw milk sales benefit the dairyman and the cows that produce it. Raw milk sales put the money back into the farm, cutting out the middleman, opening up the resources that help to eliminate the excuse for pasteurization and create a direct relationship with the people who produce such great healthy dairy products.
Applications for Lactic Acid. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.purac.com/purac_com/67cbf5490d83dc478dafbd96cab841b1.php
Fox, P. (1993). Handbook of Food Enzymology. Retrieved from http://pt7mdv.ceingebi.unam.mx/computo/pdfs/curso_alm/Enzimas_Leche_HBook.pdf
Frank Oski, M. (1983). Don’t Drink Your Milk.