Raw Milk

Okay, so talk to me about raw milk. I love the flavor, but the FDA says I’m a fool to drink it. But aha! say the Granola Birkenstock Brigade, that’s just the FDA knuckling under to Big Dairy, which is the sort of conspiracy theory I would have poo-pooed in my youth, but which seems possible now that I know a bit more about lobbying.

And should I be worried about the effects of RBGH, or pus from factory dairies? Or is the former not harmful, and the latter an unavoidable fact of milk.

It’s very confusing.

Raw milk has a very different consistency compared to “supermarket” milk.

I was raised on milk straight from the farm, which was boiled/heated for a few minutes to kill whatever bacteria were in there, and I’ve never had better milk in my life. As far as I know, the risks are fairly minimal anyway, but the homogenizing process that practically all milk goes through really makes more of a difference than plain pasteurization.

Here’s one of the biggest anti- sites.


HUS does sound nasty.

I’ve had raw milk. Very tasty.

You can buy non-homogenized milk that is pasteurized. I have, and it tastes just like milk from my families farm- after being refrigerated, of course.

Raw milk is dangerous and adds nothing to taste or nutrition.

When you boil raw milk the bits of fat (even if you skimmed it) cook into bits of glop. You get used to it, if you’re in Bulgaria and your other choice is the possibility of typhoid, but it’s disgusting.

Have inspected the farm where the raw milk is produced? Do you have the ability to judge whether their practices are sanitary?

Yes, my wife goes to the farm each week and sees the two cows, and has seen the milking equipment. At the moment we’re getting the milk for free because he’s going through the process of getting licensed (he can’t sell it), so he gets inspected pretty often.

Raw milk isn’t really a product these days; it’s a process.

The process means that you have to watch over your cows constantly, try to make sure they avoid all the myriad of diseases that cows are prone to, and do this perfectly all the time, without exception.

Many small farms with small herds do have very good track records. If you know your farm and your farmer, then the odds are good.

The but… is enormous. It’s really tough to keep cows truly clean and disease-free. There are temptations to increase the size of the herd to profit from the rising interest in raw milk, and every cow added makes it that much tougher to enforce perfection. The outbreaks of disease are real. It’s not the dairy industry that comes down on raw milk - and why would they since it’s not even 0.01% of their volume - but the health authorities at the federal and state levels.

They are helped by the sheer unscientific craziness of some of the raw milk supporters, who make claims about raw milk that have no foundation. (You’d be amazed at how many of their footnotes wind up being from one particular 1938 book. How much else about medicine would you trust from a 1938 book?)

The article cited by the OP is an example of sheer craziness, IMO. I’d also note that he’s taking much of his information from the Weston A. Price Foundation, which is essentially Big Raw Milk. They are a well-funded lobby that do nothing but propaganda about raw milk. If I had to choose whether I believed them or the National Dairy Council, I’d take the NDC a thousand times over. The Price people are truly scary.

I grew up drinking raw milk on the farm. I miss it, even though I know pasteurized milk is safer. But it did taste wonderful.

We drink raw milk that we get from a semi-local dairy (it’s about 150 miles or so away) through a local co-op buying group. We’ve been to the farm; the differences between the conditions there and those at a large commercial dairy cannot be overstated.

Its the best milk I’ve ever tasted. I grew up drinking 2% supermarket milk, then switched to 1%, because anything more than that tasted ‘thick’ to me. Now I drink whole milk, which I need to shake before pouring, and the supermarket milk just tastes ‘flat’.

Yes, it’s possible that I could get sick from drinking unpasteurized milk. I could also get sick from eating spinach, or hamburger, or tomatoes, or I could get hit by a bus crossing the street, or a meteorite might fall on my head. Of all of these risks, I’m really, in all seriousness, most concerned about the bus.

The way I’ve heard it expressed, is you shouldn’t trust raw milk unless you know the name of the cow. As in, the farmers who name each of their cows individually are the sort who would keep a close enough eye on conditions to make it safe.

I’ve had raw milk before, still warm from the cow, at the farm of some Mennonite friends of the family. To make it even more luxurious, these particular cows had been bred for high fat content, so it was something like 7% instead of the more usual 3 or 3.5%. It was indeed very tasty.

Okay so figure that you’ve got product A where you have to spend a bunch of money to process it a bunch, and then sell it at the dirt minimum price because it’s a boring product with no luster to it. And then you’ve got product B where you don’t have to spend as much money processing it, and you can mark it up in price because it’s a sleek and sexy product with a whole Yuppie movement behind it.

Why exactly would you lobby -against- your own ability to create and sell product B?

Not 100% safe, but a damn sight safer.

I’m not following your point - who is ‘you’ here? Are you saying big dairy could get in the business of selling raw milk?

It’s “Elsie,” right? Aren’t they all “Elsie”?


Yes. Why would Big Dairy say, “A new product we could sell!? Oh noes! We don’t like money!”?

There is only one real-world reason why dairy groups would be opposed to raw milk.

The more raw milk that is sold, the more disease outbreaks that will follow. And that will turn people off to all milk.

You absolutely cannot get raw milk proponents to understand that, but no conspiracy theory makes any sense.

As is often the case, Slate covers the issue very well.

Note this:

I doubt there has been one outbreak linked to pasteurized milk, despite the fact it is 200 times more common.

I can see people wanting non-homogenized milk (it was available when I was a kid; I didn’t care for it), but pasteurization is essential.

I grew up on raw milk. It arrived in big, glass jars and still had the cream on top. My mom would ladle the cream out into a smaller jar. It was delicious. There was a thread hear that turned into a huge argument about raw vs. pasteurized milk but I just can’t ever seem to get the search function to work the way I want so I can’t find it.

Note that they sell Un-homogenized milk *exactly *like that today. You can buy it (at least in CA) in any large Organic Grocery or any gourmet food store.

Too many dudes confuse Homogenization with Pastuerization. Homogenized milk has a very different texture and somewhat different taste. Pastuerized milk is nearly undetectable.

This book, of which I know nothing, may be full of crazy, invalid, unsubstantiated raw milk claims, but the fact that it’s from 1938 is really quite irrelevant. I mean seriously, are you going to toss out evolution (1854), a heliocentric system (1543), or the Pythagorean theorem (~500 BCE) just cuz they’re old?

Raw milk has acidophilus, which aids in digestion. So raw milk does provide a health benefit over cooked milk. Of course, you can get the same thing from yogurt, so the dangers of disease from raw milk probably aren’t worth the benefit.