What Exactly is Raw Milk?
Raw milk is milk obtained from cows that has not been heated or treated in any way before reaching the customer. The milk is simply obtained, generally from a cow or a goat, filtered, placed into sterilized bottles, sealed, labeled and stored in a refrigerator. Because raw milk is filled with a ton of wonderful healthy enzymes, selling it in its original state means the customer benefits from all of its goodness. The argument for raw milk over pasteurized milk stems from the fact that once pasteurization has taken place, both good and bad bacteria is destroyed. Unfortunately, pasteurization destroys many of milk's nutritional properties along with the bad. With raw milk, the nutritional properties are not disturbed. This causes many individuals to feel raw milk is a wonder food, filled with nutrition and chockfull of healing properties. While this may be true, raw milk comes with a lot of red tape attached to it. While drinking raw milk was the only way to go before the 1930s, today it's hard to even find a dairy that offers raw milk legally.
Is Raw Milk Dangerous?
Raw milk has the label "high risk" stamped all over it, and with good reason. It has a bad reputation. Pasteurization began in 1930. Before that time, sickness and death were often attributed to drinking raw milk. Many infants died as a result of raw milk that was infected with E. coli and/or Salmonella. Based on today's standards, however, it's obvious that sanitary conditions in the early 1900s were less than adequate, especially in areas where cows were crowded into feces covered paddocks and stalls. We also know that while a person can become deathly ill or even die from drinking contaminated raw milk, the same is true of contaminated pasteurized milk. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, since 1998, nearly 800 people in the United States have been sickened from raw milk or cheese made from raw milk. Scientists at the University of California's San Diego School of Medicine also have issued a warning about drinking raw milk based on the findings of a disease, straight out of the ancient textbooks, that suddenly has regained a foothold due to infected milk and cheese consumption. The disease is a strain of TB called Mycobacterium bovis TB. This form of bacteria is particularly resistant to drug therapy and patients often die before treatment is complete. How safe milk is really depends on whether the living conditions for the milked animals are sanitary, and whether their food and water are free of contaminants.
Two Kinds of Raw Milk
There are two types of raw milk. One is clean raw milk and one is dirty raw milk. Clean raw milk comes from organically grazed grass-fed cows and sanitary dairies. Dirty raw milk can also come from organic grass-fed cows. The kicker is that the "handler" or "handling procedures" must be pristine. When milk and/or milking procedures are not hygienic, there is danger of E. coli contaminants from fecal matter getting into the milk. But bovine excrement is soupy and sloppy, which makes it nearly impossible for pristine conditions, even in the cleanest of dairy facilities. Other illnesses that occur on dairy farms where both raw and pasteurized milk are produced include Campylobacter, Salmonella and Listeria, which spread from feedlots to dairies and even to grass-fed pastures. These illnesses have the ability to cause severe gastrointestinal problems, diarrhea, vomiting, kidney problems, nervous system issues, and even death, especially in children, those with compromised immune systems, and the elderly. The risk of becoming ill from drinking raw milk is, of course, a real concern, but some consumers feel having the option to drink raw milk should be their decision, not that of the U.S. Government. Despite the possible danger, their voice has been heard. Currently, 28 states allow the sale of raw milk.