Raw Milk – The Raw Truth

Raw Milk: What’s the Deal?

A few years back, my family lived in Ethiopia. I was the director of a hospital there, and our town was a five hour drive from the capital city … and supermarkets.  That meant we couldn’t buy milk in our town. But we had fresh, raw milk delivered three times a week from a farmer in our town.  And you know what? That milk was amazing – some of the best milk we’ve ever had.

But here’s the other thing you should know. We pasteurized it.

Home Pasteurization

That’s right. We pasteurized our own milk on the stove. I recall exactly how you do it. 162 degrees for 15 seconds, then rapidly cool. We had a candy thermometer that someone sent us (Amazon doesn’t ship to Ethiopia), and we used it three times a week to pasteurize our milk.

Why Home Pasteurize?

It wasn’t unusual to see infections from raw milk in our hospital. Salmonella, E. coli, even Brucellosis (sounds like Bruce Willis, but it’s much, much worse). Raw milk can be a virtual stew of these bacteria, and pasteurization kills all these pesky pathogens. That’s why physicians and public health officials have long considered Louis Pasteur’s invention in 1864 to be a triumph of modern medicine, on the level with the polio vaccine.

Proponents of Raw Milk

Many proponents of raw milk allege that the heating of milk in the pasteurization process alters the taste and the nutritional benefits.  In her article, “Got E. Coli?” in Scientific American, author Terri Peterson Smith cites Mayo Clinic experts who refute this claim. On the contrary, we know that raw milk can carry organisms dangerous to humans.  So, the benefit of pasteurization far outweighs any deleterious effects on the milk.

It’s also illegal to sell raw milk via retail in Texas and most other states.

In Texas, there are dairies that proudly sell raw milk to the growing group of consumers who are demanding it. It must be sold on the farm itself since it is illegal to sell raw milk via retail in Texas and most other states. One such dairy, the K-Bar Dairy in Paradise, Texas, was found to have two cows who were shedding Brucella bacteria in their milk. Brucellosis is no minor infection. It is often antibiotic resistant, and in this case requires a 21-day course of two antibiotics to safely eradicate it.

Here’s what you should know:

  • Pasteurization DOES NOT reduce milk’s nutritional value.
  • Pasteurization DOES kill harmful bacteria.
  • Pasteurization DOES save lives.
  • The American Academy of Pediatrics strongly supports the position of the FDA and other national and international associations in endorsing the consumption of only pasteurized milk and milk products for pregnant women, infants, and children.

Being More Natural While Still Being Safe

Look, I get it. In today’s highly technological society, we are all looking for ways to be more natural, more organic, more healthy.  But the fact remains, that pasteurization was and is a major leap forward for human society, relegating milk-borne illness to the annals of history.  Let’s not resurrect these diseases for a taste of some idealized milk that doesn’t really exist.