Raw milk versus pasteurized milk has become a big issue in the last few years. People who believe in raw milk have even gone so far as to pay three or four times as much for raw milk as pasteurized, and some farmers, break the law to sell it. Raw milk supporters believe minimally processed milk is much healthier and much better for you than pasteurized. Pasteurized milk supporters claim raw milk drinkers are putting themselves at risk, and they see it as health issue with serious consequences. So, here’s the scoop.
The Pasteurized Milk View
Pasteurization is a process where milk is heated to high temperatures and then cooled quickly. It is done because it kills off most bacteria found in milk. Pasteurized milk is also homogenized. Homogenization is a process where milk is forced through a straining equipment so that fat globules are broken up and distributed evenly throughout the milk. Both pasteurization and homogenization are seen as beneficial to pasteurized milk fans.
Supporters of pasteurized milk claim that drinking raw milk is dangerous. To prove their point, they note the following:
- Campylobacter jejuni made at least 58 people sick in June 2006 when they consumed unpasteurized cheese curds in Wisconsin.
In January 2006, five people became ill from campylobacteriosis after they drank raw milk purchased from a Colorado dairy.
Six Washington state children became infected in December 2005 with a potentially deadly form of E. coli after they drank unpasteurized milk.
The Center for Disease Control (CDC) also claims that “milk is heated to a very high temperature for a tiny amount of time, say 15 seconds. And during that time, most of the germs or the unhealthy bacteria in the milk is destroyed. Because it doesn’t get to the boiling point, the proteins and the enzymes and the nutrients in the milk are not destroyed, but the bacteria and the germs that could cause illness are almost completely eliminated.” Another plus pasteurized milk supporters maintain is that pasteurized milk lasts longer on the shelf than raw milk.
The Raw Milk View
Raw milk supporters, lead by Weston A. Price Foundation’s campaign for Real Milk, claim that Americans used to buy fresh, whole, non-toxic, pasture-raised raw cow’s milk, whereas today’s milk comes from holstein’s “bred to produce huge quantities of milk—three times as much as the old-fashioned cow.” They also maintain the homogenization process causes fat and cholesterol to create disease-causing free-radicals and that such dairy products are linked to health problems including allergies, cancer, and heart disease. Another objective they have is that pasteurized and homogenized milk has added hormones and synthetic additives, such as vitamin D.
Raw milk supporters have other reasons to avoid pasteurized milk. For instance, they say pasteurized milk doesn’t taste as good as raw milk and pasteurization decreases a person’s resistance. Another complaint, based on a study by Kramer, et al, and originally published in an Ohio Agricultural bulletin in 1933, claims that “less favorable calcium balances in adults [were achieved] with pasteurized milk than with ‘fresh milk’ and…that milk from cows kept in the barn for five months gave less favorable calcium balances than did ‘fresh milk’.”
Raw milk supporters also point out that in addition to the above mentioned problems, when milk is pasteurized and homogenized the following occurs:
- Beneficial bacteria are destroyed.
- Milk enzymes are destroyed, such as lactase and phosphatase. The maintain that without these enzymes, milk cannot be digested well and may be one reason why so many people are “lactose intolerant.”
- Milk proteins are less usable because of denaturing and may even be dangerous to the body.
- Vitamins such as B6, B12 and C are destroyed, as well as folate (vitamin B9).
There are also a number of consumers who claim that health problems that existed when they drank pasteurized and homogenized milk disappeared after they stopped drinking it and that even when they started drinking raw milk, those same health issues did not reappear. Here’s one of many You Tube clips that present the view point of raw milk users and supporters.
There are several things to keep in mind, if you fall on the side of raw milk. First, pregnant woman, infants, and immuno-compromised people may be at greater risk for a food-borne illness with raw milk, at least according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). However, another site claims pasteurized milk has a greater chance of making you sick than raw milk. The second point is once raw milk is bottled and distributed on a large scale basis, there may be a greater likelihood of contamination. Personally, I recently switched and am now drinking raw organic milk because I’m worried about the pasteurization issues, and I’ve not had any problems so far.
Here are other sites with more information from both sides on the raw milk versus pasteurization milk issue: