Wednesday, November 14, 2012

The Raw Milk Affair

I love milk. Oh how I love milk! ...This is starting to sound like a Dr. Suess book --100 Good Parent Points to whomever can tell me which one I'm referring to. So everyday I drink a glass of milk. (Here's a hint as to which Suessian book it comes from: I wear yellow drink milk socks when I drink my milk.)


Onward we go! I grew up on a little family farm in rural Idaho. We had a Jersey cow, (which we milked by hand), as many as two steers, a pig or so, dogs, chickens, rabbits, cats, and fish. We even tried having goats at one point (that didn't really work out for us... They're pretty sneaky).

Oh, and we had a garden that was a full 1/5 of an acre.

My Dad is sort of a revolutionary. He has always believed in foods, and plants that heal and sustain. And though he never spoke to me about it when I was a child, he believed in the healthful properties of raw (unpasteurized) milk. So much so that before we were able to have our own cow, we would buy milk, pre-pasteurization, from a dairyman neighbor. I only remember getting sick a handful of times as a child.

Now as adults, my husband and I buy raw milk for our family. I am asked questions, and told "facts" about this whenever people find out. I thought I'd collect some of my ideas and share them here, answering a few of the questions and "facts" I've heard along the way.

"Aren't you afraid your family will get sick from drinking raw milk?"

I'm not afraid my family will get sick from drinking raw milk. In fact, I am more worried about my family getting sick from pasteurized milk. Since switching to raw milk we are far healthier than before. This may be graphic for some, and I'm sorry, but I feel that it illustrates my point well. My oldest son is 22 months old, and has only had diarrhea once in his little life.

Pasteurization is a relatively new practice actually. Catherine Shanahan is an MD, who studied genetics, and more particularly, how what we ingest can change how our genes are expressed, whether for good or bad. (You can learn more about that specific area of study by looking up the term, epigenetics.) In her book Deep Nutrition, Dr. Shanahan, gives a detailed history of the advent of the first batch pasteurizing machine that came out in 1907. on P. 157 she states,

"A skilled orator and savvy businessman, [Charles North] visited small towns throughout the country creating publicity and interest in his machines by claiming to have come directly from another small town, just like theirs, where people were dying from drinking unpasteurized milk. Of course his claims were total fiction and doctors were staunchly opposed to pasteurization. The facts were on their side. Unfortunately, North had something better -- fear... The pasteurization industry mushroomed from non-existence to a major political presence."

Really, if you consider the life that most dairy cows live, you would never patronize those "farmers" who keep them. (Hopefully!) Humans have been drinking unpasteurized milk from various animals for a very long time, just not animals who were kept in conditions that many modern milk and beef cows are kept in. Dr. Shanahan again states, p. 156, "The need for pasteurization became a reality when in-city dairies housed diseased cows whose hind quarters ran with rivulets of manure. Tainting milks reputation even further, around the same time dairymen were often infected with diphtheria, spreading the deadly bacteria through the medium of warm, protein rich milk."

"But surely with groups like PETA around, that is not how modern dairies function..."

I'm sure we're all familiar with the feed-lot idea that is America's dairy, and beef cow reality. Let's really look at it for a second, though. Most cows are kept in closely confined pens, with not very much room to move around. They sleep there. They are fed there. They defecate there. Many die there.

That is for the beef cow. The dairy cow is kept inside at all times. They are kept inside because the suction cups of the milking machines aren't taken off of them, poor gals! Again, they eat, sleep, and answer the call of nature all in that confined area. It's all about efficiency, you see.

Because the suction cups never get removed from the cow's udders, these cows have very high infection rates, and that infection, (i.e. germs an puss), and coincidentally the antibiotics the poor cows are on, are in the milk.

Dr. Shanahan put it this way, p. 156, "If the animal is sickly -- as they invariably are when raised in crowded, nightmarish conditions -- its milk should probably not be consumed at all." I could not agree more. We only drink milk we know comes from cows who are treated humanely, (pastured), and thus can produce milk that is what it should be, full of nutrients, including beneficial bacteria.

"Did your family get sick when switching from pasteurized milk to raw?"

We didn't. I haven't actually heard of a case where a family did either. Any of my raw milk drinking friends are welcome to contribute their own experiences here.

"The majority of people walking around are actually lactose and/or casein intolerant. Why not just drink Almond milk (or soy milk, or hemp milk... just insert some milk alternative here)?"

I had never heard this idea before a few years ago, and then all of a sudden, it exploded, and I hear it often. I don't mind people not wanting to drink milk because they don't like it, but this is what my studies have taught me about the above idea.

The main idea that I have heard in connection with the above statement is that drinking cow's milk is a new concept. I've heard from some that adults consuming milk originated in Europe, and from others that it is an American phenomenon.

According to Dr. Shanahan, and Sally Fallon, author of Nourishing Traditions, drinking milk is historical, though there are certain populations that are more likely to be, we'll call it milk intolerant, as adults. This has to do with the availability of milk, and it's freshness, and would take a very long time to write about. I would be willing to write about it all, but I don't know if you'd want to read it in this blog post that is already quite long?

To be short, all humans are born producing lactase, (an enzyme that digests the lactose in milk), in their intestines. Through the history of man, many cultures have used milk animals, ie. goats, sheep, cows, camels, you name it. I have even read of some areas where horse milk was utilized. Some cultures have not used milk at all, or have used milk products that were fermented which uses the lactose in it's chemical process, rendering them lactose free.

In those areas where milk animals were used, the gene for making lactase, that handy enzyme, will have been switched to stay on throughout childhood and into adulthood. In areas where milk consumption was a rarity, or in climates where they eat their milk products fermented, this will not be the case. Because their genes were told they didn't need it, the offspring of those groups will, at some point before adulthood, stop making lactase.

Many people in America have quite a conglomeration of genes, (in researching my ancestry I found that I have genes, literally, from all over the globe),  and since using milk animals has been a common practice in many areas of the world through out history, it stands to reason that for many, though not all, adults, the lactase producing gene is still switched on. It is not milk that is wrong, but perhaps it is how we have changed milk that makes it hard for our bodies to digest. Read here for stories from individuals and families whose lives were changed by switching to unpasteurized milk.

If you or someone in your family has a milk allergy, you may be interested in the ideas shared in the film Genetic Roulette.

For more great information on raw milk visit,, and also

P.S. I know my first two links are to the same webpage. I did that on purpose hoping you'd be more likely to read the article if you saw it twice. ;)


  1. We Nelsons LOVE raw milk.

    I used to get 3-4 colds every year. Then I started drinking raw milk, about a year and a half ago, and I have only gotten sick 2x since then. The first time, I was out of town and had not drunk any raw milk in three weeks. The second time I was out of town and had not drunk raw milk in 5 days. Some might call that coincidence... but I believe raw milk to be a serious immune booster! Agrarian communities (like the Amish) have proven to be virtually resistant to whooping cough and the like --- many attribute this to their consumption of raw milk. (Ironically, though I believe this is because the raw milk is supporting strong immunity because of its GOOD bacteria, raw milk critics use this as evidence that raw milk is SO DIRTY that Amish exposure to it over the course of their lives strengthens their immunities against other VERY DIRTY things. (giggle). Franky, if it's supporting immunity, it's supporting immunity.)

    You forgot to mention one BIG issue that people always bring up when they hear we drink raw --- creamy --- whole milk. "Yeah, but I don't want to get fat." Well, not to brag or anything, but if I have changed in size at all since I started drinking raw milk (and eating tons of butter and eggs), it has been in the opposite direction. I feel better than ever.

    The PRICE of raw milk is an issue for many. We are willing to invest in better health, and choose a lighter health coverage plan accordingly. But if more people begin to drink raw milk, and it is vindicated nationally and de-politicized (oh what a dream...), the heavy regulations and restrictions on raw milk production will ease --- and the prices will drop. After all, it takes a lot less time, equipment, labor and money to produce raw milk than pasteurized milk.

    1. Thanks, Meredith! surprisingly, I have never had anyone mention the full fat content of the milk when I mention it to them. Interesting!

      I was going to mention cost as well, but I as I was writing last night, I completely forgot my list of people's concerns. My post was long enough anyway. ha ha But yes, it is an investment to one's health. I have never felt so healthy as I do now. And as an added sign of it's goodness, I found during the morning sickness with my last babe, raw milk was the cure. If I started a morning by drinking a full glass of raw milk, it was a guarantee I'd feel fine through the day.

      Even though this post was long, perhaps it would be good to revisit what Raw milk has, that Pasteurized doesn't, in another post...

  2. We love pastured cows, but not pasteured milk.
    Please pasturize the cows, but do not pasteurize their milk.

    A very informative and enlightening post!

  3. I might start buying some for Finn. I personally don't buy milk because I don't like it :) Sorry! Finn does love it and he is the only one in our family who ever gets colds, so maybe I'll give it a try!

    1. Ha ha ha :) Silly Mia. No need to apologize. There are a lot of people who simply don't like milk. I highly recommend it for whomever does like milk.

      They sell it at Oliver's there. The brand is Organic Pastures.

      Who knows, maybe it's just the pasteurized stuff your taste buds don't like... ha ha ;)

  4. We Reesors LOVE raw milk, too! In fact, I may not drink milk at all if we couldn't get it raw. Pasteurizing milk cancels many reasons that make it a healthy thing to drink. The process renders it dead.

    Raw milk is incredibly biodiverse. It actually builds immunity and reduces inflammation. People with lactose intolerance do not have a problem drinking raw milk, which has the digestive enzymes necessary to process it. There's so much good to say about it!

    Thanks for this great, informative post, Melissa. This subject merits a few more, so let's keep it on the docket!