Allow me to serve you a refreshing, cold glass of facts regarding these two conflicting sides of the milk battle. Let’s begin…
For starters, we need to define pasteurization. It is the process of heating milk to a high enough temperature and for a long enough time to kill illness-causing bacteria contained in the milk. Non-pasteurized milk can be from cows, goats, sheep or other animals and it’s usually referred to as‘raw’ milk.
Those that support the process of pasteurizing milk, turn to the FDA (US Food and Drug Administration) and CDC (Center for Disease Control). These two organizations strongly advise not drinking raw milk as there is a risk of outbreaks of Listeria, e. Coli and Salmonella (to name a few). According to the CDC, these outbreaks accounted for more than 1,000 illnesses, more than 100 hospitalizations and two deaths between 1998 and 2005. Dr. Hannah Gould, senior epidemiologist with the CDC, has noted that raw milk is responsible for nearly three times more hospitalizations than any other food borne disease (1). As I do applaud the desire to keep harmful diseases at bay, I find it interesting to note that pasteurization doesn’t kill all the bacteria found in milk. It inhibits growth long enough so that you don’t get the disease while you dunk a cookie in a tall glass of it (2). These agencies also claim that pasteurization of milk doesn’t have a negative impact to its overall nutrients as some opponents claim. However, they do state for heat sensitive water-soluble vitamins that there is a reduced amount found in milk that has been pasteurized as well as a decrease of vitamin C (3). Supporters stand firm that any difference in nutrition is negligible since pasteurization saves its consumers of certain harmful diseases and that there is no evidence of it causing damage to those who do drink it.
Now, let’s flip the coin on the other side, shall we. Supporters of raw milk point out that there are many individuals who are raised on raw milk and experience no ill side effects. They also state that there are benefits to be experienced by those who make the switch. A survey performed by Weston A. Price, which included over 700 families, determined that over eighty percent of those diagnosed with lactose intolerance no longer suffered from symptoms after switching to raw milk. There is substantial evidence from studies in Europe that consumption of raw milk during childhood may protect against asthma, allergies and other immune-mediated diseases (4). We also have findings by Dr. Ted Beals, MD, who was featured in the summer 2011 issue of Wise Traditions, showing that we are actually about 35,000 times more likely to get sick from other foods than you are from raw milk (5). Many claim that the process of pasteurization reduces the nutritional quality of milk products. Along with this, there is research that shows a decrease in manganese, copper and iron after the heating process that happens during pasteurization (6). The FDA has acknowledged that pasteurization destroys a substantial portion of the vitamin C in milk and the sterilization that takes place is also known to significantly impair the bioactivity of vitamin B6 contained in milk (7).
So, what does this all mean? Well, at the end of the day, we each have to make the best informed decision we feel is best for our families. I will say, though, after researching both ‘processes’, I can only support raw milk and the organic farms that supply it. Why? Well, when I look at conventional dairy farms where cows stand in a feedlot and in manure all day, their milk is filled with hormones and antibiotics from the subpar genetically modified foods they receive. Then, when I look at organic farms where raw milk is produced and cows are grazing the fields eating grass, as nature intended, I know I can trust the quality of that milk. The milk is from healthy cows and conditions. I also find it interesting that there are some European nations that sell raw milk in vending machines AND there are no mass morgues for individuals who ingest that milk.
Here’s my advice to you. I encourage you to contact a local organic farm and ask questions about their animals. What are they fed? What are the living conditions of the animals? How do they process their animals’ milk? Speaking to a farmer may actually bring you peace of mind. As a consumer, you have a right to ask questions and be informed. You may be pleasantly surprised by what you hear.
Take a look at what Dr. Oz, a cardiothoracic surgeon, teaching professor at Columbia University, and famous talk show host, has to say about raw milk.