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Why raw milk?

Raw milk is preferred by a growing number of people across the world for a variety of reasons related to nutrition, food security, and fairness in production of the dairy we consume. It is emblematic of the greater struggle to establish our right to produce, trade, and consume food independently – outside the controls and bottlenecks of the commodities market. Raw milk is a nutritious food, safer than ever, has many uses beyond drinking, and our regulatory environment should make way and support our right to access it freely.

This is a brief rundown from this website’s producer and web app developer on the many factors that contribute to our collective interest in raw milk.

Fairness in food production

Raw milk for human consumption is produced, filtered, cooled, and bottled on the farm. Producers then sell the milk themselves. The milker/ owner might drive it to the store, or their employee might drive it to a pickup spot – they introduce their product to the market directly.

Milk for pasteurization can only be sold to milk processors, who then sell the milk under their label. Because the farmer who produces raw milk for pasteurization can only sell to the milk processor, processors set the price. Processors can also reject the producer’s milk, due to operational constraints or other reasons, forcing the farmer to dump good milk down the drain as they can not legally sell it elsewhere. Depending on the commodities market is putting farmers out of business, and driving some into raw milk production (an upgrade).

Choosing raw milk allows our farmers to maintain ownership of their production from start-to-finish.

When a raw milk farmer needs an extra buck per gallon, they are free to set the price. This makes the independent raw milk operation more resilient, and ready to perform in a rapidly changing environment, than the conventional dairy farms who are bottlenecked by milk processing corporations.

Food security

Conventional dairy production is a fragmentation of local monopolies. If the food processor shuts down, the output of many dairies in the region are halted. Those farms must continue producing milk, just to pour it down the drain and hope the processor starts buying their milk again soon.

Raw milk production is distributed. Caretaking of animals, milking, cooling, filtering, bottling, and storage are all conducted on the farm. Raw milk products are then delivered to points of distribution by the farm. If one farm shuts down, only one farm shuts down.

During covid, it was big news that food processors were shutting down or constraining their operations. Organic pasteurized milk was off the shelves at my grocery store for two weeks in one stretch. Raw milk farmers in my area didn’t miss a delivery, and they grew because of that. This project, which began in 2018, started to grow because consumers were finding raw milk as the only organic-esque option available to them in that time.

Safer than ever

Switching from pasteurized milk to raw milk represents a move from near-zero risk to low risk.

We are no longer in the era of Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle, or the Swill Milk Scandal. There are exceptions in the large scale ag industry, but that’s another topic. Unpasteurized milk sales were made illegal in a wave of insanely high illness from milk produced in the early industrial era. Not only did that wave end a long time ago, we now have technology to help produce clean raw milk.

Raw milk farmers must ensure their food production is clean, in ways that industrial farmers can forego by leaning on pasteurization. If a raw milk cow is in poor health, they might get sick, making it necessary to remove them from production. If a pasteurized milk cow is in poor health, who cares if they get sick? Their milk will simply be sterilized before commerce, while they contribute to the spread of Avian Influenza – this is considered the “near-zero” risk option.

Raw milk is safer than ever with modern equipment and testing procedures. This is a big topic, because nobody wants to get sick – or make anyone sick by their milk or milk recommendation.

Similar to eating out, raw milk illnesses are usually caused by mishandling. Raw milk can be produced cleanly by ensuring each step of the production process is clean. Cows can be tested. Equipment surfaces and crevices can be tested. Bulk tanks and bottles can be tested. Unlike the 1800s, we have ways of catching pathogens before they hit the shelves. Watch as a raw milk farmer tests their milk on-site.

While it’s very loudly stated that 95% of milk-related illnesses are caused by raw milk, with only 5% caused by pasteurized milk, both numbers are microscopic. Getting sick from raw milk is not commonly experienced.

In recent legislative hearings, numbers were brought by opponents to the legalization to raw milk. Commissioner Mike Strain of Louisiana stated that 3.2% of the US population consumes raw milk – greater than 10 million people. He went on to state that 761 get sick per year, with 22 cases requiring hospitalization (for any period of time), and no deaths. That’s a 0.007% risk of getting something as mild as a stomach ache, and a 0.0002% risk of greater severity. If you are healthy and consuming raw milk from a clean source, the personal risk is assumably far lower.

Hardly sounds like “Darwin Award” material, as doomsayers like to pretend.

Many people who experience health conditions which put them at the greatest risk of getting sick, if pathogens are present, choose raw milk. They might do so because they have lost faith in the healthcare system. Some do not have access to good healthcare and are navigating their health differently, with a basis on making sure they eat plenty of the best food they can get. They might be the ones who are most likely to be hospitalized by consuming an incidental bacterium, yet they still choose it, and that is their decision to make.

Not all immune systems operate with equal effectiveness, though. Two people can contract the exact same bug and only one of them can get sick based on the condition of the person. For the healthy, chances of getting sick at all are vanishingly small. Those of us who are less likely to get sick aren’t obliged to operate as one would if they were more fragile.

Health officials should provide data and recommendations without encouraging panic or superstitious paranoia.

Nutrition unaltered

More than microbes are destroyed when milk is pasteurized. The official test for ensuring that milk has been sufficiently pasteurized is the alkaline-phosphatase test, which verifies that the enzyme phosphatase has been destroyed.

FDA’s position is that this damage is insignificant, or that the loss of nutrition is not significant enough to take priority over maximizing food safety towards pathogens. Many raw milk consumers are deciding that this gain in nutrition takes priority for them.

Milk or dairy intolerance

All ancestors of milk-tolerant individuals started off intolerant to milk. They simply tolerated it, and now we can enjoy dairy products. Some are choosing to embark on this journey today.

Many raw milk consumers report adverse effects on their body when consuming pasteurized milk, and that consuming raw milk does not instigate this effect. The research said to debunk their experience is wanting, as its sample size consisted of only 16 people and focused specifically on markers for lactose intolerance.

We know now that there are many different kinds of negative reactions that people have when ingesting dairy foods, not just lactose intolerance. Adverse reactions to milk have been avoided by switching to goat milk, A2 milk, and non-homogenized whole milk. Raw milk often contains one or more of these characteristics.

Fermentation has also been used to prevent adverse effects of dairy consumption within individuals, cheese and kefir being common solutions.

We don’t know the exact mechanism to attribute when someone reports that raw milk cured their milk intolerance. There could be different mechanisms at play for different people. I’m in the camp that assumes enzymes and probiotics are immediately deconstructed on contact with stomach acid. However, those components might act on the macronutrients in the milk in a way that render them easier to digest and assimilate.

Utility in the rawest state

Raw milk is required to produce an array of distinct cheese varieties. There are many cheeses across the world which are not available for export, but are possible to create if you have raw milk.

Cosmetic products like soap can also be made with raw milk.

It’s also possible to pasteurize your own milk. I’ve seen it happen.

Onward

Raw milk consumers are deciding that the risk is not high enough to deter adoption. California’s raw milk reform in 2007 permits raw milk cheese, butter, cream, kefir, and more to be sold in grocery stores. In 2023: Iowa, North Dakota, Georgia, and Alaska legalized raw milk sales. West Virginia and the City of Albuquerque, New Mexico, have legalized raw milk in 2024. Louisiana is working on it right now.

Demand is at an all-time high.

Raw milk by species

Raw Cow MilkRaw A2 Cow MilkRaw Goat MilkRaw Sheep MilkRaw Donkey MilkRaw Camel MilkRaw Buffalo Milk

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Tuesday, May 21, 2024 at 1:31 PM Pacific Time

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