Raw dairy

Dairy causes a great deal of controversy among nutrition consultants.  Some say dairy products are vitally important, others say use only non-fat and low fat products, while others say the decrease in lactase enzyme in adults is evidence that we are not supposed to consume milk products past early childhood. Vegans say that cow milk is for cow, and absolutely not for humans.

There is some truth and some falsehood to each of these notions.  However, we rarely dispute the most important fact– that milk should be consumed raw – as nature intended.

Dairy is one of the most common food sensitivities and allergies.  New researchers and clinicians such as Dr. Mercola (www.mercola.com) believe that the problems with dairy stem from pasteurization, as this process:

  • Kills the natural enzymes
  • Kills good bacteria (that fights bad bacteria)
  • Reduces vitamin content and destroys vitamins C, B12 and B6
  • Alters the molecular structure of the protein molecules possibly causing casein intolerance
  • Promotes pathogens and is associated with allergies
  • Contributes to increases in tooth decay, colic in infants, growth problems in children, osteoporosis, arthritis, heart disease and cancer.

Calves feed pasteurized milk don’t thrive and often die before adulthood.  The homogenization process with emulsifies the fat into the milk so it doesn’t separate is also harmful, especially to the heart – increase the rates of heart disease. Ultra-pasteurization is even worse than standard pasteurization methods, used to get rid of heat-resistant bacteria and give it a longer shelf life, this process takes milk from a chilled temperature to above the boiling point in less than two seconds.

Safety

Public health officials warn that raw milk poses the risk of transmitting bacteria such as listeria, E. coli and salmonella. Pasteurization was instituted in the 1920s to combat tuberculosis, infant diarrhea, fever and other diseases caused by poor animal nutrition and dirty production methods of mass produced milk. Pasteurization kills these bacteria while extending the milk's shelf life - the dairy industry profits while consumers and cows suffer.  With modern organically raised cows, stainless steel tanks and milking machines, refrigerated trucks and inspection methods many of the reasons for pasteurization are eliminated.

The biggest public campaign against raw milk has been all of the fear around safety, so let’s examine this much more closely.  The Weston A. Price Foundation Website (http://westonaprice.org) states:

“Except for a brief hiatus in 1990, raw milk has always been for sale commercially in California, usually in health food stores, although I can remember a period when it was even sold in grocery stores. Millions of people consumed commercial raw milk during that period and although the health department kept an eagle eye open for any possible evidence of harm, not a single incidence was reported. During the same period, there were many instances of contamination in pasteurized milk, some of which resulted in death.”

On May 19, 2004, Mark McAfee, founder of Organic Pastures Dairy, stated:

“For the last four years, Organic Pastures Dairy has produced a full line of raw organic dairy products for retail sale (300 stores including Whole Foods) and consumption here in California.  The state of California (CDFA) monitors and tests all of our raw dairy products multiple times per month. The state has never found one pathogen (salmonella, E. coli O157:H7 or listeria) in any of our products.  Even more interesting is the fact that not one human pathogen has ever been found in the hundreds of environmental swabs that have been taken in our plant facility. ... The typical conventional milk tank had either salmonella or E. coli O157:H7 detected about 30 percent of the time.  In comparison, Organic Pastures has never had one pathogen – ever.”

While it is certainly possible to become sick from drinking contaminated raw milk, it is also possible to become sick from almost any food source. 

Commercial vs. Raw vs. Organic

Much of vegans concern over milk on is how poorly the cows are treated.  There is nothing natural about how cows used to produce commercial milk are raised - selectively bred to generate the most milk, fed a diet high in protein, kept in confined spaces, and fed antibiotics to combat poor living conditions, treatment, and disease – these cows are not naturally raised healthy animals.  They pump out three to four times the amount of milk of their counterparts and die prematurely.

Cows raised for raw milk production are often old-fashioned Jersey and Guernsey cows and well taken care of.  They need to be because there are no antibiotics poured into their “feed.”  In fact, in many cases there is not feed.  They graze on pesticide-free green grass and get plenty of sunlight.  This creates an abundant amount of vitamins A & D present in the butterfat. 

Be aware even cows raised for organic (but pasteurized) milk are often not raised on their natural diet of green grass.  While organic is certainly superior to commercial milk, it is lacking many of the properties of raw milk due to pasteurization (and often homogenization).

Whole Fat Milk

The low fat and non-fat milk recommendations of many nutritionists of the past did not take the importance of the essential milk fatty acids and fat soluble vitamins into consideration.  Even today, most people think they are doing a good thing by consuming low fat milk.  When we are talking about pasteurized milk products deficient in all of the important qualities of pasture-raised, raw dairy - good essential fatty acids, vitamins A & D, enzymes, probiotics, and more – this may be true.

These vitamins A and D are needed for proper assimilation of calcium and protein. The fat in milk is rich in fatty acids, which protect against disease and stimulate the immune system. It contains glyco-spingolipids which prevent intestinal distress and conjugated linoleic acid which has strong anticancer properties and aids fat burning.

Additionally, low fat milk has powdered skim milk added, and in the process of powdering it, the cholesterol is dangerously oxidized – creating a substance that is damaging to the arteries. It is not the fat in milk, but the oxidation of the cholesterol added to milk that creates heart disease. This high heat drying process also creates cross-linked proteins and nitrate compounds, which are carcinogenic.  Additionally, free glutamic acid is created which is toxic to the nervous system and a big problem for many with autism - one of the many reasons milk is not tolerated by children with autistic spectrum disorders.

Digestibility

The natural enzymes, probiotics, and unadulterated proteins make raw milk much easily to digest and assimilate than commercial milk products.  The processed of heating the milk during pasteurization alters the protein and is believed to be one of the factors creating the high rates of casein sensitivity.

Milk and cheeses from raw milk contain a full array of enzymes and therefore are more easily digested. When cheese is eaten unheated it is even more digestible. In addition, when milk is fermented, casein is predigested, making digestion of casein easier.

While it is true that some populations do not continue to produce lactase, (the enzyme to break down lactose and prevent lactose-intolerance) additional decline in lactase in adults is due to overuse of antibiotics and the deficiency in good bacteria that results.  Raw milk and lactobacillus in fermented milk have adequate amounts of enzymes present to break down the milk for easy digestion, while pasteurization kills these enzymes and probiotics.

Research and Resources

Because of this fear that has been created again unpasteurized dairy, most states don’t even sell raw dairy – only California, Connecticut and New Mexico do.  If your state does not sell raw milk commercially, you can often get it from the farm, a coop, cow share or other non-commercial means. 

As this is such an important decision, especially for children and the immune compromised, it is essential for you to do your own research to feel personally comfortable before proceeding.  Here are a few resources below.

For more on raw dairy see mercola.com

Realmilk.com

Organic Pastures

Abstracts on the Effect of Pasteurization  on the Nutritional Value of Milk http://www.realmilk.com/abstractsmilk.html

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