I have been dairy-free for several years now as I noticed it was not serving me in my body. But I know my body constantly changing and as I have made adjustments to my health and routines, I wanted to explore bringing quality dairy back into my diet. This led me to look more at Raw Dairy!
What is Raw Milk?
According to the CDC, Raw milk is milk that has not been pasteurized to kill bacteria. It can contain bacteria that are harmful for humans.
Pasteurization is the process of heating milk in order to kill off bacteria. It is most often boiled to 161 degrees Fahrenheit to kill off any pathogens for 15 seconds (called High-Temperature Short Time (HTST) pasteurization) or heated to 280 degrees Fahrenheit for 2 seconds (called Ultra Pasteurization (UT)).
But pasterization doesn't just kill off the bad bacteria, it kills off all the bacteria including the beneficial ones.
The pasteurization process arose when there was a huge spike in urban population and people left their rural farms to move into the cities. The same practices that were being done on the farm were now being brought into what we now know as feed lots which led to an increase in major public health threats. The same practices from the family farm without proper scaleing support led to bacteria and contamination of the milk.
But think about this - before we had mass production of milk in every grocery store, families were farming and had their own cows for milk, which they drank. It wasn’t pasteurized or homogenized. It was just milk. Or as we know it today, Raw Milk.
So its not unsafe to drink raw milk, centuries before us they were doing it! It comes down to the how.
No food is perfectly safe
You might be thinking, but how is it safe? Well, no food is perfectly safe! Think about the other food born illnesses you hear about so often. When you look at the data on food-borne illnesses from a study looking at data from 2009 - 2015, the food categories with the most outbreaks of illness were chicken, pork, and seeded vegetables. And fish was the most commonly implicated food category. Even pasteurized dairy (what you grab from the store without thinking twice) has outbreaks. And the location of the highest outbreaks was restaurants, an industry we place such a high standard on how food is prepared.
So yes there is a risk in having raw milk, but there is also a risk in pasteurized milk, eating chicken, spinach, and the other foods you eat.
It comes down to the safety and extreme attention to hygiene to make quality raw milk. The Raw Milk Industry was created in 2011 to teach farmers how to produce safe raw milk and be a resource for those looking to find a vetted, high-quality raw milk farmer meeting hygienically high standards. This is why taking it upon yourself to be your biggest advocate and educate about what is the best choice for YOU! Researching and looking into raw milk farms, what their processes are and how they raise/treat/clean the cows and they handle the milk go a long way.
Why drink it? What are the health benefits?
Raw dairy milk is a whole food source. You can get so many nutrient benefits at a much higher bio-availability level from raw milk.
Raw milk has been shown to have many positive impacts on health such as:
More bioavailable vitamins and minerals (think calcium, vitamin A, and iron)
Beneficial bacteria (that is usually killed off during pasteurization) supporting a healthy gut microbiome
Naturally occurring Omega-3 fatty acids
Digestion friendly so those with lactose sensitivities (think stomach cramps, bloating, etc) often can enjoy it because of the naturally occurring enzymes in the raw milk.
High in antioxidants to support reduced inflammation and fight oxidative stress.
No additives like a lot of our other dairy and non-dairy options!
It is still illegal in some countries outside the US and in different states to sell raw milk. So you might not be able to obtain it right now but next time you head to the store or your local farmers market, explore what raw milk options you have available.
Here are some additional resources if you are interested in doing your own deep dive on Raw milk!