Raw Milk

Raw milk is something that is deeply engrained in my psyche. I am not sure why but it all began in 2008 when some gut feeling told me I needed to get a dairy goat. I finally found one that I could afford and was slated to pick her up on October 15, 2008. As it turned out, it was the same day I was laid off from my high paying job as a commercial real estate paralegal.

I almost didn't go to get her but I'm glad I did. This goat, a LaMancha became the start of my dairy herd. I grew that herd to 13 excellent goats of several different breeds then due to pressure from a neighbor and lack of good fencing I sold the goats and switched to Jersey cattle who do not need such adequate fencing to keep from wandering.

When the farm relocated to Vale with far less acreage but excellent fencing I switched back to goats until I went back to work full-time as a photojournalist at which time I cut down to just two goats. I had a long job commute to that job and time was at a premium. In October 2016, I changed jobs again, still as a photojournalist but at a much closer location with the ability to work from home with flexible hours.

Currently I'm building my herd back up with the hope of getting back to the quality of those 13 goats I previously had.

Why drink raw milk? Well, in North Carolina and many other states, it is illegal to sell raw milk for human consumption but it can be sold for animal consumption. The milk you buy in the grocery store must come from a certified dairy and be pasteurized. These "dairies" are usually huge operations milking thousands of cows (usually Holsteins because they give more milk than other breeds). These cows are usually not allowed access to pasture or even let outside. Enough on commercial dairies but do your research.

The pasteurization process is intended to make it safe to drink but it also destroys many of the life-giving/supporting enzymes in milk. It also affects the digestibility of milk. Many of the vitamins naturally available in raw milk are also destroyed. The primary reason is that the milk that you purchase in the grocery store bears little resemblance to that which comes out of the udder of a healthy cow or goat.

By pasteurizing milk, not only are the valuable enzymes destroyed but also the beneficial lactic acid or "souring" bacteria (lactobacillus acidophilus). It is the lactic acid that holds the putrefactive bacteria in check and aids in the synthesis of B vitamins in the colon. When raw milk is kept at room temperature, the lactic acid bacteria will cause it to curdle and clabber. Pasteurized milk, being devoid of this beneficial bacteria, will eventually rot. In other words, as is the case with almost all processed food, pasteurization of milk extends its "shelf life" at the expense of nutrition. The real irony is that by destroying milk's germicidal properties through pasteurization, pathogenic bacteria actually multiply more rapidly.

Pasteurizing milk also destroys and/or alters the bio-availability of vitamin C, all 22 amino acids (particularly lysine and tyrosine), essential fatty acids, calcium, magnesium and trace minerals such as zinc and iodine.

Think pasteurized, organic milk is a good thing? Think again. Producers of organic milk use a different process to preserve it. According to the Northeast Organic Dairy Producers Alliance, the milk needs to stay fresh longer because organic products often have to travel farther to reach store shelves since it is not produced throughout the country.

The process that gives the milk a longer shelf life is called ultrahigh temperature (UHT) processing or treatment, in which milk is heated to 280 degrees Fahrenheit (138 degrees Celsius) for two to four seconds, killing any bacteria in it.

Compare that to pasteurization, the standard preservation process. There are two types of pasteurization: "low temperature, long time," in which milk is heated to 145 degrees F (63 degrees C) for at least 30 minutes, or the more common "high temperature, short time," in which milk is heated to roughly 160 degrees F (71 degrees C) for at least 15 seconds.

The different temperatures hint at why UHT-treated milk lasts longer: Pasteurization doesn't kill all bacteria in the milk. UHT, on the other hand, kills everything.

Retailers typically give pasteurized milk an expiration date of four to six days. Ahead of that, however, was up to six days of processing and shipping, so total shelf life after pasteurization is probably up to two weeks. Milk that undergoes UHT doesn't need to be refrigerated and can sit on the shelf for up to six months.

Regular milk can undergo UHT, too. The process is used for the room-temperature Parmalat milk found outside the refrigerator case and for most milk sold in Europe.

So why isn't all milk produced using UHT?

One reason is that UHT-treated milk tastes different. UHT sweetens the flavor of milk by burning some of its sugars (caramelization). A lot of Americans find this offensive - just as they are leery of buying nonrefrigerated milk. Europeans, however, don't seem to mind.

UHT also affects some proteins in the milk, making it unusable for cheese. Reference.

There was a time when (raw) milk was credited with curing different diseases. Today, many doctors recommend that people do not drink any milk and indeed, many people cannot digest milk or milk products.

Prior to 1950, most people had the choice whether they wanted to drink raw or pasteurized milk. It is thanks to politicians and the government that raw milk has been outlawed in favor of pasteurized milk. Pasteurization kills any bacteria in the milk and most people believe that pasteurization does not harm the quality of the milk, but that is not the truth. It is surprising what corporate money can get away.

There was a time when raw milk and whiskey were the primary beverages of choice. To meet the demand for these two drinks, milk cows were confined next to distilleries and fed, not grass, but the slop left over from the spirit-making process. Slop is of little value in fattening cattle; it is unnatural food for them, and makes them diseased and emaciated. But when slop was plentifully supplied, cows yielded an abundance of milk. These dairies became known as distillery or swill dairies. The milk that the cows produced was pale and bluish in color and could not be used to make butter or cheese. It also made a lot of children and adults sick and many died. This prompted the formation of a commission to oversee milk production and certification of dairies.

At first, this was a good thing because certain dairies were willing to meet the strict criteria for producing "clean" milk. Unfortunately, this "clean" milk cost much more than uncertified milk. Other influential individuals thought that the only safe milk was pasteurized milk and they used their considerable finances to promote pasteurized milk.

Beginning in 1944, various articles were published in major publications with the intention of frightening people about the "dangers" of drinking raw milk. Most of these articles did not contain accurate documentation and many contained outright lies.

Raw milk sales have been outlawed or severely restricted in virtually every state, and the total number of farms has shrunk to less than 2 million; less than 100,000 have milk cows. Most of those cows spend most of their time in confinement facilities. According to the textbook Dairy Cattle Science, "Nearly 40 percent of all dairy cows have some form of mastitis." (Mastitis is inflammation of the mammary glands; these are not healthy cows.) I can tell you, with absolute certainty, that none of my dairy animals have mastitis. If they did, their milk would be disposed of. In a conventional dairy, milk from cows with mastitis end up in the tank along with the milk of the "healthy" (I use that term loosely) cows.

Of course there can be dangerous pathogens and bacteria in raw milk, but a lot of that is dependent upon how the animal is cared for and fed and how the milk is handled. When animals are fed grass, they produce milk that will not have pathogens unless it is handled in an unsanitary way. These pathogens will not cause disease in people who are resistant and have strong immune systems.

"Raw milk is the key to the health crisis, the farm crisis, the economic crisis, the small town crisis, even the environmental crisis, the political crisis and the educational crisis. Farmers who could freely advertise and sell raw milk and its products, and fresh quality meats, free of government intervention and hassles, could prosper, and their communities could blossom. The restoration of our individual and national health could become reality."

~~~~~~Ron Schmid, ND