12.11.2017

Illegal Milk

(photo by Angelina Litvin)

In the good 'ol state of Maryland I am not allowed to legally purchase milk that comes straight from a cow.
No, I'm not joking. It's just far too dangerous.

Let's have a chat about raw milk.

Raw milk vs pasteurized milk
First, let's differentiate what we're talking about here. The conventional milk you find in the grocery store has likely been both pasteurized and homogenized. I'm sure you've heard those terms before, but if you're not sure what exactly what they mean...
Pasteurization is a process in which the food is heated up to a certain temperature for a set period of time in order to kill potentially harmful bacteria. In the case of milk, it's heated anywhere from 145 °F (low-temp pasteurized) to 280 °F (ultra-pasteurized). This process has only been around since the 1800's, (when Louis Pasteur first invented the technique) but quickly became the standard in the 20th century dairy industry.
And Homogenization is a process that breaks down the fat molecules in milk, and distributes them evenly throughout the rest of the liquid. If you've ever seen milk in it's unprocessed form, you'll know how the fat naturally rises and forms a layer of cream on top (aka the most delicious part).

And raw milk is simply this, milk straight from the cow.

Is raw milk dangerous?
People have been drinking raw milk for as long as we've been around. Our great-grandparents probably did. Our ancestors most likely did. Dairy farms have been pail to fridge for decades. And I don't think every kid who grew up on a farm before the 1900's died from salmonella poisoning.
Still, there's a lot of fear-mongering around raw milk consumption. And honestly, around bacteria in general. Yes, of course, bacteria can cause serious damage, and that shouldn't be taken lightly or brushed off. But bacteria is not a synonym for bad. Have you ever eaten sourdough bread, pickles, or yogurt? Cause, wow scary, they all have bacteria in them. Bacteria can be beneficial or dangerous.
There have been small cases where someone contracted an illness from drinking raw milk, but this can be avoided with simple safety precautions, and with being educated and aware about where your milk is being produced. From the Real Milk Campaign:
Raw milk contains many components that kill pathogens and strengthen the immune system [...] These components are largely inactivated by the heat of pasteurization and ultrapasteurization. This five-fold protective system destroys pathogens in the milk, stimulates the Immune system, builds healthy gut wall, prevents absorption of pathogens and toxins in the gut and ensures assimilation of all the nutrients. So powerful is the anti-microbial system in raw milk that when large quantities of pathogens are added to raw milk, their numbers diminish over time and eventually disappear. Of course, this marvelous protective system can be overwhelmed by very dirty conditions. That is why we do not recommend raw milk from confinement dairies, or raw milk that is produced under unsanitary conditions. Raw milk producers have a responsibility to produce raw milk in the cleanest possible conditions. Cows should not be allowed to wallow in mud and muck; they should be well fed; and all equipment washed and stored properly.
So raw milk, just like anything else, has the potential for danger. Of course it does. Living food can be dangerous. But so can meat. And vegetables. And, I dunno... that raw cookie dough we all eat even though the package says not to. I mean, every time your mom cooks chicken for dinner she's risking infecting you with E. coli.
So if spinach has caused more illness than raw milk, why doesn't the government lay down some harsh regulations for the little green leaves? *insert condescendingly thoughtful emoji here*



Because according Center for Science in the Public Interest's 2015 review of food-borne illnesses, the top dog for disease outbreaks was produce. But the Center for Disease Control (CDC) insists on cherry-picking the data in order to produce the results and message they want to portray. And while that's disappointing to me, it's not at all surpassing. Both the CDC and the FDA have made their biases obvious enough that I don't consider them reliable sources anymore. And government enforced rules surrounding food have always seemed to be nothing more than a way to shut down small businesses and squash competition.
Sally Fallon, the president of the Weston A. Price Foundation puts it best:
I think the dairy industry is putting a lot of effort on the FDA to protect their industry. They don't want the consumer to have access to a different kind of product, and they certainly don't want farmers to get a better price for their milk.


So what's so great about raw milk anyway?
Now, pasteurization seems logical in theory, but here's the problem. Pasteurization doesn't discriminate. It takes out the good with the bad. Raw milk is a living food, full of enzymes, vitamins, essential fatty acids, and more. It's almost unparalleled nutritionally. But when it's exposed to those high temperatures, many of those nutrients are diminished. Pasteurized milk has shown to have lower levels of B vitamins than raw milk. And raw milk consumption may even reduce the risk of children developing asthma and allergies.
Even this study about how "consumption of unprocessed cow's milk protects infants from common respiratory infections" states the following:
If the health hazards of raw milk could be overcome, the public health impact of minimally processed but pathogen-free milk might be enormous, given the high prevalence of respiratory infections in the first year of life and the associated direct and indirect costs.
Another thing to note- if you're drinking raw milk it most likely came from cows or goats that were grass-fed. And since grass-fed animal products are exponentially better for you than their grain-fed counterparts, it makes sense that raw milk is more nutritionally-dense.
Also, when milk is pasteurized, among many other things, it gets depleted of the naturally occurring lactase. And lactase is the enzyme that helps our bodies break down the lactose (sugar) in milk. In a small study, those who considered themselves lactose intolerant were actually able to drink raw milk without any symptoms. So perhaps lactose intolerance is a problem partly caused by modern, processed milk?
And maybe you've noticed most gallons of milk tout that they're "fortified" with vitamins A and D? That's just code for saying they have to artificially add vitamins back into the milk because the ones naturally found in it were killed in the pasteurization process. Because that makes a load of sense.

Okay so now what 
Because of government regulations, raw milk still isn't super easy to come by (and if you do find a source, it can have a pretty hefty price tag). So we do what we can. I only drink milk that's been pasteurized at the lowest temperature allowed, non-homogenized, and grass-fed. And, yes, I fight for that cream on top. So buy milk that's been as minimally processed as possible. Buy grass-fed! Buy organic! Buy local.
And if you wanna know more about the war on raw milk, there's a non-profit called the Real Milk Campaign. They have loads of information concerning the nutrition, safety, legal state, and more about raw milk on their wesite: www.realmilk.com
And you can check out their map that shows the current legal condition of raw milk sales in all 50 states, as well as their a list of small farms that sell raw milk in each state. Where I live, in Maryland,  it's only legally allowed to be sold as "pet food". Hah. Yep. Pet food. Sure.

Okay, kids. That's all for now.

Be sure to drink your milk,
Mel

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