There is a lot of uncertainty about what to believe when it comes to understanding the debate surrounding raw milk.
The debate over whether raw milk is good for your health, or in fact detrimental, is a confusing one. Skeptics of the possible health benefits believe that those who choose to consume raw milk are following a dangerous fad. On the other hand, people who swear by raw milk’s health benefits think that the demonization is unwarranted.
Both sides present compelling arguments, which can leave one confused about just who to trust. If you are a health conscious individual, you likely want to know the truth. So we will endeavor to break down both sides of the debate for you to make up your mind.
Why are people rejecting pasteurized milk?
Many people will accuse raw milk consumers of merely following a dangerous trend. However, those who choose it believe they are making a decision based on being health conscious. Others will claim that the negative press that surrounds raw milk is merely a corporate conspiracy to squash the competition.
Raw milk consumers argue that the pasteurization of milk destroys all of its health benefits, and even can create health problems. When factories heat milk for pasteurization, it becomes “dead,” according to raw milk drinkers. They claim that raw milk maintains such health benefits as probiotics, and is packed with nutrients. Sufferers of ailments such as asthma, allergies, and eczema have reported reduced suffering.
Dubbed a superfood, it allegedly has wondrous properties within it that aid digestion and boosts the immune system. Nevertheless, many make rather outrageous claims about its health benefits. Dippy celebrities such as Gwyneth Paltrow made an outrageous claim on her website Goop that drinking raw goats milk for eight days will give you a parasite detox cleanse. It is no wonder the skeptics are out in force.
A microbiologist’s skepticism
Michelle Jay-Russell runs a website called realrawmilkfacts.com. She is a microbiologist who decided to bring science into the argument about the pros and cons of drinking raw milk. Balance is her aim. However, she presents some fairly damning evidence that suggests raw milk consumption should be approached with caution.
In research published in June this year at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there are some fairly disconcerting revelations about the consequences of drinking raw milk. According to the study, 95% of all dairy linked illnesses had resulted from raw milk consumption. As only about 3.2% of the population are raw milk advocates, that means that it is 840x riskier to consume, than pasteurized.
Consequently, US Food and Safety officials are concerned that unsuspecting consumers are playing “Russian roulette” when they forgo pasteurized for raw.
Why milk became pasteurized
The history of why milk came to be pasteurized is also fraught with debate. Statistics reveal that before pasteurization became mandatory, dairy was the catalyst in 1 in 4 foodborne sicknesses. Once the technique became widespread, this dropped dramatically to 1%.
Additionally, Jay-Russell expresses concern that those most at risk are children. While the dangers of E.coli, Listeria, Campylobacter and Salmonella poisoning are severe for adults, for children they can become deadly. A young boy nearly died from acute kidney failure, after contracting E. coli in 2006. His mother felt as though she had been duped by the raw milk industry and felt regret for putting her child at risk.
However, this data is not enough to convince fervent raw milk consumers. Many claim that industrialization of milk production at the turn of the 20th century made dairy a risky thing to consume. Practices were unhygienic and the cows, kept in city warehouses, would contract tuberculosis. Their milk would be whitened with chalk, and inevitably the public would pay the price with their health.
Can raw milk be made safe?
Pasteurized milk revolutionized the health of modern populations, according to the statistics. By heating the milk, and killing the harmful pathogens, it became a safe consumer item. Louis Pasteur, the inventor of pasteurization, won countless of prestigious awards for his tremendous contribution to public health.
However raw milk farmers such as Mark McAfee claim that when farmers are not lazy and become meticulous in their practices, there is no need for raw milk to present any risk to young and old alike. On his website Organicpastures.com, he explains RAMP, his farm’s raw milk safety program.
McAfee ensures his cows are fed fresh grass and treated gently. Adhering to a meticulously clean environment is mandatory to avoid fecal contamination to the milk. Samples of each days milking are sent to a 3rd party laboratory that tests them for pathogens. This way, he claims, his milk is of greater quality than regular milk bought at the supermarket.
A third perspective exists, however. Many vegans side with the skeptics, but also believe that dairy is not a good thing for humans to consume at all. There are other arguments that dairy is over consumed in our society, and that all the fuss occurring in this debate overlooks the health problems that over-consumption of milk can cause.
Are raw milk advocates naive and merely obsessed with following a trend? Are they pedantic conspiracy theorists who believe that the government and corporation’s demonization of raw milk is just to squash competition? Or do you think there is much that the pro-pasteurized proponents are not telling the unsuspecting public?
Many countries around the world ban raw milk and others subject it to strict regulation. In fact, 20 US States outlaw the sale of raw milk. On the other hand, may cultures and communities, like the Masai of Africa, and the Amish, only drink raw milk as a rule and appear to thrive. So, what do you think?
Only you can decide. If you have an opinion, we welcome your remarks below.