It’s quite likely you’ve heard someone talk about raw milk. Maybe you wondered what it was, and when you learned, maybe you wondered why anyone would want to consume it. Perhaps it was interesting to you, but you needed more information. Raw milk benefits are not new. It’s not a new wild hipster holistic crunchy trend. Rather, raw milk benefits are very firmly rooted in science, and the story of how milk became the pasteurized product we know and buy at the local grocery store today is a wild one.
Whether you’re new to the raw milk revolution or not, you’re probably aware that there’s some controversy surrounding the soundness of raw milk benefits. After all, it can’t even be legally sold for human consumption in many states. So why is raw milk making a comeback, and what do you need to know about it?
Raw Milk History
Before the industrial revolution, it was common for most households to own their own dairy cow or to buy or barter with neighbors for milk. And, you guessed it, that milk was raw. Raw here refers to the fact that the milk has not been pasteurized. Interestingly, there are no recorded deaths from drinking raw milk.
During the industrial revolution, high volumes of people migrated to cities for work, often bringing their family cow with them. But as you can imagine, cities, especially in an era known for significant air pollution and unsanitary living and working conditions, presented poor living conditions for livestock. Many household and production cows became ill from poor living conditions and low-quality feed (due to the lack of grazing, most cows were fed a diet of used barley grains leftover from breweries which lacked the necessary nutrition and were often contaminated with bacteria).
A sick animal will not produce healthy byproducts, and consequently, the milk produced from city livestock was rancid with bad bacteria, which did cause illness and death. A solution was needed. Rather than practice good farming hygiene, which meant acquiring larger portions of land to allow cows free grazing and space to breathe and be healthy, a man by the name of Louis Pasteur, a French chemist and microbiologist, found and patented the process of pasteurization.
Pasteurization is the process of heating a product to sterile temperatures to make it safe for consumption. In other words, rather than address the problem of bacteria-causing conditions, a process was created for neutralizing bad bacteria, allowing for a poor-quality product to still be sold without causing illness and death. Raw milk benefits were lost and the process was ultimately adopted by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and is still an accepted process today.
(This action also has the unfortunate consequence of large-scale dairy corporations not caring for their herds the way small farms do, because they can produce a larger volume of product to sell and do so at the lower cost of cheap feed and less than ideal living conditions for the animals. Buying raw milk benefits not just you, but also the animals, as local small-scale farmers often take better care of their livestock since it is essential to their livelihood.)
Current Dairy Crisis
While the process of pasteurization sounds like a great idea, it comes with a cost. Today, more people than ever suffer from dairy intolerances and allergies. Lactose, a component in dairy, is not easily processed by the human body on its own. Interestingly, however, raw milk can often be tolerated by those with dairy intolerances and allergies. Raw milk contains enzymes that the human body uses to break down lactose and use its nutrition, but the pasteurization process kills those enzymes and all bacteria, good and bad. Consequently, most people have never experienced the many raw milk benefits.
Raw Milk Benefits
Many studies, including research from the Weston A. Price Foundation, point to substantial health benefits from consuming raw milk for the human body. At its simplest, raw milk benefits include a much more significant vitamin and mineral count than pasteurized milk. The fat content of raw milk is also higher. (Note: fat quality is a key factor here, and raw milk is one of the healthiest natural fats people can consume, making it incredibly beneficial for hair, skin, and joint health.)
There is also evidence to support that raw milk benefits a number of common ailments, too. Discomforts such as asthma, eczema, allergies, and respiratory infections frequently improve with the consumption of raw milk. Its natural probiotics and enzymes build the body’s immune system and response, even aiding in recovering from antibiotic use.
As a bonus, in case you needed more, raw milk also makes an excellent creamer and has a better flavor than any milk you’ll ever buy off a store shelf. You can even get creative and make your own butter, buttermilk, cheese, and more!
Where To Get It
Ultimately, raw milk is not illegal to consume. But in many states, the FDA says it’s illegal to sell, specifically for human consumption. To get around this, many farms will label their raw milk as “Not for human consumption,” or “For pet consumption only.” But what you choose to do in your own home is your business.
You can find farms local to you that sell raw milk at realmilk.com, using your location. It’s advisable to call ahead to make sure they are still in operation and have a supply available. Some even offer delivery to your door. But remember, most of them cannot openly discuss human consumption of raw milk with you. Despite the many known raw milk benefits, it’s still a touchy legal subject.
Now you understand the history of raw milk and how pasteurization came into play. If you’re curious about using raw milk, raw milk benefits, or even simply more about its history, certainly do your own research. Especially staggering are the numbers surrounding reported deaths from raw milk (none) and reported deaths from bad milk, even after pasteurization (quite a few).
You are the ultimate keeper of your home, your body, and your nutrition. Raw milk benefits are real, but so is the stigma surrounding the topic. Research, research, and do more research. Have conversations where possible. Find online communities where stories can be shared freely. And, if you are comfortable with it, find a local farmer and start your own raw milk journey!
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