Raw Milk – Friend or Foe?

“Isn’t it curious that at this juncture in our culture’s evolution, we collectively believe Twinkies, Lucky Charms, and Coca-Cola are safe foods, but compost-grown tomatoes and raw milk are not? With legislation moving through Congress demanding that all agricultural practices be ‘science-based,’ I believe our food system is at Wounded Knee. I do not believe that is an overstatement.” ~ Joel Salatan

She ran in from playing outside and came panting into the kitchen. “Mama,” Grace asked, “Can I have some raw milk?” I poured her a glass full and she drank it down quickly, gulp after gulp leaving a creamy ring on her upper lip. “Our milk is so good,” She said. Then she ran off and began to play again.

Our family didn’t always drink raw milk. Neither my husband nor I grew up on a farm. We haven’t even been around cows that much. We grew up drinking fat free or low fat, store bought milk that was pasturized and homogenized like most folks.

So – what made us start? About three years ago, a friend of mine spoke to the MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) group that I was leading in downtown D.C. She talked about something that my friends and I hadn’t heard much about: Real Food. Well, we thought, we ate real food, didn’t we? Turns out, according to Melanie, we were missing out on some understanding about what “real food” is…and what it isn’t.

The more she shared, the more my interest grew and I began to investigate the matter myself. Her basic premise was this: What Grandma would eat is real food. If Grandma wouldn’t recognize it as a food, it isn’t. As farmer and activist Joel Salatin says, “This industrial food experiment, historically speaking, is completely abnormal. It’s not normal to eat things you can’t spell or pronounce. It’s not normal to eat things you can’t make in your kitchen.” Sounded logical to me. I began to research further.

My friend brought some baked oatmeal to our group one morning with a pitcher of milk. I poured some on my oatmeal and ate up. It was delicious. It was better than other milk I had tasted. Where did she get it? “It’s raw,” she said. I almost choked. “Raw?!” Won’t that make you sick?

Graciously, she shared with me some articles and research such as those that I have just linked to that taught me quite the opposite – that raw milk is known as a curer of diseases, preventing allergies in children, healing skin problems, gastrointestinal problems and improving overall health.

What about risks involved? Anytime you eat anything or leave your house for that matter, you take a risk. So what is a risk worth taking? Chris Kesser, in his article “Raw Milk Reality: Is Raw Milk Dangerous?” states that “…approximately 5,000 people are killed every year by foodborne illness. From 2009 − 2011, three high profile outbreaks involving peanuts, eggs and cantaloupe alone accounted for 2,729 illnesses and 39 deaths. (1) Yet there have only been a handful of deaths from pasteurized dairy products in the last decade, and there hasn’t been a single death attributed to raw fluid milk since the mid-1980s, in spite of the fact that almost 10 million people are now consuming it regularly. The takeaway is that thousands of people are killed each year by foodborne illness, but they’re dying from eating fruits, nuts, eggs, meat, poultry, fish and shellfish – not from drinking unpasteurized milk.”

So, what’s the government saying about raw milk? As a helpful article from the Weston A. Price Foundation articulates, government data has proven that the risk of consuming raw milk is extremely small compared to the risk of other foods.

In spite of this, “Where raw milk is concerned, the FDA has an agenda apart from protecting the public health. The agency wants to restrict and discourage the sale of unprocessed dairy products. This will have the effect of denying freedom of choice,” says Pete Kennedy, president of the Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund.

The more information I read, the more convinced I became that raw milk was not only safe for my family to drink, but beneficial to our health as well.

So, when did we make the plunge? My second daughter, Chesed, had eczema and digestion issues as a baby, even though she was breast-fed. Once I weaned her and became pregnant with our third daughter, I developed a very irritating case of eczema as well.

We began to purchase and drink raw milk and within a month or two, neither of us had any eczema and Chesed’s intestinal issues had resolved. While there were other factors that I am sure contributed to our healing, I cannot deny the impact it made when we changed from pasteurized to raw milk.

So, if you’d like to give raw milk a try, how do you get it? It can be tricky. Unfortunately, raw milk is currently banned for human consumption in multiple states. You can find out where to purchase raw milk in your state here.

It is a shame that farmers who could be selling wholesome raw milk to support their families are unable to in some states. As Mr. Salatin would say, “it seems un-American.”

You may not be interested in buying and drinking raw milk. But if you are, I will leave you with a quote from Thomas Jefferson, “Whenever the people are well-informed, they can be trusted with their own government.”