Saturday, January 29, 2011

Got Raw Milk?

I've been getting a lot of inquiries about RAW milk at the farm lately, so I finally decided to do some investigating. Unfortunately we do NOT sell raw milk here at Heritage Prairie Farm and there are a couple of reasons why (which I'll get to later). There has also been a lot of interest on the subject of raw milk, both good press and bad press, and here is what I found out:

There are those out there that have heard the FDA's warnings about raw milk: that there is the possibility of campylobacter, salmonella and E. coli, that its not good to drink milk thats hasn't been pasteurized or homogenized.  And then there are those out there that dance to their own tune and prefer a more natural food lifestyle despite what they say.

First, lets overview the bad press.  ANY food risks contamination by bad bacteria like salmonella and E.coli, but it is often associated with how that food was produced, handled, and packaged.  The pasteurization process destroys the risks of these bad bacteria, but it also destroys all the good bacteria.  Pasteurization came about in the 1890's to control highly contagious bacterial diseases like bovine tuberculosis and brucellosis among others. Up until then, most families and individuals owned their own livestock and milked them on a daily basis, as far back as thousands of years.  It wasn't until after the Industrial Revolution, the spread of urban living and less than sanitary conditions in meat packing districts, that livestock was being cared for inhumanely, and disease control began to be regulated within the dairy industry.   

Pasteurization is an end-of-process 'solution' designed to remedy the less than optimal sanitary practices of many dairies. Named for Louis Pasteur, the process involves heating milk to a temperature of about 155 degrees Fahrenheit to kill harmful bacteria. Ultra high temperature (UHT) pasteurization, introduced in 1948, may be thought of as extreme pasteurization. This process results in milk heated to a temperature of about 285 Fahrenheit, resulting in the complete sterilization of the milk and the death of its life enhancing properties.

Homogenization is a process designed to prevent the cream in a bottle of milk from separating from the milk. This is accomplished by breaking up the fat globules in the cream so that they stay suspended in the milk. The primary reason for homogenization seems to be to extend the shelf life of milk products.

So why choose a raw milk option? Raw milk is milk that has not been pasteurized or homogenized, it retains its natural enzymes and antibodies.  This milk contains powerful lactase that actually naturally protects itself from some dangerous bacterial diseases, but also aids the digestive system in breaking down milks natural sugar, lactose.  It is also rich in fat soluable Vitamin A and D. There are some claims that raw milk can ease symptoms for  auto-immune diseases that attack the digestive system, even Crohn's Disease. Today, raw milk is actually illegal in a few states, and heavily regulated in others.  In other parts of the world, pasteurized milk and cheese are actually considered low quality, and high quality gourmet dairy is always raw.  Very interesting. Here are the Illinois laws:

Raw milk sales are legal on the farm if the farmer complies with the following conditions:
  1. No advertising the sale of raw milk.
  2. Customers must bring their own individual containers. If the farmer uses his own container to bottle the milk, he is operating a "milk plant" according to the Department of Health Regulations, and the milk must be pasteurized. The farmer can only collect the milk in the customer's container. The farmer cannot process the milk in any way. Sales of raw cream and raw butter are illegal.
  3. The farmer must produce the milk "in accordance with the Department (of Public Health) rules and regulations. "The Department does not apply these rules and regulations, including the permit requirement, to farmers with just a few cows who sell raw milk only on the farm.
see for more information about other state raw milk regulations/laws.  

I'll be the first to say, I am no expert. Everyone should do their own research, especially if you are interested for medical reasons. Like many of you out there, I am quite sensitive to milk. In my childhood, I was even called "lactose  intolerant." I was raised on ultra pasteurized, homogenized milk bought at your everyday grocer  When I would drink milk, I was always plagued by uncomfortable stomach cramps. That was until I started pursuing organic options.  

Here at Heritage Prairie Farm, we sell Crystal Ball Farms organic cream line milk.  It comes to us from Osceola, Wisconsin, delivered every week by our awesome milkman, Mike Watters. If you need to know anything about dairy, Mike is your expert, and very enthusiastic about the raw milk debate.  I recently asked him, unknowingly, if there was a way that we could get raw milk from him and the answer was an "absolutely not."   Apparently, among all the other regulations, its highly illegal to transport raw milk across state borders. The good news is that the Crystal Ball Farms milk is organic, low pasteurized, and non-homogenized.  Recent thirty year study by Dr. Kurt A. Oster, shows that homogenized milk may be linked to heart disease.  Homogenized milk breaks up fat molecules into tiny particles containing a xanthine oxidase enzyme that passes through the intestine walls and into the circulatory system.  This creates lesions in the artery walls and heart tissue, and your body naturally tries to heal these lesions by depositing fatty tissue and cholesterol on them.  Over time this leads to build up and blockage, and thus heart disease. On the other hand, in NON-homogenized milk, this xanthine oxidase enzyme passes through the digestive system normally because the fat molecules are far too large to pass through the intestine wall.  Homogenization began in 1932, and curiously before this time, heart disease was rare and now it is one of the 6 leading causes of death.  

Very interesting indeed.  My suspicion thinks that the reason that the FDA is so against raw milk, as far as to make it illegal in some states, suggests to me that the true conditions at some corporate dairy producing farms are less than sanitary, so they MUST enforce ultra-pasteurization so that the population won't get sick. The true question is how are those pathogens contaminating the milk in the first place? And they must homogenize milk because the milk is distributed far away, so it increases the shelf life of the milk, and thus they can make more money off of it.  

So if you're going to try to seek out raw milk, know the source of your raw milk and demand that it be from predominantly grass-fed animals. Preferably organic .Raw milk from cows fed diets heavy in grain, soybeans,and cottonseed meal, etc., apparently cannot effectively protect itself from pathogenic infection. Everyone agrees, it must be pasteurized.

I think what it all comes down to is knowing what you're putting in your body and where its coming from. 

1 comment:

  1. I'm so excited to see that raw milk (from a safe, credible source and grass-fed cows) is finally being talked about and recognized as something good.