In this post I am sharing why we drink raw milk. I will cover my thoughts on dairy in general, the risk of consuming raw milk, the health benefits, and how our experience has been.
Honestly, it boggles my mind that the topic of raw milk is controversial. With that, as always, this is my own opinion based off of research I have done myself. I will always, always encourage you to do your own research and come to your own decisions, especially in regards to your health. I’ll share below some resources that I would encourage you to check out when making the decision for your family to consume dairy of any kind.
Chances are if you are even remotely interested in health, you’ve heard varying opinions from both sides of the dairy debate. Some swear off dairy completely noting its inflammatory nature and lack of nutrition, while others rave about the benefits of the calcium and vitamin K2 rich grass-fed variety. The enzymes, good bacteria, and nutrient profile of raw dairy contribute to why we drink raw milk.
There is merit in both arguments.
Not All Dairy Is Created Equal
I want to emphasize that not all dairy is created equal. Absolutely, certain dairy can be a nutrient dense addition to your diet, while other varieties could be harmful.
Depending where in the world you are, your options are going to range from conventional, organic, and potentially raw milk. Many places, including where I live, the selling of raw milk is illegal. To be frank, I think this is quite ridiculous. We will cover the different varieties of dairy below.
Please note, when I talk about consuming raw dairy, I am referring to fresh, unpasteurized, non-homogenized dairy from healthy grass-fed, cows. We source our raw milk from a family with a single 100% grass-fed, A2A2 jersey cow that has her bull calf with her. Their operation is very small, very clean, and we can visit her as we please.
Pasteurization, Ultra Pasteurization & Homogenization
Pasteuriziation is a process that most dairy goes through, whether conventional or organic. Why pasteurize dairy? Raw dairy consumption was the norm for centuries before pasteurization came to be. The idea of pasteurizing milk was introduced in the mid 1800’s to kill microbes and micro-organisms through heat. Exposure to salmonella, E.coli, listeriosis and tuberculosis can all be prevented through the pasteurization of milk.
Ultra-pasteurization is the same idea as pasteurization, just at an even higher temperature. This process is typically used for organic dairy, as it needs a longer shelf life because it is purchased at a lower rate than conventional dairy.
Homogenization is essentially putting milk through a fine sieve at high pressure, breaking down the fat globules so they won’t separate and rise to the top, as it does in raw milk to give you that beautiful cream line. One of the simplest reasons why we drink raw milk is that we love the option to skim the cream to make butter or to use in coffee.
Let’s talk conventional dairy. The dairy industry is straight up horrific. Generally speaking, the animals are not treated very well, often abused, and fed genetically modified grain instead of having the option to graze. They are confined in very close quarters with other cattle. They have no space and are exposed to feces everywhere. Yep, that sounds like a disease breeding ground, and it is. Milking is done by machine. When you take all of this into consideration, of course pasteurization is necessary. Pasteurization is the process of heating to a temperature where bacteria will be killed, and with those conditions it will definitely be present.
In Canada, dairy farmers do not use growth hormones. Milk is required to be antibiotic free, however, that does not mean the dairy cows have not been exposed to antibiotics. When they are, they are required to dispose of the milk for a period of time. Milk in Canada is also required to be fortified with Vitamin A and Vitamin D.
Moving onto organic dairy. This is a tricky one. Organic dairy cows are not fed the genetically modified grain that conventional dairy cows would be. However, the demand for organic dairy is much lower than conventional dairy. With that, it needs to have a longer shelf life. Organic dairy is typically ultra-pasteurized. This means it is heated to an even higher temperature then that of typical pasteurization. Anything good is killed off. If I am purchasing dairy from a grocery store where I live, I would personally only choose organic, grass-fed, and then purchase higher fat content options as fat will be less disturbed through ultra pasteurization. Ideally, when available I would go for the non-homogenized grass-fed option if it’s available. More than likely though, I will limit my dairy intake unless I am able to track down raw.
Organic dairy in Canada is also fortified with Vitamin A and Vitamin D, as required by law.
Raw dairy is fresh from the cow, unpasteurized, and non-homogenized. This is a huge factor in why we drink raw milk.
Despite what you have heard, the likelihood of actually getting sick from drinking raw milk, assuming you are getting it from a clean, well cared for source, is pretty slim. Like with anything, of course there is risk. As with anything health related, I want to be able to make the call on consuming raw dairy myself.
Would I consume raw milk from a cow that is grain fed living in close quarters with diseased cows of the conventional dairy industry? Of course not. From an organic certified, large scale dairy industry? Still, likely no.
But when I have the option to visit a small family operated farm, where they take care because they too consume the dairy their milk cow produces? I feel much more comfortable with that, and I’d like to legally have the option. In B.C. the fine is up to $3,000,000 for selling raw dairy, so it can be hard to source. Again, this is somewhere you need to use your best judgement, and trust your gut.
These days dairy alternatives are all the range. Back when I first got into health and wellness, I will admit I totally fell into the dairy free craze.
Now, I think a little more critically. While there is nothing inherently wrong with nuts, never in nature would we blending up hundreds of nuts and consuming them on a daily basis. It doesn’t feel natural to me. Nuts are also high in PUFA’s so while they are not something I avoid completely, I do take that into consideration when consuming in large amounts.
Also, we seem to have forgotten that there is nutritional value in dairy. The perfect balanced source of carbohydrates, fat and protein. The alternatives just can’t compare. The plant milks I have seen on the market are overly processed, heavily sprayed with pesticides (if not organic), packed with fillers, and unnaturally low calorie. They end up being a blend of blend of often hard to digest ingredients that can be detrimental to gut health, with no nutritional value. Blending up any ingredient with water does not make milk, simply put. These are all lacking the beneficial bacteria, enzymes, vitamins, and minerals of raw milk, all of which contribute to why we drink raw milk.
Nutritionally speaking, soy milk would be the closest in comparison. I avoid soy because it is typically genetically modified. It is also very processed and can have negative implications on our hormones. When I need a dairy free alternative, we choose full fat coconut milk.
What Are The Health Benefits Of Raw Milk
When milk is pasteurized, you lose a lot of the vitamins and minerals, as well as enzymes and good bacteria. Yes, pasteurization will kill the bad stuff, but it is taking the good stuff with it. I share below several ways that raw milk is impacted by the process of pasteurization.
Raw milk contains bacteria that produces lactic acid which protect against pathogens. The process of pasteurization kills these organisms, which means if contamination was to occur, there is nothing to protect it. Over time, raw milk will just sour. If you leave pasteurized milk for an extended period of time, it will rot.
Pasteurization will cause the loss of over 50% of Vitamin C, and water soluble vitamins can be lost up to 80%. As for minerals, pasteurization alters calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, sodium, and sulphur, plus trace minerals, making them less bioavailable.
All enzymes present in fresh milk are destroyed through the process of pasteurization. As a matter of fact, a lack of enzymes is how they make sure pasteurization was successful. This is precisely why so many people that are lactose intolerant do just fine consuming raw milk.
The Wulzen factor, stigmasterol, is destroyed. I’m guessing you haven’t heard of this before. Rosalind Wulzen discovered this compound and showed how it could prevent calcification in the joints, reducing pain and stiffness of osteoarthritis. It is present in butterfat which we know is quite fragile, so consuming raw milk is the best way to take advantage of this, as the process of making raw butter may impact the Wulzen factor.
These are all factors that contribute to why we drink raw milk.
What Is The Difference Between A1 & A2 Milk
When looking into raw milk, you will likely learn about the different types of protein, those being A1 beta-casein and A2 beta-casein. A1 protein is often harder to digest, and is found in milk of the Holstein breed. A2 is typically easier to digest and more commonly found in Guernsey and Jersey breeds. Depending on the scale of the farm you are looking to purchase from, they may have tested their cows to find out which kind of protein is in their milk. Most cows will have both A1 and A2 protein, where as others, typically Guernsey and Jersey, will have A2 only. This is why you will hear it referred to as A1A2, or A2A2.
What Are The Risks Associated With Drinking Raw Milk
There are risks associated with drinking raw milk. This is why it is particularly important to look at sourcing, and preferably, to view the farm and operation yourself. The farm we source our milk from tests for brucellosis and tuberculosis. This was a step we took before purchasing raw milk locally. That being said, there are risks with just about anything, and you just have to decide what you’re comfortable with.
As I mentioned earlier, I would personally never consume raw dairy from a large scale commercial dairy operation, where the cattle is kept in close quarters where disease is likely to spread. I completely understand why this milk needs to be pasteurized.
There is more of a risk of getting ill from raw milk than pasteurized milk, however it is extremely low. I feel that the risk is way over dramatized. I’ve seen the number of a 1 in 6 million chance of becoming seriously ill be quoted numerous times. That is a risk I am willing to take. Plus, with the potential health implications pasteurized milk can have, I feel that the benefit outweighs the risk when it comes to consuming raw milk.
What Does Raw Milk Taste Like
I was never one to drink milk by the glass, especially with the dogma there is these days surrounding consuming dairy. Raw milk, however, I easily consume by the glass. It is so rich, creamy, and sweet. I will say, I find the taste of the milk varies throughout the seasons. Sometimes there is a bit of a grassy taste to it, but I say that in the best way! It is not overwhelming at all. I appreciate that raw milk tastes as nature intended it to, not as a factory intended it to.
How To Source Raw Milk
Depending where you live, it can be pretty hard to source raw milk. Some countries or states have raw milk readily available at the grocery store. If that is where you live, you are lucky! To source raw milk in the United States, click here.
Ask around in crowds of like minded, health conscious people to see if they have any connections. Visit farms and pet feed stores. Check out facebook groups. I have seen raw milk advertised for pet consumptions at feed stores. This can be a good starting point.
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More Resources On Raw Milk
Keeping A Family Cow A quick and worthwhile read if you consume dairy of any sort, even if you have no plans to purchase a cow.
I hope this gives you a clear picture on why we drink raw milk. We feel the health benefits outweigh the risks, by far.