Monday, July 19, 2010

Raw milk

This story on NPR talks about the enthusiasm a small percentage of the population has for raw milk.

I recently stopped by a farm that sells raw milk and other dairy products made from raw milk. I bought a large quantity since it’s a good distance from home. What I liked about it was that:

  • It was really fresh

  • It feels nice to buy directly from the farmer

  • It lasted quite a while. It’s been a week and we are still drinking it.

  • They also sell meat products from their free-range, organic cattle.

What I didn’t like was that it’s only available in whole milk, which is a bit too rich and creamy for me. The taste was OK. It’s a little different, like the fresh milk I’ve drunk overseas, and takes some getting used to. I have to say I prefer the pasteurized milk sold in glass bottles from a local operation that has grass-fed cows. To me, the most important thing is that the cows eat grass and aren’t injected with hormones. Whether or not it’s raw is not of prime importance to me. That said, I’m willing to return to this farm for the butter, the cheese (very good!) and the meat. And as long as I’m there, I’d pick up some milk for my child, and perhaps make some yogurt and/or ice cream from it.

Whether or not there are any great nutritional benefits from some nutrients not being killed by pasteurization, I don’t know. It appears there is a lack of scientific evidence on this question, though if anyone knows of any, please share. I have some intelligent friends who believe in it, but they also believe in vaccine avoidance, acupuncture and some other non-mainstream practices that I’m not convinced by.

As to the risks of unpasteurized milk, I do know they are real. I’ve gotten sick from drinking fresh milk overseas and it’s not fun. But then again, that was milk likely processed with dirty hands, poured into old soda and vodka bottles, carted without refrigeration to the local market, and sold outdoors. The farm where I bought my milk was clean and they said they do tests for bacteria every single day. In fact, they even post the test results on their website. With proper practices and oversight, is it possible to reduce the risks to being negligible? Do the health benefits, if there are any, warrant taking small risks?

What do you think? Have you purchased raw milk? Would you like to be able to?

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