399 Comments
founding

For many of us it is not about cultural statements but health. Worth reading Dr. Weston Price's seminal work (his discovery which he named "Activator X" 60+ years later was finally recognized and renamed - as vitamin K2, without which mineral and vitamin absorption is impaired. And yes, as child and guinea pig for his observations, my mother followed his advice and every cavity i had resolved itself, to the astonishment of the dentist whom she had refused to let fill it.

There is also the difference between A1 and A2 protein cows - much of lactose intolerance is either the lack of the enzymes killed in the pasteurization process, or the A1 protein carried in northern European (including Holstein) cows.

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We drank raw milk from a local farm back in the 70's when our kids were young. (i.e. less than 5 which CDC now says is particularly risky). They are in their 40's now so we lived to tell about it. HOWEVER, I think the real issue is what the tech folks now call the ability to "scale" safely. Not everyone lives close enough to a local source.

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There was definitely a reason for pasteurization, since prior to the large-scale introduction of pasteurization, milk was responsible for much of the transmission of TB in milk-drinking cultures (such as Great Britain).

However, nowadays routine TB testing of herds is required, facilities for keeping the milk cool and bacteria growth down are greatly improved, and the overall risk is less.

I lived on a dairy farm for a while and I can tell you that being a dairy farmer is hard work…he and his wife were up at all hours, bringing the cows in, milking, dealing with bovine problems (mostly udder abscesses), and getting everything ready for the tanker truck to come and pick it up after it had been run through the automatic post-milking chiller.

One of the problems with bulk milk, however, is that the tanker truck driver doesn’t sample it…he just pulls up and opens the hatch. Sometimes the milk from other dairies had been contaminated by a backwash from the hose-cleaning solution, sometimes the cows had been grazing on wild garlic, etc.

So while your dairy may have been fine, somebody’s else’s may not have been up to that standard. The flavor wasn’t going to be great, even though it wouldn’t kill anybody or even be really harmful. But all the milks were mixed together and nobody knew whose dairy the contamination had come from, so the whole shipment in the truck, including yours, would be rejected by the bulk milk purchaser and the dairies wouldn’t be paid. The life of a diary farmer is very high-stress…no 18th C pastoral fantasies.

However, the function of the bulk buyers was to insure uniformity and no truly bizarre flavors, and they did. The product may have been a little bland, no comparison to “cream on top” milk of the old days, but it was real milk and not made out of weird plants.

I don’t think there’s a lot of danger in raw milk anymore, so maybe it’s all down to flavor now. Flavor and the good things of life are…well, good things…and good rich milk is one of them.

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Oh geez. This is lazy. Love the free press but your desire to categorize people who drink raw milk as zany cultural hipsters or otherwise fringe weirdos for your pleasure kinda misses the mark here. Why not write the story about the benefits and or hazards of raw milk? You clearly have a bias against it but at least defend your bias or best case maybe represent the case for raw milk from a health perspective and it’s apparent risks you believe to be at issue?

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The health risks of consuming raw milk are well documented. I first wrote about these risks for the Wall Street Journal more than a decade ago

https://www.wsj.com/articles/SB10001424052702304370304575151663770115120

…and the evidence of these risks has only mounted since then

https://www.cdc.gov/foodsafety/rawmilk/rawmilk-outbreaks.html

https://www.cdc.gov/foodsafety/rawmilk/raw-milk-videos.html

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The health risks of consuming raw milk are well documented. I first wrote about these risks for the Wall Street Journal more than a decade ago

https://www.wsj.com/articles/SB10001424052702304370304575151663770115120

…and the evidence of these risks has only mounted since then

https://www.cdc.gov/foodsafety/rawmilk/rawmilk-outbreaks.html

https://www.cdc.gov/foodsafety/rawmilk/raw-milk-videos.html

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You can find raw milk everywhere in New Hampshire. It is clearly labeled so no one could accidentally buy it. I don't understand why the government wants to stop people from buying raw milk. There have been zero reported cases of a person being forced to purchase or consume raw milk. Please just leave everyone alone!

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founding

I willingly concede that, at some 2nd or 3rd decimal level, pasteurized milk is "safer" to drink than raw.

But doing something almost daily for almost 2 decades without mishap suggests that the inherent danger is not great, and undeserving the "something is dangerous" label. I think a much fairer phrasing would be something like, "drinking raw milk is marginally riskier than drinking pasteurized milk".

Even though, to my knowledge, I've never been sickened from drinking raw milk, I for sure have been sickened by "safe" foods that follow the full suite of FDA "safety" practices - I'll bet you have too.

To be clear, I don't think anyone (and certainly not me) is arguing that you, or anybody else should be made to drink raw milk if you don't want to. If you like milk and want it pasteurized I feel strongly you should have it. I'm just not thrilled to have someone telling me that the food I'm choosing to eat is "dangerous" and I shouldn't be allowed to eat it.

As additional examples of how much we reject "safetyism", we had our babies at home, and we process much of our own meat - and we remain, at least for the moment, "survivors".

I would also not disagree, that the American system of food production is not optimal. At least from the perspective of producing plentiful wholesome food, at reasonable prices, allowing most farmers (defined as people who actually do the farming) to make a reasonable living. From the perspective of ADM and their shareholders however, it rocks - $40 to $87 per share from 2018 to today.

So even though oodles of people drink pasteurized milk, dairy farmers are going out of business - but not the farmers we, and many others, buy our (raw) milk directly from. I'm sure there are other ways we could support their work (farming) other than buying their products (it's the directly from them part that makes their business economically viable), e.g. we could just give them money, but being their customers feels more sustainable and mutually satisfying.

But I could be wrong about all of this.

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I'm amazed that people can get so obsessed about the details of what foods they put into their body. Jeez, people, it doesn't matter all that much. Eat what you like and can afford, avoid too much fructose, try to like green stuff, and don't get fat. Well-off people, like most of those commenting here, will live much longer healthier lives than poor people no matter what they consciously choose to eat. Beyond that you making it an unhealthy obsession that you really might better direct the energy into something like a hobby that gets you out of yourself.

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founding

Good one!

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Oh my, this is so sad. I just don't know what to say.

I had to laugh though that in Rhode Island you can buy raw milk with a doctor's note. As a (retired) doc, I scratch my head trying to imagine what medical reason I could come up for empowering someone to drink unpasteurized milk. Just my luck, the person I gave the note to would get brucellosis or listeriosis or even TB (if it had got into the herd somehow) and sue me for malpractice. It would be like giving someone a medical exemption for wearing a seat belt and then they get crippled in a car wreck that they would have walked away from if they'd been belted.

The serious infectious diseases that you can get from raw milk are not easily detected or treated. Both brucellosis and listeriosis have high rates of complications. It's not just taking antibiotics for a few days and all better. I would be leery, as a doctor, of letting my family drink it just because I thought I could easily detect the dangerous infections. That sounds like hubris.

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One hundred years ago life was different. People in United States lived to 47. One of the reasons we live longer is sanitation. Food poisoning with bacteria can and does kill. Good luck with raw milk.

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It seems to be a lot of the people who are into the raw milk “natural “movement are fairly privileged. I would really wonder if anyone’s done a study of the risks to people with immunocompromise or just general people who are drinking whole milk on a regular basis, and what the risks of infection exit.I agree that the health benefits of milk from cows is hyped. Cow milk is for cows

It would be helpful to have hard data about safety of un pasteurized milk. Are there studies that support pasteurization

Why did it start initially?

Charles Bean MD

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This article does a great job of summing up some of the confusing laws/regulations around raw milk consumption. I own an artisan cheese company called Lively Run Dairy, located in the Finger Lakes region of Upstate NY and the legalities of raw milk have been a challenge for years. I used to make raw milk cheese but because of regulations brought on by the Food Safety and Modernization Act, I decided to stop producing raw milk cheese. I'd love to start again, but the regulatory hurdles are high.

Its a nuanced subject: there is definitely some risk in making and eating raw milk cheese. However, my opinion after more than a decade in the artisan cheese business is that the risk is overstated and often increased by the regulations that are put into place by regulatory agencies like the FDA.

Thanks for the great article!

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Jan 12, 2023·edited Jan 12, 2023

Ah authenticity, or nostalgia for the mud, as the French call it.

So raw milk is a mini-fad also here in New England. If you get and drink it fresh on a well-kept farm, you're probably OK. However, the longer and farther the raw milk goes, the more you really are playing a crap shoot with spoilage and infection.

The touted benefits largely come from the fact that (a) the cows are grass-fed, as they should be; and (b) the milk is full-fat. There's now a truckload of evidence that low-fat dairy is bad for you, especially bad for kids. You need that fat, and it's not bad for you in moderate amounts. Part of the larger madness around consuming saturated fat that hit dairy, eggs, and meat, most of it unfounded.

I suppose the rawness could provide some gut biome benefit, with neutral to friendly bacteria. But there's a reason for those food safety laws ..... Most people are not food safety experts.

<rant>

The problem with feeding animals for food in the US is the feed lot/corn feed disaster. Few other countries have it, and many ban it. We have it only because we heavily subsidize corn production and overall produce far more calories per person than we need (something like 3400 calories per day per person). The extra is overproduction of grains (the big three mainly, wheat, corn, and soy). The overproduction, sold at artificially low prices, has to go somewhere. Another place it goes is that awful, awful high-fructose corn syrup and vegetable and seed oils -- all low-quality polyunsaturates that spoil quickly and fill the body with oxidizing free radicals. And the food industry has grown to love it, moving in fifty years from nutrition to addiction with these inputs.

Now returning you to your regularly scheduled stream of consciousness ....

</rant>

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Jan 12, 2023·edited Jan 12, 2023

BTW, if you want the gut biome benefits, just get full-fat cultured products -- yogurt, kefir, ayran, cultured butter, etc. etc., as well as other fermented and pickled foods. Safer and relying on the traditional way to extend the useful life of dairy without refrigeration or pasteurization.

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founding

I grew up hand milking cows for our small jug-dairy in southern Oregon. I probably drank a gallon of raw milk a day and my entire family also drank raw milk every day. Nary a stomach ache or any issue from my family or any of our customers that I was aware of. Our dairy was very small and primarily serviced neighbors, friends and family. Many of our customers paid in produce, eggs, firewood or some other commodity they had in abundance and we did not. The original barter system in play to great effect.

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On small, local scale like that, the raw stuff should be pretty safe. The problems arise with scaling up in size of production and distance of shipping.

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