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Raw Milk v. Pasteurized Milk: What's Best for Your Family?

By February 17, 2012 , , , , ,

As mothers we want nothing but the best for our children.

With food labels claiming "all-natural," "organic," "antibiotic-free," "hormone-free," "no preservatives," "farm fresh," "no high fructose corn syrup," among many others, sometimes it's hard to make sense of it all.

What really is the best?

What is the safest and most wholesome product for my child?

I'm in agriculture and sometimes I get caught up in the labels. When it comes down to it, I look at the ingredient listing and tend to pick foods with the least amount of added ingredients, especially ones I can't pronounce.

But this post isn't just about labels, it's about a product in general and one quickly gaining momentum with moms across the nation. Raw milk.

Believe it or not, I actually grew up on raw milk, meaning it was not pasteurized. Since my family milked cows, it made sense at the time. It was convenient, fresh and wholesome.  It was also extremely rich and creamy because it was Jersey milk, which has the highest amount of butterfat and protein than any other dairy breed. (Jersey milk is predominantly used to make cheese, butter, yogurt and ice cream. Generally, Holstein (the black and white spotted cows) milk is used for fluid milk since it has the lowest amount of butterfat.)

If I had the choice today would I give my daughter raw milk?

My answer to that question is no and here's why ... 

Because raw milk is not pasteurized (or even inspected in many cases), it can harbor dangerous microorganisms, posing a serious health risk to consumers. And studies have shown that young children and the elderly are most susceptible to dangerous bacteria in unpasteurized milk such as Salmonella, E. coli and Listeria, which are responsible for causing numerous food-borne illnesses.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 800 people in the U.S. have gotten sick from drinking raw milk or eating cheese made from raw milk since 1998.

Proponents of raw milk contend that it's safer, healthier and a more "natural" product than pasteurized milk. There's one of those marketing claims again. They believe raw milk has the ability to relieve asthma, autism and allergies, though many of these claims remain anecdotal with little scientific evidence proving its healing powers.

Many would agree that raw milk fans are passionate and that the issue has become one of the industry’s most heated food debates. Some raw milk supporters have even held protests on Capitol Hill to fight the Food and Drug Administration for farms vieing to legalize the sale of raw milk to consumers, directly. Currently, on-farm sales of raw milk is only legal in 15 states, with another 10 states that allow the general retail sale of raw milk.

“The intensity with which raw milk supporters believe in this product is almost unheard of, certainly for a food,” said Sarah Klein, an attorney for the Center for Science in the Public Interest. “It’s like snake oil.”

Listen, I don't have anything against dairy farm families drinking raw milk within the family. I mean I grew up on the stuff and yes, I lived. But when you begin to sell that milk outside of your farm to the public, you are putting the dairy industry at risk and the American public. 

“Milk is perceived to be safe, because it is,” said Doug Leman, executive director of the Indiana Professional Dairy Producers. “But it’s only safe because of the process of pasteurization and the inspection of licensed Grade A farms. Milk is one of the most intensely inspected food products on our shelf, when you begin to limit that component it poses a great risk to consumers and the dairy industry.”

For me, it's peace of mind. 

The licensing and rigid inspection process of Grade A dairy farms like Kelsay Farms and Shipley Farms, milk truckers and processing facilities like Dean Foods is reassuring.

The pasteurization and homogenization process ensuring that the product you serve to your family is 100 percent free of any possible harmful bacteria is comforting.

Look, I certainly don't agree with all the heavy regulations (and there's a lot) of farms, but when it comes to milk, it really is for good reason.

For our safety, for our health and to ensure our family can enjoy one of the world's most natural foods free of any harmful bacteria or health danger, we will choose pasteurized milk every time.

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  1. Great educational post, and like I said yesterday, I'm glad I didn't have to have this discussion with my husband when it came time to have babies. I was pretty sure it wasn't the best for pregnant mommies or children, at least when there were safer alternatives readily available.

  2. Thank you for addressing this topic. As a kid we never rode in carseats, and even seatbelts were optional. Nothing ever happened to me, and I lived to tell about it. That doesn't mean we haven't grown as a society and learned a few things about BETTER safety. I make my kids always sit in carseats, booster seats, etc. As with all things, we learn and grow.

    1. I should ad that I grew up on a farm and also drank raw milk occasionally. While some I knew loved it, I always liked it from the store.

  3. 800 people sick in 14 years? There are more than 800 deaths per year from food poisening in restaraunts. Should we no longer eat out? Beneficial bacteria is destroyed by high heat in the process.

  4. I have a friend that drinks raw milk but can not drink processed milk. He gets it from a local source.