There were some very good reasons the dairy industry began pasteurizing milk in the late 19th century.
Although people had been drinking raw milk (usually safely) for many centuries, and most people viewed it as one of the most nutritious foods around, the dawning of the Industrial Revolution brought about a vast change in living conditions for Americans and Europeans alike.
Where rural, country living was once the mainstay of American life, new industry and a changing economy meant that more people began migrating into cities to find jobs—and as the people migrated, some of agriculture’s biggest food industries, like dairy, moved with them to keep the people fed.
Gone were the days of the quintessential dairy cow grazing on a rolling hillside at a small family farm. Instead, urban dwellers now got their milk supplied by new, larger urban dairies, which were often overcrowded, filthy, and often unsanitary.
On farms, cows had eaten the grasses that naturally grew all around them. In cities, they were often thrown whatever waste and slop was leftover from nearby bars (including whiskey), restaurants, grocers, and trash bins.
Unsurprisingly, the cows were sick, and people increasingly became poisoned from drinking this once nourishing staple food. It was practically undrinkable, unless you were willing to play a game of roulette with your life.
So, in came the miracle of pasteurization. And, it really was a miracle at the time, considering the number of people that could have continued to suffer at the hands of these dirty dairies.
Flash forward about 120 years and the fate of commercial dairy cows has only gotten worse. Their average lifespans have decreased by about 75 percent. More crowded and undernourished than ever, cows that used to produce just 36 gallons of milk per year are now forced to produce up to 50 gallons per day. Ironic, considering that these days many people can no longer digest milk at all.
It is not surprising, then, that there has been a growing backlash against pasteurized milk in the last several years by people who’d like to see milk—in all it’s creamy glory—return to the natural, living food it used to be. A 2012 study by FoodNet indicated that about 3 percent of Americans drink raw milk on a regular basis, and that number seems to be increasing by about 25 percent each year.
That’s a controversial move to the public health officials and pasteurization enthusiasts out there. But, it is a move that does have some warrants, and regardless of where you fall on the subject we should all take notice—because it signals an overall all trend in our culture towards a more humane, more nutritious, and less industrial food supply.
Here are five reasons people love their raw milk:
1. Raw milk contains naturally-occurring probiotics
Unlike pasteurized milk, raw milk is loaded with beneficial bacteria critical for human health. These friendly microbes strengthen the immune system by allowing the gut to fight off potential infections from dangerous pathogens like salmonella, E. coli, yeasts, fungi, and viruses. They also aid in the prevention of constipation and diarrhea, and alleviate symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).
2. Raw milk is nutrient dense
Raw milk from grass-fed cows contains substantially higher amounts of vitamins and minerals than its pasteurized counterpart. Many nutrients in milk are heat sensitive and therefore lost in pasteurization. The fortification of heated milk with man-made vitamins does not create a suitable replacement for those found in raw milk because they are less bio-available.
3. Raw milk is easier to digest
Many people who are not able to digest conventional milk can consume raw milk. This is due to the presence of enzymes like amylase, lactase, and lipase in the milk that are virtually eliminated when pasteurized. The absence of these enzymes makes conventional milk very difficult to digest, exacerbating symptoms of lactose intolerance in many individuals.
4. Raw milk contains CLA
Something our ancestors had in plenty until about 30 years ago, CLA, or conjugated linoleic acid, is an essential fat that is sorely lacking in today’s American diet. That’s because it is typically found in large quantities only in meat and dairy from animals that live outside and graze on pasture—which is, again, the only type of animal you should ever consider consuming raw milk from. According to the Weston A. Price Foundation, CLA aids in the prevention of obesity, insulin resistance, cardiovascular disease, several cancers, food allergies, inflammation, auto-immune diseases, and osteoporosis.
5. Raw milk is not homogenized
Milk straight from the cow contains cream, which rises to the top. Homogenization is a process that breaks up this fat and evenly distributes it throughout the milk (so that the cream does not rise). While modern day consumers have come to expect this, or even prefer it, homogenization has been linked to heart disease and atherosclerosis, possibly because it causes the fat cells to oxidize.
6. Purchasing raw milk helps local farmers
Since most states have strict regulations regarding the sale of raw milk, most people only have access to it if its very local and very fresh. This typically means purchasing it directly from a small family farm. In purchasing their goods, you not only have a chance to befriend the person who grows and raises your food, but you also promote the livelihoods of those folks who use healthy, humane, and environmentally friendly farming practices.
In contrast, conventional milk promotes the use of large commercial feedlots where the animals are often unhealthy (or downright sick), environmental practices are poor, conditions are over-crowded or dirty, and milk simply must be pasteurized to prevent human illness.
To find out more about raw milk, or to locate a local dairy farm, visit RealMilk.com.