The Raw Milk Issue from My Perspective

Raw milk is an issue that initiates much discussion among dairy farmers and consumers alike. In recent years, I’ve had numerous conversations with people about raw milk, typically spurred after unpasteurized milk gained media attention from being linked to causing sickness.

As a promoter of the entire dairy industry, it can sometimes be difficult to address this somewhat controversial topic where raw milk producers and drinkers are very passionate about their view. Here are my thoughts on this matter…

Like many dairy farmers, I’ll be the first to admit that I grew up drinking raw milk and I still drink unpasteurized milk to this day. For me, it’s more about the convenience than anything else. It’s nice not having to put an additional item in my grocery cart each week.

Although I drink raw milk myself, this doesn’t mean that I advocate for others to drink raw milk. Personally, I would never want to serve or sell unpasteurized milk to anyone else. In fact, if I ever have children, this will be a serious consideration for me.

There are farmers who sell raw milk to consumers who like the taste and feel that it offers certain health benefits. The marketer in me says, “It’s great that these farmers are able to capture a premium for their product.” But there are many more things to consider.

First and foremost, there are risks that come along with raw milk. Pasteurization is a safe, effective method for killing potentially harmful bacteria that we’ve used for more than 100 years. Not to mention, it’s been proven that pasteurized milk offers all of the same health benefits of raw milk so the claim that there are nutritional benefits isn’t valid.

I view the topic very similar to choosing not to wear a helmet when riding a motorcycle or not wearing a seatbelt when riding in a car. Why would you want to take that risk? Time and time again, we’ve seen the benefits of these safety measures.

While we all take many precautions on our farms to produce a safe, wholesome product, we cannot guarantee that unpasteurized milk never contains harmful bacteria. Yes, some states have permit requirements for testing raw milk on a periodic basis, but again, there are no guarantees. The reputation risk alone is an incredible weight for any farmer to bear.

It’s a personal decision, for both producers and consumers, and from my perspective, it’s a risk that simply isn’t necessary. Am I a hypocrite for drinking raw milk myself but not advocating for others to do so? Maybe, but I would never want to be the source for causing sickness among others.

As advocates of agriculture, we need to make sure that our messages are consistent. For the raw milk issue, our response is a no-brainer – all milk intended for direct consumption should be pasteurized.

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7 Responses to The Raw Milk Issue from My Perspective

  1. aed939 says:

    It’s more than just a matter of pasteurization. When I seek producer-2-consumer direct unadulterated milk, I am also looking for pastured, hormone-free, antibiotic-free, grain-free non-Holstein no-GM-alfalfa operations. In terms of quality, it is a race to the bottom when the milk of several farmers are combined–there is no possibility of knowing where your food comes from. Plus I am not interested in milk that is transported in tanker trucks, fractionated, and recombined in standardized milkfat ratios, and then synthetic vitamins from China added back, plus other additives.

    • raechelks says:

      Thanks for sharing your perspective. I appreciate that you have a genuine interest in where your food comes from. You bring up some interesting concerns that I have not heard from consumers before.

      Dairy producers are committed to providing a safe supply of dairy products. Pasteurization is an important step in ensuring that milk is of the utmost quality for consumers. Also, I can assure you that all milk in the general food supply is antibiotic free.

      While I certainly cannot tell you what foods to consume and what foods not to consume, I hope that you will appreciate my perspective as a dairy producer.

  2. Katie says:

    I totally agree with your analogy that pasteurization is like “wearing your seatbelt.” It is an insurance policy per say… No one says you WILL get sick… But don’t you want to be covered just in case? I do, and I will do that for my family.

  3. Harvey says:

    I drank raw milk the first 18 years of my life without much difficulty. We only used milk for the house from select cows and never from the bulk tank. I can recall times the strainer wound be plugged with with mastitis slugs. Sometimes a cow gets by the screening. After leaving home for college I never drank raw milk again.
    My college major was Dairy Manufacturing and have seen everything from bulk tank sediment samples with mastitis slugs,white blood cell slides with Strep chains attached and added water.
    Raw milk can be deadly from the best of farms.

  4. Joel says:

    I just found your blog today, so sorry I’m 6 weeks late joining this conversation. I’m not a raw-milk drinker or advocate, but am friends with at least two or three families that are. I respect their choices though I don’t agree with them. I appreciate your point about pasteurization and the 100+ years that modern societies have used it to kill bacteria in milk, and the lack of pasteurization is one of my biggest safety concerns about raw milk.

    However, in the last 100+ years we’ve also see dramatic rises in all sorts of diseases, such as cancer and diabetes, that were not common prior to modern agriculture. I’ve heard a couple raw-milk natural local food advocates claim that the large scale and methods of agriculture today contribute to the prevalence of those diseases. I haven’t done the research to see if there’s a correlation or not, but I’m curious: have you heard those objections before, and how would you answer them? Thanks!

    • raechelks says:

      Hi Joel,

      I’m glad that you found my blog and have taken an interest in my posts!

      In response to your question about the changes in agriculture, I have not specifically heard the claim about changes increasing the prevalence of certain diseases in humans. I can assure you that milk is milk. All milk contains the same vitamins and nutrients no matter if it came from a small farm or a larger farm, or what modern technologies the farm may employ. In recent years, scientists have actually found that CLA (conjugated linoleic acid) in milk helps to inhibit the growth of certain cancer cells.

      If you come across any research supporting the link that you discussed, please share it with me. I am always interested to read what is out there.


  5. Pingback: Lions, Rotarians and Cows….Oh My! | gobeyondthebarn

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