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.