Grew up drinking it, never got sick from it. Buying it these days when I can (spendy stuff). Too bad I don’t have any neighbors who want to keep a couple of goats. :-)
Invariably, whenever raw milk is condemned, pasteurization is presented as the only path to salvation from milk-borne pathogens such as E. coli 0157:H7. Interestingly, however, the official government anti-raw milk statements and reports never seem to mention the numerous outbreaks of food-related illness associated with pasteurized milk that also occur every year. In fact, there is evidence to suggest that pasteurized milk may even be more likely to cause illness than the raw stuff.
In one dispatch from Emerging Infectious Diseases, the CDC’s monthly bulletin, investigators discuss an April 2000 outbreak of multiple drug resistant Salmonella enterica in Pennsylvania and New Jersey in which 93 people became ill with bloody diarrhea, abdominal cramping, fever, and vomiting after drinking pasteurized milk. Six people were hospitalized, and the bacteria was eventually traced back to a source the report identifies as “dairy plant X,” where it was determined that unsanitary conditions had contaminated the milk after pasteurization. The report also makes reference to eight other pasteurized milk-related outbreaks spanning the last 25 years, plus a table listing still others.
Of course, other foods can–and very frequently do–make us sick. Seventy-six million Americans are felled by food-borne illnesses each year, the CDC reports. Some 325,000 of those so sickened are hospitalized, and 5,000 die. Chew on that while considering that the FDA says raw milk-related illnesses sickened “more than 300 people” in 2001 and “nearly 200″ in ’02.
There is actual science behind romantic-sounding notions of living milk and its white-hat bacteria. … Organic Pastures owner Mark McAfee … hired an independent lab to introduce pathogens into raw milk from his dairy to see what would happen. He duplicated the test in his own lab, using his own diagnostic equipment. “We looked at salmonella, E. coli 0157:H7, listeria, and tuberculosis,” … “In every case, the pathogen levels either did not increase or disappeared entirely.” … In other words, the raw milk killed the bad bugs.
It’s a startling fact that E. coli 0157:H7, the most lethal food-borne pathogen of all, did not exist before 1982. It apparently evolved in the acid guts of feedlot cattle standing around all day in their own feces, eating a diet of stuff the cows’ systems were never designed to accommodate. We, the American people, with our oxymoronic national obsession with cheap abundance created one of the most lethal food-borne pathogens in nature, or are at least responsible for perverting nature to create the conditions that allowed it to evolve.
What I learned both disturbed and frightened me. … Once milk leaves the farm it goes to a processing plant where it is essentially remade during a process that few ever witness. A Los Angeles Times reporter made it into one such plant back in 2000 and describes the procedure:
:: First it is separated in centrifuges into fat, protein, and various other solids and liquids. Once segregated, these are reconstituted to various levels for whole, lowfat, and no-fat milks. What is left over will go to butter, cream, cheese, dried milk, and a host of other milk products. Of the reconstituted milks, whole milk will most closely approximate original cow’s milk. When fat is removed, it is replaced with protein- and vitamin-rich skimmed milk powder or concentrate. Standardization also ensures that the milk is consistent: that one glass of any given type tastes exactly like the next.::
The article goes on to state, “Once processed, the milk will last for weeks, not days.” Because of this extended shelf life … and the expensive facilities required to create it, milk processing has become increasingly centralized. … 70 percent of the nation’s milk supply is produced by four large corporations: Nearly one-third of America’s milk–30 percent–comes from one processor alone. Small family-owned dairy farms, which for centuries provided the nation’s milk supply on nearby pasture, have difficulty competing with factory-farmed milk. In 2002, 16 dairy farms went out of business each day, according to an article in U.S. News and World Report.
[later in the article, the author says "Currently, dairy farmers get about $1 per gallon for their milk--about the same earned at the close of World War II. If they were able to sell raw milk directly to consumers, they'd get about six times that amount."]
Milk from cows fed on grain all or even most of the time has fewer beneficial components like omega-3 fatty acids, fewer beneficial microbes, and even reduced amounts of plain old protein and vitamins: All these occur in abundance in milk from grass-fed cows. To put it plainly, pasteurized or not, today’s industrially farmed milk from grain-fed cows kept in confinement facilities or grassless feedlots has fewer nutrients and more potential for contamination than milk from traditionally raised dairy cows.
Of course, there are still quality-conscious dairy farmers out there producing excellent milk from healthy herds for the conventional milk market, but, unfortunately, during processing their milk gets mixed in with that of the factory dairies’. Paying extra for organic milk may or may not ensure better quality; the only difference between the milk from Horizon Organics, which owns more than half of the nation’s organic milk market, and that from any feedlot dairy is that Horizon’s cows eat organic instead of conventionally grown grain while crowded together in their grassless pens, and when they get sick (as do many cows living in these conditions do; mastitis, for example, affects an estimated 40 percent of the U.S. dairy herd) they don’t get antibiotics–they get slaughtered.
The way conventional milk is processed doesn’t help matters. When milk is heated to 161 degrees for 15 seconds, as is done in HTST (high temperature short time) pasteurization, the process not only kills the bad bacteria but also the many beneficial (probiotic) bacteria that proliferate in raw milk, along with enzymes that aid in digesting and metabolizing the milk (hello, lactose intolerance) and infection-fighting antibodies. In addition, C- and B-complex vitamins and minerals like zinc and iron are reduced or destroyed through pasteurization. In fact, standard pasteurization reduces the calcium content of milk by 21 percent.
A newer and increasingly popular process, UHT (ultra-high temperature) pasteurization takes milk to 285 degrees Fahrenheit for two seconds, and then flash cools it. This process, also called ultrapasteurization, denatures milk even further than the standard method but extends its shelf life exponentially.