Sunday, February 07, 2010

Raw Milk: Health Food or Horror?

This article by Hannah Wallace on salon.com, really has me wondering if raw (unpasteurized) milk is something I've been missing out on.  I haven't studied the issue much but I'm really interested.  If you're curious about the subject you should really read the whole article - it seemed thorough and fair to me.

My default position on food and health is, "if God made it for our use, it's probably safe and good.  If a scientist messes with it, it probably isn't as good or safe anymore."  So I'm very open to the idea of raw milk.  That's what Laura and Mary Ingalls from Little House in the Big Woods were safely raised on.

I also found this argument for raw milk (from the article) very compelling,

"Another reason no pathogens have ever been found in his milk, McAfee believes, is that it contains a host of active antibacterial components -- not just proteins like lactoferrin, but enzymes, bacteriocins, colicins and at least 25 beneficial bacteria, including lactobacillus and bifidus, the same probiotics that are found in most yogurt. And all of those components, McAfee says, are destroyed during pasteurization. (In her book 'Nourishing Traditions,' WAPF founder Fallon concurs: 'Pasteurization destroys these helpful organisms, leaving the finished product devoid of any protective mechanism should undesirable bacteria inadvertently contaminate the supply.') To prove his theory, a few years ago, McAfee sent his milk and colostrum to a private lab and had both injected with high levels of the three pathogens. The bacterial counts of all three bugs decreased over time. And the conclusion of the scientist at BSK Labs? "Raw colostrum and raw milk do not appear to support the growth of Salmonella, E. coli O157:H7, and Listeria monocytogenes," stated the lab report. McAfee is so proud of his below-normal bacteria counts that he posts annual averages on his Web site."


And this really resonated with me:


"'Pasteurization is an excuse to produce dirty milk,' says Los Angeles raw milk activist Rahman Dalrymple, citing the outbreaks of salmonella, listeria and Campylobacter that have all been traced to pasteurized milk. In California, accepted bacteria levels for Grade A raw milk are fewer than 15,000 colony-forming units per milliliter; accepted levels for raw milk destined for pasteurization is 50,000. (Post-pasteurization, milk in California can contain 15,000 CFUs per milliliter. States that adopt the FDA's Pasteurized Milk Ordinance allow pasteurized milk 20,000 CFUs per milliliter, one-quarter more than California's raw-milk limit.) Dalrymple, who credits raw milk with curing his asthma, emphasizes that he would never drink raw milk that's destined for pasteurization by a large industrial dairy. Not all raw milk is created equal, Dalrymple says. 'Raw milk is dangerous -- if you get it from one of these industrial dairies that have fecal matter and pus and blood in their milk. I would absolutely not drink that!'"
"This distinction -- between raw milk that's destined for pasteurization and raw milk from a small, spotlessly clean dairy that's kept to higher standards precisely because the milk won't be pasteurized -- is a crucial one, and it's lost on public health officials like Sheehan, who seem to lump all raw milk into the same pathogen-contaminated vat. Industrial farms are dirty -- as the recent agri-exposés 'Fast Food Nation' and 'The Omnivore's Dilemma' have proved. When Sheehan thinks of raw milk, in other words, he's thinking of milk from cows crowded together in barns, eating a diet of corn, and standing in their own manure. All the raw milk advocates I spoke to are against drinking this type of raw milk."
"Perhaps even more convincing is the argument, made by raw milk advocates, that safe raw milk must come from grass-fed cows. That distinction, too, is ignored on the FDA's Web site, in remarks that Sheehan made last May to Ohio's House Agriculture Committee, and in his anti-raw-milk PowerPoint presentation. Cows, like all other ruminants, are meant to eat grass. Yet, at the vast majority of U.S. dairies -- even organic ones -- cows subsist on corn feed. In "The Omnivore's Dilemma," Pollan explains how eating a high-starch diet acidifies a cow's rumen, making the animal sick and eventually allowing bacteria to enter its bloodstream. A cow's corn diet can also make us sick: E. coli O157:H7 has been around only since the early '80s, when it likely evolved in the acidic guts of corn-fed cattle. (E. coli O157:H7 is so lethal because human stomachs, too, are acidic. We can kill off microbes that evolve in the neutral pH of a grass-fed cow's rumen, but not the acid-resistant strains such as E. coli O157:H7.) Grass-fed cows also produce milk that is intrinsically more nutritious: Whole milk, butter and cream from grass-fed cows contain conjugated linoleic acid, an omega-6 fat that has been shown to inhibit breast, skin, stomach and colon cancers. (CLA is found in both raw and pasteurized grass-fed milk -- it does not appear to be damaged by pasteurization.)"
I totally believe that consuming large amounts of pasteurized, mass produced, modern, US, dairy products is one of the major problems with the disease-promoting Standard American Diet.  I'm going to have to keep studying this one but I'm leaning toward raw milk. 

3 comments:

Christina said...

You might like this article:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/09/27/AR2006092700108.html

Jason and I just went to look at a couple of dexters today - one in Arlington and one in Mt. Vernon. We are looking for a family milk cow :)

Jennifer said...

That article was great Christina! When you get your cow I'd be interested in some of your leftovers, assuming you have some ;)

Holly said...

Hi, I am excited to read all of this post when I get the time, but I just thought I would mention that our good friend grew up on a dairy farm and he says unpasteurized milk is great for you and it is extremely rare to have health problems from it. That was just in a short conversation, but if you wanted to know more I could get you his emial.