Me: Guess what? I don’t drink milk from the grocery store.
You (My Dear Reader): “You don’t drink milk from the grocery store? Why not? Are lactose intolerant? Are you one of those people who thinks milk is just bad for us? Can you not get to a grocery store? Do you just hate milk?”
Me: “No to all of those reasons! My husband and I ADORE milk and drink about a gallon and half every week between the two of us. We live 2 minutes from a grocery store and milk is one of the healthiest parts of our diet.”
You: “…uh huh…”
Me: “Seriously! We drink raw milk from grass-fed cows. We pick it up in a Wal-Mart parking lot once a week from a local farmer who delivers it.”
You: “Oh so you’re one of those people who likes organic stuff.”
Me: “Well…. yeah but that’s not the only problem with store-bought milk.”
You: “Oh really? You have my attention.”
Well dear reader, we decided to switch to raw milk from grass-fed cows after learning:
- how the pasteurization process can make milk from stores harmful, as well as stripping away the nutrients in milk
- how many health benefits raw milk has
Before I go into all the reasons why we made the switch and the advantages of raw milk, I would like to specify a few things:
- I am not a scientist, nutritionist, or doctor. I am sharing with you information I have gathered for myself about this topic so you can make your OWN informed decision.
- By “Raw Milk” I am referring to milk from grass-fed (or primarily grass-fed) cows that has been refrigerated immediately after milking using a sanitary milking process. It has not been simply strained and refrigerated, NOT homogenized or pasteurized or altered in other ways.
- By “Store-Bought Milk” I am referring pasteurized, homogenized, generic milk from the grocery store.
Me: Ready to go?
You: Yeah, shoot!
You: *rolling eyes*
Me: …sorry… Let’s get started. *clearing my throat*
The Problems with Store-Bought Milk
Pasteurization is a process where milk is heated with the intent to kill harmful diseases, pathogens, and bacteria in the milk. Milk is generally heated to 161 °F for 15 seconds, with Ultra-Pasteurized products being heated to 284 °F for four seconds.
Why is this a problem? In short, it kills or nullifies all the good stuff in the milk, or alters them making them difficult or impossible to absorb. Things like:
- Vitamins and Minerals – Ever wonder why they add Vitamin D to milk? Because pasteurization kills it and you need it to absorb calcium, which ironically is also damaged.
- Enzymes and Good Bacteria – There are many kinds of these, but notable ones include the same ones that you find in yogurt that aid in digestion (Lactobacilli and bifidus bacteria), as well many others that boost our immunity and help us absorb vitamins.
- Lactase – an enzyme that aids in the digestion of lactose is also destroyed.
2) What the Cows Eat
Cows are ruminants, which means they are designed to graze the majority of the day and have 4 stomachs to digest all that fiber. An average cow on an all-grass diet can comfortably produce around 1,000 gallons of milk a year. A commercial cow produces closer to 3,000 gallons a year due to selective breeding, repeated calving in short time periods, and DIET. They are fed high grain diets with lots of cheap protein.
“…but a grass diet doesn’t result in an extraordinarily high milk yield. Therefore, conventional dairy farms put their cows on high grain diets (mostly corn), and diets that are also high in cheap protein, such as genetically engineered soy and animal by-products. These foods are hard for cows to digest and cause health problems.” – “Conventional Milk: The Everyday Drink that May Contain Blood, Pus and Drugs” by Dr. Mercola
These cows are also given high doses of antibiotics, vaccines, hormones, and drugs due to the conditions they are kept in. These DO get into our milk.
“CAFO [Confined Animal Feeding Operations] animals are given large quantities of antibiotics, vaccines, vitamins, and other potentially toxic drugs to prevent the diseases that would normally overtake them as a result of living in such filthy, overcrowded conditions. Those chemicals get passed along to you in the milk you consume. In fact, using a highly sensitive test, scientists have detected as man as 20 painkillers, antibiotics and growth hormones in samples of cow’s milk.” – “Conventional Milk: The Everyday Drink that May Contain Blood, Pus and Drugs” by Dr. Mercola
3) The Way the Cows are Treated
Commercial dairy cows are raised and treated in ways to maximize the produces profit of milk. Many of these methods are highly inhumane and unhealthy, including:
- Overcrowding, leading to easier spreading of disease and the need for more drugs and medications to combat them
- Continuous birthing and lactation: Calves are removed from mothers early, usually at birth, and the cow is bred again usually about two months later, giving the cow little time to recover
- The poor diets and confinement (often cows that DO get outside are met with barren land or even concrete) lead to mastitis and laminitis.
“By the time they arrive at the auction to be sold to a meat buyer, 33% of dairy cows will have developed mastitis, a very painful udder infection. Many cows will be limping and in pain due to laminitis, an inflammation of the hoof.” – “Conventional Milk: The Everyday Drink that May Contain Blood, Pus and Drugs” by Dr. Mercola
- Unnaturally short lives and aggressive culling: A healthy cow can live to be 20 years old, but most dairy cows are killed when they no longer produce enough milk, often around 5 to 6 years of age
- Overmedication, intense breeding for production, and hormone treatment
4) Other Issues & Resources
Homogenization is a process that basically forces milk with great preassure through filters that break up the fat globules. This causes the cream or fat in the milk to be evenly dispersed throughout it instead of rising to the top. There isn’t really any researched reason that this is a problem, however some people believe that the smaller globules can stick to your arteries easier, leading to heart disease. That doesn’t really concern me though because human milk and goat milk are also naturally homogenized, (not mechanically). The weird part is that when those globules are broken up, the (now much smaller) fat globules begin to reassemble themselves, including whey and caseins (milk proteins) in their walls, further denaturing them. It also causes the milk to oxidize faster, or go rancid quicker, thus it usually only done to pasteurized milk. To me, that just sounds unnatural and freaky.
Some interesting experiments from feeding animals Pasteurized vs Raw milk.
This one done with calves:
“In 1940, the West of Scotland Agricultural College at Auchincruive carried out a study comparing the health of calves fed on raw and pasteurized milk. The researchers observed two groups, each of eight calves, for ninety days. One group was given raw milk and the other was given pasteurized milk.
In the raw milk group, all the animals finished the trial without mortality. In the pasteurized milk group, two died before they were thirty days old, and a third died on the ninety-second day, two days after the experiment finished. The remaining calves in the pasteurization group were in ill health at the end of the experiment, while all of the animals in the raw milk group were in excellent health. The results were reported in an obscure journal, Nature’s Path, March 1941.” – “A Tale of Two Calves” by RealMilk.com
And this one done with several generations of cats:
“Perhaps the experiments of Dr. Francis Pottenger in the 1940’s can help to solve this mystery. In these experiments Dr. Pottenger fed one group of cats a diet consisting of raw milk, raw meat and cod liver oil. Other groups were given pasteurized milk, evaporated milk or sweetened condensed milk instead of raw milk. The results were conclusive and astounding. Those that ate raw milk and raw meat did well and lived long, happy, active lives free of any signs of degenerative disease. Those cats on pasteurized milk suffered from acute illnesses (vomiting, diarrhea) and succumbed to every degenerative disease now flourishing in our population, even though they were also getting raw meat and cod liver oil. By the 3rd generation a vast majority of the cats were infertile and exhibited “anti-social” behavior — in short, they were like modern Americans.” – “Raw Milk” by RealMilk.com
These interesting photographs of processed vs raw milk:
If you are interested in doing some of this research yourself, I recommend these sources:
- www.rawmilktruth.com (Also has a great PDF on this topic, Fresh from the Cow –
- The Amazing Health Benefits of Raw Milk)
- Real Milk Powerpoint by RealMilk.com – Really Informative
- Fresh Unprocessed Raw Whole Milk by RealMilk.com – Good summary
- Milk – It Does a Body Good by RealMilk.com – Also a good summary on effects of Commerical Dairy treatment on Milk Quality
- More on the Pottenger Cat study
- Interesting Resource on the Treatment and Farming of Dairy Cows
- Inhumane Treatment of Dairy Cows – Referenced alot in this article
So, what are you supposed to do?
If you don’t want pasteurization to deplete the nutrients in your milk, keep you from absorbing it properly, and force your body to treat it as an allergen, AND if you don’t want to drink milk from cows that are treated in grossly inhumane ways, who are unhealthy and over-medicated, leaking drugs into your milk and eating an unnatural, unhealthy diet, what do you do? Give up milk? ABSOLUTELY NOT.
There IS a healthy alternative. Milk can be so healthy for us. If you fix the issues of pasteurization and commercial dairy farming you end up with RAW, GRASS-FED MILK.
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