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Real Milk. It’s grass-fed. It’s whole. It’s unpasteurized and unhomogenized. And in many states, it’s illegal.

If you drink real, raw milk, you do so against the advice of the government, and most likely your doctor and family and friends.

As is the case with many nutritious traditional foods (eggs, shellfish, kombucha, liver, butter…), there are a lot of people who not only think raw milk is dangerous, but think anyone who emphasizes its health benefits too much must be a little bit bonkers.

And perhaps we are bonkers. Or perhaps we’re not. You be the judge.

The thing is, raw milk has gotten a bad rap. You are free to disagree with that statement. As with any two-sided issue, you have to choose who to believe. You may choose to believe those who I tend to not trust on this issue. And that’s fine. I’m just a wife and mother trying to do what is best for her family. So if you disagree, please do it nicely. :)

Before we go any further, if you’re sure that taking a sip of this stuff would send you to the hospital, let me calm your fears a bit.

Five Reasons You Needn’t Fear Raw Milk

1. Before the rise of industrial agriculture, people all over the world drank and thrived on raw milk. In many countries, they still do (in parts of Europe there are even raw milk vending machines!). In his travels and studies of isolated people groups, Weston Price encountered many thriving societies with no tooth decay for whom raw milk played a large role in their diet. (You can read his book, Nutrition and Physical Degeneration, here.)

2. Raw milk has been falsely blamed. There have been very few reported foodborne illnesses due to raw milk in comparison with all other foods, and many outbreaks blamed on raw milk have been misconstrued (for example, a listeria outbreak of 12 individuals in which most of them had eaten hot dogs, and which coincided with a huge hot dog recall). According to this well-researched article based on government data, “you are 35,000 times more likely to get ill from other foods than you are from raw milk.” (If that government data has been skewed against raw milk, your chances of getting sick from raw milk are even less.)

3. Raw milk has built-in safety mechanisms. The good bacteria in raw milk can actually destroy pathogens, whereas bad bacteria remaining in milk after pasteurization can easily multiply in the absence of the good guys. (source)

4. If the cows are pastured, as they should be, there is a lot less bad bacteria to worry about: “Studies show that factory-farmed cattle have 300 times more pathogenic bacteria in their digestive tracts than cattle that are allowed to openly graze in pastures.” (source)

5. It’s all about the money. In 1910 the New York Milk Committee voted to endorse pasteurization of milk only because they couldn’t afford the personnel required to inspect raw milk for safety. It is cheaper to produce pasteurized milk from sick, feed-lot cows than to produce clean, safe, raw milk from pastured cows. At least in this case, the decision to pasteurize milk was fueled by economics, not health. I suspect that this case is not an anomaly.

So, okay, maybe it’s not as dangerous as it’s made out to be. But still, why go to all that effort and potential expense to acquire this controversial beverage? Here’s my take on that:

Nine Reasons You Want to Drink the Good Stuff

1. It’s delicious! This is my favorite reason. Try it, you’ll agree! Even if you think store-bought whole milk is thick and gross, try whole raw milk. It’s a whole different experience!

2. Probiotics and enzymes make it a breeze to digest. It digests itself! Even many people who are lactose or casein intolerant can digest it because it contains the necessary bacteria and enzymes to break down those molecules. Those are destroyed by pasteurization. (It’s really a wonder that anyone can digest pasteurized milk!)

3. More available nutrients.  Vitamins A, D, B12, B6, and C, as well as iron, calcium, folate, iodine, and other minerals are more abundant and more available to the body in raw, grass-fed milk. So you might pay a little more, but you’re getting more bang for your buck with raw milk!

4. Cancer-fighting. The butterfat in grass-fed milk contains CLA, which protects against cancer.

5. Allergies and asthma were rare before the introduction of pasteurization (which de-natures delicate milk proteins), and studies have shown that those who drink raw milk have a lower incidence of these conditions.

6. No antibiotics, hormones, or pesticides. ‘Nuf said.

7. Good for grains. Once cultured into yogurt, kefir, buttermilk, or clabber, raw milk can be used to soak whole grains, making them more easily digested and increasing nutrient absorption.

8. Earth-friendly. It is possible to farm in a way that not only doesn’t harm the land, but actually improves its health. Grass-based farms make excellent use of their resources and don’t dump toxic chemicals into the water system.

9. Fosters relationships. When you make a choice to buy food directly from the source, you cannot help but encounter what is at the heart of every farm: people. In addition to getting to know your smart, talented, hard-working, honest, one-of-a-kind farmers, you can make friends with other people who are connected to the farm and enjoy its produce. Perhaps you join with a few friends, old or new, to share milk pick-ups. And maybe your relationships with those in your own family will grow as you make milk-getting a weekly ritual.

Safety Considerations

While I don’t believe that drinking raw milk is any more dangerous than eating spinach or cantaloupe (and I’m pretty sure it is less so), there are some important safety considerations to keep in mind. For in-depth information on how to choose a safe farm, how to handle raw milk, and how to make sure containers used to store the milk are clean, see the Safe Handling ConsumersGuide distributed by the Farm to Consumer Legal Defense Fund.

Making it Practical

Incorporating raw milk into your family’s diet can be a big commitment, especially if you live in a state that prohibits the sale of raw milk. To make it possible for families to access raw milk, farms created “cow-share” programs, in which you own part of a cow and are therefore entitled to the milk it produces. You pay a one-time fee for your share, and then monthly “boarding” fees after that. If you don’t have a farm nearby, you may have to drive some distance to pick up your milk each week. Our family’s milk farm is 35 minutes away, but we have joined with 5 other families to share pick-ups, so we only have to go once every 6 weeks. Here’s how our “milk co-op” makes it happen:

1. The person on pick-up duty heads to the farm equipped with coolers full of ice packs and clean jars for everyone.

2. They fill up the jars at the farm.

3. They drive back to town and deliver the milk to each person’s house.

4. When they drop off milk at each house, they pick up clean jars for next week’s milk.

5. They stop last at the home of the person who will be picking up next, and drop off the coolers – now full of empty jars for next week.

The other secret is this: We have a shared google doc with the pick-up schedule, quantities, payment information, and addresses and phone numbers. That way, all our important info is in one digital place, can’t be lost, and can be accessed anytime by any of us. So convenient!

Our system makes it easy and manageable. I’m sure if you find some nice people to share milk pick-ups with, you will figure out your own manageable system!

A Final Note

Don’t drink raw milk just because I told you to (although I’d be flattered!). Do your own research. Read up on it. Talk to farmers and friends. Make a decision you feel good about, for your family’s health.

And after that, if you’re ready to take the plunge, see realmilk.com to find a raw milk farm near you!

Now that’s a milk mustache you can be proud of.

Do you drink raw milk? How did you come to the decision that it was the right choice for your family?

Reference: A Campaign for Real Milk Power Point Presentation

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44 Comments

  1. You really have changed my thoughts on raw milk. I am defiantly going to look into getting a share so we can have some. With a husband who is lactose intolerant and who has asthma and allergies it only make sense to switch! Thanks for the info!

    Reply

  2. Great post! I just did a post about raw milk not that long ago on our blog…not as informative more just letting people know how it went. It of course was met with a bit of confrontation when posted to Facebook. We love it, our kids are perfectly healthy and we love it! We pick ours up weekly from a small farm 20 minutes away. Its in jars and ready to go when we make it up there. We have started a good relationship with their family and our girls can’t wait to go every week. Thanks for being so honest about raw milk!

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  3. We LOVE our raw milk! Been drinking it for over two years now and I hate when I can’t get it for one reason or another and have to store bough. Because then I don’t usually splurge for least processed milk even though I know I should. I just hate paying 2X as much as even the raw stuff!

    Reply

    • Terra, I agree. We had several months last year without it and I was tormented about it! I did usually splurge on the vat-pasteurized, unhomogenized, grass-fed organic milk from the health food store…but I felt guilty every time! I’m so glad I don’t have to worry about that any more.

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  4. I used to drink it as a child. I remember always having to shake the jug to mix it up because it had settling. That’s something that drives everyone nuts now because I still shake it. I wouldn’t have a problem with getting raw milk now, but our state law makes it VERY hard for farmers to get it out there. I’ve looked around and there WAS a farm in the next county that was offering it, but they aren’t any longer. Even my local farmers market that sells LOCAL milk has to have pasteurized milk. Boo. :(

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    • Tracy, is the local milk homogenized? If not, it’s still a step up from store-bought milk, especially if it’s grass-fed! We got low-temp pasteurized, unhomogenized, organic grass-fed milk for awhile before we had the opportunity to get raw milk. It was expensive but I felt it was worth it!

      Reply

  5. Would you include the source for your quote in #4 (about less bacteria being in pasture fed cows)? Thanks!

    Reply

    • Amy, it is from the Campaign for Real Milk Power Point reference listed at the bottom of the post. I’ll add another link up there for clarity, though!

      Reply

  6. Excellent article. I would like to add something, if I may. Raw milk is loaded with vitamins, minerals, enzymes and some probiotics. However, there is an important aspect to raw milk. There are some people who can digest raw milk who cannot tolerate pasteurized milk. However, there are still many who cannot tolerate raw milk. There are two types of dairy proteins: A-1 Beta Casein and A-2 Beta Casein. 99.9% of cattle raised in the dairy industry in the U.S. are A-1 Beta Casein. This gene mutation causes the protein molecules to be larger and harder to digest. Farmers do not routinely test for this gene and many may not even be aware of it. If you have a problem digesting raw milk, do some research and try to find cattle with the A-2 Beta Casein gene. Ancient breeds will have this gene which is also present in goats and sheep. You should be able to digest this milk without any problems.

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  7. At first I was afraid of raw milk but my friend convinced me. And the cows are tested here to see that they are not sick. So I get it straight from the dairy bring it home strain it. Make my own yogurt, butter, ice cream and sometimes cheese. My girls can tell the difference between store bought milk and raw milk. and Prefer Raw milk. My husband who can’t drink store bought milk because he is lactose intolerant Can drink a nice cold glass of Raw milk with no Side effects. I am so glad that I can get raw cow’s milk where I am at.

    Reply

  8. Great post! I love how you layed it all out there and summed it up! :)

    Reply

  9. I am one of those people who grew up on a small farm that included grazing dairy cattle. When we needed milk, we went to the barn and got some, let it sit in the fridge overnight so the cream would rise to the top (Jersey cows), skim off the cream and drink the milk. I’m almost 50, am rarely sick, only had one broken bone in my life, still have all my own healthy teeth and have been able to maintain a healthy stable weight most of my life………it’s harder as I get older. :-) Funny thing is when I got away from fresh “natural” milk, I started to have a few seasonal allergies.

    Most of my life has been spent eating and drinking foods grown by my family and as I get older we are going back to that approach. If I grow it, I know what’s in it. We also raise our own grass feed beef which has a much better flavor and is so much leaner than what you can buy. I know everyone can’t do what my husband and I do. But if you can access these kind of foods, I believe you can live a happier healthier life.

    Reply

    • You are very blessed to have grown up on raw milk! I’m so glad I’m able to give my kids a healthy childhood so they can, by God’s grace, grow up into healthy adults.

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  10. Thanks for the informed perspective. We tried to
    raise pasture fed beef cattle. The ASH part isn’t difficult. ) I don’t know how much harder
    dairy cattle are.) Our biggest problem was
    drought. Anyway I’ll keep my eye out for a local source
    after I have moved.

    Reply

  11. Thank you for the info on what I find to be a very confusing issue!

    Reply

  12. Very interesting post! When I was a kid, my parents were lucky enough to have an uncle who milked cows as a neighbor. We used to go down and dip out of his milk tank and leave $1 :)

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  13. It was a pretty obvious decision for me. My father grew up on a farm drinking raw milk, and once raw milk was leg an to sell in stores in California, where we lived, that was the milk we drank. But there was one problem, it was gross! I didn’t know then (I just thought I didn’t like milk, raw or pasteurized) but after tasting it recently I know that it tastes like it’s going sour. Not something 12 yr old me wanted to drink. Recently one of the mothers of the children in my Sunday school class (who knows I am crazy like her, and would love to know) told me about the farm she gets her milk and eggs from. I didn’t even know such a thing existed, and I jumped at the opportunity to try such milk again (if only for my mother, who gets cramps when she drinks pasteurized milk). It really is delicious, and I feel so lucky that I am able to buy and drink it legally! Although it is $12/gal….

    Reply

  14. I am so thankful that we found a raw milk source. It takes an hour to drive there, but is worth it. Plus it is cheaper than milk in the store!

    Reply

  15. Thanks for posting this. Our pediatrician recommended a raw milk formula for my baby when I had to stop nursing her early. She had a pretty bad diaper rash and had a runny nose for weeks. I started making her formula with raw milk and a bunch of great other ingredients and now shes fine. Super healthy and growing like a weed. I think its funny people are flabbergasted when I tell them I make her formula. I always say, what do you think people fed their babies if they couldn’t nurse before the powdered stuff was invented!! I never did jarred baby food either and most every one is shocked. Keep up the great info.

    Reply

  16. We have been learning about raw milk vs. store bought pasteurized and homogenized milk recently. One thing I am leery of is raw milk during pregnancy. Does anyone have any thoughts? Listeria can kill babies in the womb. I also would not eat hot dogs or lunch meat for the same potential risks (although I don’t like hot dogs anyways.) Wondering if anyone has any advice!

    Reply

    • Hannah, in the Powerpoint I cited in the article, they talk about the risk of listeria and raw milk. Is is very, very, uncommon, and you’re much more likely to get it from hot dogs or lunch meat, as you mentioned. I know listeria is scary stuff, so I don’t take this lightly. But from a farm that tests their milk regularly and has never had an outbreak, I feel comfortable drinking it during pregnancy. Raw milk has been valued as an important food for pregnant and nursing mothers in traditional societies, so I decided it was important for me to consume it, too. Obviously everyone has to make that decision for themselves!

      Here is the link if you missed it: http://www.realmilk.com/ppt/index.html

      Reply

  17. Just want to add my experience with raw milk. Before we started to drink it, my son had a cold that turned into a cough when he was about 3 years old. The cold went away and the cough stayed around only at night. He had the worst coughing fits. It just wouldn’t go away and we refused to give him meds (we were slowly entering the less toxic life). So we finally took him to the doc and they basically said he had some sort of infection that had done some damage and it might be asthma or it might not be and it might turn into asthma or it might go away and they prescribed an in haler. I read the possible side effects of that thing and threw it straight into the trash. A few weeks later we were introduced to raw milk and about 2 days after he started drinking it, his cough disappeared. Coincidence. No way :) .

    Reply

  18. I’m late coming to this great post on raw milk…but great info!! I run a volunteer drop at my house in Ravenna and it’s a blessing to have milk readily available here in Seattle. I’m glad you found a good setup too – saving trips really helps since those who drink raw milk are also probably spending a lot of time cooking already. We’re always open to new participants if anyone is in my area.

    I’m happy to have found this blog and will be subscribing! Have there ever been any meetups of fellow Christian women or moms feeding their families traditional foods? I’d be interested!

    Reply

    • Hi Alicia! I have seen a WAPF group of men and women (and not specifically Christian) on meetup.com that meet once a month or so, but I have never seen anything else…but would love to find a real foods swap in the area! (So keep me posted if you hear of one and if I hear of anything I will post it on the MAK FB page!) Thanks for subscribing, glad to have you!

      Reply

  19. [...] milk. You’ve heard us say it before, but it bears mentioning again. Raw milk is awesome. Did you know that raw milk is a complete food and people could survive (and thrive) on raw milk [...]

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  20. [...] the real-food-turned-fake that I want to look at here is pasteurized milk. Joanna talked about raw milk here, and if you had any questions or concerns about the benefits (and myths) surrounding this [...]

    Reply

  21. [...] raw animal foods into their diets. Now, I’m not one to reach for a raw steak or sushi, but raw milk? You betcha! I also throw raw egg yolks into my [...]

    Reply

  22. I am in the works of making the change to raw milk and finally got my husband on board. I have endometriosis and was reading on the endo diet. It says not to have dairy or red meat in your diet. Do you know if it is different when it is raw milk or grass fed beef? That would make the change a lot sooner ;-)

    Reply

    • Hi Ashley! I am not very familiar with endometriosis…however, there aren’t many ailments that I have come across that Raw Milk wouldnt be awesome for :-) Check out naturallyknockedup.com for more info!

      Reply

  23. [...] cream, it doesn’t matter if the milk and cream is raw or not. If I don’t have enough raw cream from my herd share on hand, I go to my local health food store and buy a pint of low-temp pasteurized, unhomogenized [...]

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  24. [...] When making the switch to real foods, fermenting can sound scary. Or maybe it’s just hard to believe that leaving the bacteria in your food is good for you. We’ve been told so often that pasteurization makes food safer that it’s hard to change our thinking. Read more about why pasteurization doesn’t make your food safer in this post about raw milk. [...]

    Reply

  25. [...] When making the switch to real foods, fermenting can sound scary. Or maybe it’s just hard to believe that leaving the bacteria in your food is good for you. We’ve been told so often that pasteurization makes food safer that it’s hard to change our thinking. Read more about why pasteurization doesn’t make your food safer in this post about raw milk. [...]

    Reply

  26. [...] favorite recipe for hot chocolate uses whole ingredients – raw cacao powder, raw honey, and raw milk – and tastes so much richer than a hot chocolate mix from the [...]

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  27. [...] the land! Fruit and nuts and vegetables and herbs and grains and, dare I say, eggs and meat and milk and [...]

    Reply

  28. I can’t tell if this is an article about the benefits for raw milk or grass-fed milk. I think you have the two conflated as one and the same. You can have raw milk from grain-fed cows and pasteurized grass-fed milk.

    Reply

  29. [...] raw animal foods into their diets. Now, I’m not one to reach for a raw steak or sushi, but raw milk? You betcha! I also throw raw egg yolks into my [...]

    Reply

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