Why Raw Milk?3
Why Raw Milk?One of the commitments our family made as part of the Locavore90 challenge is to find local sources for our meat, eggs and dairy. This week I had the privilege of speaking with several local dairy farmers as part of my search for the right source of our family’s milk. As I began thinking through our personal dairy needs I started asking myself a bunch of questions, like…
- Should we even be drinking milk?
- Why is it again that I want to drink raw milk?
- How much am I willing to pay for local, raw milk?
- How am I going to find a way to purchase enough milk to drink and make our own butter and cheese?
That’s when it occurred to me that before I can share information with you about where to find local, raw milk, first I should share about why you should find local, raw milk.
Local and Raw
Yes, I said local. If you’ve followed this blog for any length of time, that shouldn’t be a surprise to you. After all, the mission of our farm revolves around buying local and Locavore90 is all about incorporating more local foods into the diets of families in Southwest Michigan. (If you’ve not yet become convinced that buying your food locally is beneficial to the health of your wallet, your body and your community, click here.)
I also said raw. This post may be a little long, but it will explain to you why during our Locavore90 conversations about dairy I will be talking exclusively about milk that is:
- Local (see above)
- Raw (unpasteurized)
- From grass-fed animals
- For cow’s milk, from A2 cows only
Research – both scientific and anecdotal – suggests that raw milk has several health benefits not retained by its pasteurized counterpart. Or perhaps a more accurate way to say it is that pasteurized milk has been altered in ways that reduce its health benefits and, in some cases, actually cause the milk to be more harmful than healthful.
The general premise is that raw milk contains proteins, antibodies, a perfect balance of minerals and good bacteria that are destroyed, altered or diminished during the heating process of pasteurization.
According to Wikipedia:
“Pasteurization… is a process of heating a food, which is usually a liquid, to a specific temperature for a predefined length of time and then immediately cooling it after it is removed from the heat. This process slows spoilage caused by microbial growth in the food.
Unlike sterilization, pasteurization is not intended to kill all micro-organisms in the food. Instead, it aims to reduce the number of viable pathogens so they are unlikely to cause disease (assuming the pasteurized product is stored as indicated and is consumed before its expiration date). Commercial-scale sterilization of food is not common because it adversely affects the taste and quality of the product. Certain foods, such as dairy products, may be superheated to ensure pathogenic microbes are destroyed.”
In general terms, Americans pasteurize milk to reduce the possibility of “viable pathogens” causing disease or spoilage in the milk. Sounds good, right? But in reality “some research suggests that unpasteurized milk contains antimicrobial components absent in pasteurized milk. These studies found that pathogens grow more slowly or die more quickly when added to raw milk than when added to heat-treated milk. This does not mean that raw milk cannot be contaminated with bacteria, nor does it mean that raw milk ‘kills pathogens’. Rather, unpasteurized milk may be somewhat less susceptible to contamination than pasteurized milk due to its probiotic bacteria and antimicrobial enzymes.”
Natural News provided an excellent overview of the health benefits of raw milk – all of the things we’re missing out on when we drink commercially pasteurized milk from feed-lot cows. Here is a verbatim copy of the info they shared here.
Raw cow’s milk has all 20 of the standard amino acids, which saves our bodies the work of having to convert any into usable form. About 80% of the proteins in milk are caseins (reasonably heat stable but easy to digest). The other 20% fall into the class of whey proteins. These are also easy to digest, but also very heat sensitive.
The immunoglobulins are an extremely complex class of milk proteins also known as antibodies. These provide resistance to many viruses, bacteria and bacterial toxins and may also help reduce the severity of asthma symptoms. Research has shown a significant loss of these important disease fighters when milk is pasteurized.
Lactose is the primary carbohydrate in cow’s milk. It is made from one molecule each of the simple sugars glucose and galactose. People with lactose intolerance do not make the enzyme lactase and so cannot digest milk sugar. Raw milk has its lactose-digesting Lactobacilli bacteria intact. This may allow people who traditionally have avoided milk to drink raw milk.
about two thirds of the fat in milk is saturated. Saturated fats play a number of important roles in our bodies. They construct cell membranes and key hormones, they provide energy storage and padding for delicate organs, and they serve as a vehicle for important fat-soluble vitamins.
Conjugated Linoleic Acid (CLA) is abundant in milk from pastured cows. This is a heavily studied, polyunsaturated Omega-6 fatty acid that has promising health benefits. Some of CLA’s many possible benefits are (1) it raises metabolic rates; (2) it helps remove abdominal fat; (3) it boosts muscle growth; (4) it reduces resistance to insulin; and (5) it strengthens the immune system and lowers food allergy reactions. Grass-fed raw milk has 3-5 times more CLAs than the milk from feed-lot cows.
Whole raw milk has both water and fat soluble vitamins. No enriching is necessary. It’s a complete food. Pasteurized milk must have the destroyed components added back in, especially the fat soluble vitamins A and D.
Raw milk contains a broad selection of minerals ranging from calcium and phosphorus to trace elements.
Calcium is abundant in raw milk. Its benefits include a reduction of some cancers, particularly colon; higher bone density in people of all ages; lower risk of osteoporosis in older adults; lowered risk of kidney stones; the formation of strong teeth; as well as a reduction of dental cavities.
An interesting fact about minerals as nutrients is the special balance they require with other minerals to function properly. For example, calcium needs a proper ratio of phosphorus and magnesium to be properly utilized by our bodies. Raw milk is in perfect balance.
The 60 functional enzymes in raw milk have an amazing assortment of jobs to perform. Some of them are native to milk and some come from beneficial bacteria growing in raw milk. When we eat food that contains enzymes devoted to its own digestion, it’s less work for our pancreas. Other enzymes, like catalase, lysozyme and lactoperoxidase help to protect milk from unwanted bacterial infection, making it safer for us to drink.
Milk contains about 3mg of cholesterol per gram. Our bodies make most of the cholesterol we need. This amount fluctuates by what we get from our food. Cholesterol is a repair substance. It is a waxy plant steroid that our body uses as a form of water-proofing and as a building block for key hormones.
Raw milk is a living food with amazing self-protective properties. As most food goes bad as it ages, raw milk gets better. From helpful bacterial fermentation, the digestibility of enzymes, vitamins, and minerals all increases.
In addition to all of these health benefits, many people think that raw milk has a superior flavor and texture to pasteurized, homogenized milk. Here is a quote from Emily Weinstein who blogs for The New York Times. She describes her first raw milk experience in this way:
“The milk — oh man, the milk! — was creamy and full of flavors, not white like supermarket milk, but yellow-tinged. It was milk with a taste that wasn’t just defined by it texture — it was distinct, satisfying, delicious. All food should be like this, I thought, so natural it seems to redefine the word.”
With all of this fabulous info in mind, it’s difficult to believe that selling raw milk is illegal in all but 1 of the United States, isn’t it? More on that later (don’t worry – there is a legal way to still get it.)
Who cares what the cow eats?
Dairy From Grass-Fed Animals
For optimal health (and conversely, to avoid health detriments) it’s important for raw milk to come from humanely raised, grass-fed animals. Why? Because dairy animals (we’ll focus on cows and goats) have a digestive system that includes a rumen. The rumen is the first chamber of the digestive system of animals that graze (including cows and goats). It serves as the primary site for microbial fermentation of ingested feed. The rumen was not designed to digest grains such as corn – it was designed to digest grasses. When we feed grain to cows (the majority of US dairy cows are not pasture raised but eat corn and soy) we are feeding them an unnatural food and their bodies react in unnatural ways. Add on top of that unsanitary, inhumane and anti-biotic laden food-factory practices and you have a recipe for ‘milk’ that is not the same product as the milk our grandparents and great grandparents used to drink.
Here are a couple of videos that do a much better job of informing you about the consequences of feeding grain to dairy cows than I ever could.
This video may seem a bit long and off topic at first, but hang in there! You need the corn explanation to get to the cow-pertinent part at the end.
Devil in the Milk
What is an A2 Cow?
While talking to a local dairy farmer this week I learned about the important difference between an A1 cow and an A2 cow. I’m no expert, but let me do my best to piece together resources from those who are experts and provide you with an introduction. The most direct way I know to give you a solid overview is to share this article at www.mercola.com verbatim:
“Prominent food researcher Dr. Thomas Cowan has been involved in thinking about the medicinal aspects of cow’s milk virtually his entire career.
His studies on the subject started in earnest when he read the book The Milk of Human Kindness Is Not Pasteurized, by maverick physician, William Campbell Douglass, MD.
Cowan became convinced that a large part of the disease in this country is related to the way we handle, or rather mishandle, milk and milk products.
However, he still felt that a piece of the puzzle was missing. Many of his patients, in spite of eating only the proper dairy products, still had illness and still seemed not to tolerate milk. Recently, he was asked to consider writing the foreword to a book called The Devil in the Milk, written by Dr. Keith Woodford, which was again an eye-opener for him.
All proteins are long chains of amino acids. Beta casein is a chain 229 amino acids in length. Cows who produce this protein in their milk with a proline at number 67 are called A2 cows, and are the older breeds of cows (e.g. Jerseys, Asian and African cows). But some 5,000 years ago, a mutation occurred in this proline amino acid, converting it to histidine. Cows that have this mutated beta casein are called A1 cows, and include breeds like Holstein.
Proline has a strong bond to a small protein called BCM 7, which helps keep it from getting into the milk, so that essentially no BCM 7 is found in the urine, blood or GI tract of old-fashioned A2 cows. On the other hand, histidine, the mutated protein, only weakly holds on to BCM 7, so it is liberated in the GI tract of animals and humans who drink A1 cow milk.
BCM 7 has been shown to cause neurological impairment in animals and people exposed to it, especially autistic and schizophrenic changes. BCM 7 interferes with the immune response, and injecting BCM 7 in animal models has been shown to provoke type 1 diabetes. Dr. Woodford’s book presents research showing a direct correlation between a population’s exposure to A1 cow’s milk and incidence of autoimmune disease, heart disease, type 1 diabetes, autism, and schizophrenia.
Simply switching breeds of cows could result in amazing health benefits.”
At the beginning of this post I shared some questions with you – questions I’ve been asking myself about the dairy products I feed my family. You may be asking some of the same questions, so I thought I’d conclude with some answers.
Should we even be drinking milk?
There are some schools of thought out there that milk should be avoided completely because of the (substantiated) negative consequences milk has on health. I do not refute in any way that milk consumption has caused health issues in our society, but after learning more about the negative health consequences of pasteurizing milk, it stands to reason that the issue may not be milk itself but the unintended consequences of our attempts to improve upon nature. How ironic that the same food which has been discounted as dangerous to your health actually has medicinal value when consume the right (natural) way! Our family will continue to consume dairy – the right way.
Why is it again that I want to drink raw milk?
In short, because raw milk contains numerous health benefits while, conversely, processed milk can be damaging to health. The significant benefits of raw milk and the significant risks of processed milk make it a clear choice. Some would argue that raw milk is actually dangerous to drink because there is an increased chance of pathogens (it hasn’t been boiled at high temperatures like pasteurized milk). Click here for more scientific data to address that claim.
How much am I willing to pay for local, raw milk?
The reality is, buying local, raw milk will cost you more than buying a gallon of pasteurized milk at Meijer. Local, raw milk costs somewhere in the neighborhood of $6 per gallon but, depending on the farm, can be as high as $8. That number comes with some sticker shock when you’re used to spending $2.99 per gallon! We personally drink about 1 gallon of milk a week. Your family may drink more, but let’s use the 1 gallon per week rule as an example. Before you decide that you can’t afford to buy raw milk, please consider that there are very reasonable ways to save an extra $3 per week on other items (i.e., drink one less latte a week; grow your own spinach; conserve gas so you buy one less gallon, etc.). On the flip side, the real cost to you in allergy medication, over-the-counter gas treatments and other potential side effects of pasteurized milk cost more than $3 per week. In some cases, the difference between your life drinking raw milk verses pasteurized may be the kind of difference that a price tag cannot depict.
How will you know if you don’t try?
I hope you’ll review this information carefully and talk with your family about it. For those of you who’ve decided that local, raw milk is worth serious consideration, I’m going to be sharing info next week that answers these questions:
- If it’s illegal to sell raw milk in Michigan, how am I going to (legally) get it?
- Where can I get raw milk?
- Show me the numbers – how much is it really going to cost me?
- What about milk from animals other than cows, like sheep and goats