Many of you will be aware that in December last year, a three year old toddler died after drinking raw milk in Victoria. According to reports there were also three other children who were admitted to hospital after consuming the same raw tainted milk from Mountain View Farm.
Officially raw milk is sold for “cosmetic purposes” only, with it typically marketed as “bath milk”. Whilst bathing in milk might have been in vogue in Cleopatra’s days, I think it’s safe to assume that 99% of people buying raw milk these days are drinking it. So the new laws in Victoria, requiring raw milk producers to add a bittering agent to the milk to make it unpalatable to drink, is quite literally a bitter pill to swallow for those who enjoy drinking raw milk.
Before I get further into writing this post, I would like to say that in speaking out in defense of raw milk that I hope not to come over as insensitive, given the tragic death of the toddler in Victoria. If it’s possible to determine that the milk that left Mountain View Farm was tainted then (and didn’t become so afterwards) then certainly they ought to be prosecuted. After all, even “bath milk” shouldn’t be sold to the public if it is contaminated.
I actually don’t drink raw milk myself but I’ve met plenty of people over the years who do. For me I’m motivated to defend it because raw milk brings us back to farming and processing practices that I believe are more ethical both from an ecological health perspective and also in terms of better animal welfare. More on this later..
For now though, I’ve been following the mainstream press since last year’s incident, complete with it’s all too typical hysteria that it has drummed up. Every article I’ve read in mainstream press, has a Health Minister, “nutrition expert” or study quoted, condemning raw milk consumption. Meanwhile the Raw Milk producers have been mute on defending the merits of drinking raw milk due to it’s legal status, so the general public are only been told one side of the story.
Why Drink Raw Milk?
People who consume raw milk say that it tastes better than pasteurised milk, is more nutritious because it’s vitamins (B6, B12 and C) haven’t been degraded by heat, and is easier to digest because the naturally occurring enzymes and bacteria that break it down inside our bodies haven’t been destroyed. One enzyme contained in raw milk, lactase, digests lactose, the milk sugar that so many people cannot digest. Pasteurization then is what makes milk indigestible for many people. Another enzyme, phosphatase, is essential for the release and absorption of the minerals phosphorus and calcium. Calcium in a major nutrient people seek in milk, and pasteurisation renders it largely unavailable (could this partly explain why despite our dairy consumption, osteoporosis remains at epidemic levels in our society)?
I’ve also read recent media stating that “experts” or “studies” have confirmed that there is “no scientific evidence that drinking raw milk has any benefits over drinking pasteurised milk”. Granted, I’m guilty of doing the same here, but this recent European peer reviewed study demonstrates the opposite.
I’m all for people expressing their point of view, but I’m sorry in this case it absolutely defies any reasonable logic to say that you can take a live food and kill it with pasteurisation and then still say that it remains as healthy. Pasteurisation and homogenisation (along with other horrible things they do to conventional milk) denatures it, that is absolutely indisputable.
I know it’s part of the plan to “protect us” from consuming raw milk , but trying to tell us that pasteurised milk is just as healthy is just plain silly. It’s this sort of behavior by the mainstream media that makes me wonder if some of their agenda in demonizing raw milk is just pandering to the powerful “conventional” dairy industry, demonstrating that they know “which side their bread its buttered on.”
Animal Foods and Harmful Bacteria (Often) Go Together
The truth is that everyday, there are contaminated foods that make their way into our grocery stores, restaurants, cafes and anywhere else we buy raw (particularly raw animal) foods. According to the Food Safety Information Council there are an estimated 5.4 million cases of food poisoning in Australia each year which results in 1.2 million visits to Doctors and 120 deaths.
Animal foods are most commonly the cause of food poisoning. On occasions when these foods have become contaminated with pathogenic bacteria such as salmonella, E-coli and campylobacter etc their subsequent cooking will sometimes kill the contaminant before it harms the person consuming it. Raw milk on the other hand though doesn’t have the same sort of safeguard, as it is usually consumed unheated.
The question then is how likely is it that you’ll get contaminated raw milk?
The answer to that question is very much related to the sanitation practices in farming and processing of the milk.
The Case of “Organic Pastures”
Mark McAfee owns Organic Pastures, a 400+ cow dairy that is the largest raw dairy in the United States, in California, one of the states where raw milk is legal for retail sales.
To prove the quality of his milk, every month Organic Pastures posts the laboratory results of testing. McAfee has even inoculated pathogenic bacterial contaminants such as E.coli, Listeria, and Salmonella into his raw milk and pasteurised milk. In the raw milk, none of the pathogens were able to survive, because the naturally occurring bacteria and the acids they produce do not allow them to. However in the pasteurised milk, which is devoid of bacterial and enzyme activity, the introduced pathogens easily proliferated.
A more fundamental issue underlying all of this though is that not all milk is created equal. I’m going to assume that most of the raw milk sold here in Australia is coming from farms similar to “Organic Pastures”. That is, they’re relatively small scale farms where the cows have been given plenty of space to graze on grass. This practice makes for mostly healthy animals and safe, nutritious milk. This is evidenced by the quantity of beneficial omega-3 fatty acids and a nutrient called conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), an important omega-6 fatty acid that is found in milk from grass-fed animals in concentrations up to five times the amount found in grain-fed animals.
With the intensification of farming, it very much appears that the health of dairy cattle has on the whole deteriorated. Being fed grain instead of exclusively grass starts the problem, thereafter often requiring routine antibiotics to deal with infection caused by this unnatural diet. Conventional milk production also often involves hormone injections to force the cow to produce 35-50 liters of milk a day (this is 10 times more than her calf would need) . On top of this, cows being artificially inseminated over and over again, (thereafter having their calves taken away from them), and then having them kept in high density, stressful, unhygienic environments are all going to lead to an unhealthy animal.
Thanks to pasteurisation though, all resulting problems are solved, which allows conventional practices to continue.
When it comes down to it, is pasteurisation really just about protecting you from the dangers of raw milk, or is it also about preserving a method of business that keeps costs down and production high?
Should you Drink Raw Milk?
Yes and maybe no. According to Real Milk Facts they’ve published research that demonstrates that despite their being more outbreaks of contaminated raw milk in the U.S since 1998 than pasteurised milk, there have been fewer recorded cases of deaths attributed to drinking raw contaminated milk (2 deaths) than contaminated pasteurised milk (10 deaths).
Having said the above though, if you are feeding raw milk to a child or to an elderly person (both are more likely to have susceptible immune systems), then you would be well advised to exercise strong caution on obtaining your raw milk from a highly reputable source.
In the end the debate will remain an emotive one – no doubt about that.
What concerns me the most though is the impact on the animals. Sadly their welfare never seems to make it into the mainstream debate. Whats the best outcome for them? Would it be better for them to give their milk to a raw milk producer or to a conventional, intensive producer?
We all know the answer to that question.
The Floor Is Now Yours
I’m never entirely correct with what I write, your truth is different to mine, if you have a different point of view, or would like to share your own experiences, I’d love to hear them.
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Aaron Travers is author and creator of “ The Boda Cleanse– The 4-Step Intermittent Fasting Program to Detox, Burn Fat and Restore Vitality. ” Aaron writes at www.thebodacleanse.com.au giving tips and personal insights on how to bring more health promoting simplicity into our lives .
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