Raw Milk
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The Food & Drug Administration (FDA) bans the inter-state sale of raw milk for human consumption but the sale of unpasteurized, or Raw, Milk is legal in 28 states, each of which have different regulations. The complexity or competing standards makes it difficult to create a single national standard for raw milk. And there are groups in the many of the remaining 22 states trying to legalize the sale of unpasteurized milk because they believe that pasteurization, along with killing pathogens damages much of the nutritional content of the raw milk. If they are successful, by default, we may arrive at a situation where Raw Milk is for sale in every state but with different quality control rules, and public health implications. One source we know of, but have not used extensively, for finding raw milk in the various states is RealMilk.com. In some states where sale is not legal, consumers can buy into cow-sharing agreements with farmers that allow them to buy a share in the cow or herd and as an “owner” pay a fee for an allocation of the milk the cow produces. Green Pastures in Coopersville, Michigan is one example. 

In the raw vs. pasteurized debate, it is hard to determine which side has it right since there is validity to both sides’ arguments. Pasteurization protects universally even against harmful bacteria in seemingly healthy looking cows, which is a major point the raw advocates don’t seem to be addressing.

Also, many of us are too young or too uninterested in history to know that in the past, before widespread pasteurization, raw milk contributed to large scale food borne illness. And the success of pasteurization makes it reasonable for us to forget. In the ten years between 1998 and 2008 there were only 85 outbreaks of human infections resulting from consumption of raw milk reported to the Center for Disease Control. Specifically there were 1,614 reported illnesses, 187 hospitalizations and 2 deaths reported in 10 years and that is among a population of a reported 3 million raw milk consumers. Those are good odds.

But before 1938 when pasteurization was widely adopted, cow’s milk accounted for about 25% of all food and water born disease outbreaks and deaths. Raw Milk was (and could still be) in many ways a potentially deadly product.

At Smart Kitchen, we are not on a soapbox for either side. We want safety, flavor & nutrition, in that order: safe first, then flavor & nutrition. With Raw Milk we think a balanced approach is warranted that starts with your local raw dairy. How reputable are they? Do they follow strict health & sanitation procedures? What do their other customers say?

Be especially careful if you are feeding others. You have more responsibility for your diners in that situation. Notify pregnant women, children (preferably their parents) and the elderly, all of whom are especially vulnerable to milk-borne pathogens, that you are serving raw milk. Let them make an informed decision about their health.

Don’t forget, illnesses and deaths have also been linked to the consumption of fresh cheese made from unpasteurized milk, notably the Queso Fresco style cheese popular in Hispanic communities. The FDA states categorically that raw soft cheeses such as Camembert and Brie from raw cow or goat milk are unsafe to eat. But boy are they good. We partake in moderation, from reputable sources, typically when traveling abroad. Even the raw, aged cheeses can be dangerous. Use common sense and a reputable purveyor to help you navigate the waters. One raw aged blue cheese, in fact the original American Blue Cheese, made by a dairy that we visited on the Summer Food Drive 2010 and like a lot is Maytag Blue Cheese, produced in Newton, IA. Myrna Ver Ploeg, the Dairy President, and her dairymen, craftsmen & whole team are professional, hospitable and talented.

Availability

Raw Milk is available all year long.

Gluten Free

Yes

Low Fat

No

Low Calorie

No