In a nutshell…
Drinking milk from grass-fed, pasture-raised cows has many health benefits. And drinking unpasteurized, non-homogenized raw milk has the most benefits.
Is milk good for you?
Milk is one of the most controversial foods in our diet. I have never had negative side effects from milk, so I like it. And from my experience and research, I think that milk from a healthy source is good for me. Milk is a great source of protein; vitamins B12, B2, D, and A; minerals iodine and phosphorus; and calcium. WHFoods
What is the healthiest milk to drink?
Milk from 100% grass-fed cows raised in a pasture produce the healthiest milk. Grass feeding improves the quality of cow’s milk and makes the milk richer in omega-3 fats, vitamin E, beta-carotene, and CLA (a beneficial fatty acid named conjugated linoleic acid). Also, drinking the milk in its most natural form and drinking it whole will provide you with the most omega-3s and other nutrients. WHFoods
Avoid milk produced using synthetic rbST or rbGH growth hormones. These growth hormones are injected into the cow to increase milk yield. But the use of growth hormones increases the incidence of mastitis, lameness, and some reproductive issues in the cows. Increased mastitis is linked to a high use of antibiotics to treat the mastitis and consequently antibiotic residue is secreted into the milk.
Another concern with the use of growth hormones is its link to insulin growth factor-1. Studies show that rbGH treatment produces an increase in IGF-1 in cow’s milk. Increased levels of serum IGF-1 may be linked to an increased risk of breast, colon, and prostate cancer. The FDA assures us that growth hormones and the IGF-1 increase in milk won’t negatively affect humans. It doesn’t sound great to me though! Since there are natural options that don’t use growth hormones, I’ll stick with those. Science Blogs
Utah Raw Milk Regulations
In Utah, the retail sale of raw milk is limited. There are only 4 raw milk producers that I know of that have been certified by the state to sell their raw milk. The milk can be sold on the farm or at a retail store located off the farm if it’s owned by the producer. Cow shares are currently prohibited.
The certified producers are required to perform monthly testing for bacteria and pathogens. Animals must be tested before production and every six months after. These are just a few of the regulations the state requires for raw milk producers. The standards for cleanliness, bacteria count, disease-free animals, and testing are the same and in some cases even more stringent than the standards for pasteurized milk producers. For more detailed information check out the Utah Administrative Code Rule-Raw Milk for Retail. Raw milk may seem expensive, but after reading through the regulations the farmers must meet, I’m surprised it’s as affordable as it is!
Where can I buy raw milk?
I buy my raw milk from Real Foods Market. They have retail locations in Salt Lake, Orem, Heber, and St. George, Utah. Other places I know of that sell raw milk in Utah include Johnny’s Dairy and Heber Valley Milk. These farms are all legal raw milk producers certified with the Utah Department of Agriculture. There may be other farms that are certified that I don’t know about and of course, there are probably many other places you can purchase raw milk from local farmers that aren’t certified with the state. The Real Milk website has a more comprehensive list of Utah raw milk producers if you’re interested. I feel confident buying raw milk from the two places I’ve tried–Real Foods Market and Heber Valley Milk–because the state regulations are very stringent. If you don’t live in Utah, check out the Eat Wild, Local Harvest, and Real Milk websites to find raw milk providers in your area.
Raw vs. pasteurized milk
Here are 8 reasons I like raw milk:
1. Raw milk is a living food. Raw milk consists of beneficial bacteria, food enzymes, natural vitamins, and immunoglobulins that are heat-sensitive and destroyed through pasteurization. Heating milk also changes the bioavailability of its minerals making calcium less absorbable.
2. Raw milk is rich in beneficial bacteria. These bacteria stimulate and train your immune system to function properly, keep pathogenic bacteria at bay, and prevent and treat e. coli, rotavirus, and salmonella infections. When you drink raw milk, you help to optimize the levels of beneficial bacteria in your gut. These beneficial bacteria are destroyedthrough pasteurization.
3. Raw milk is rich in food enzymes. These enzymes include lactase, lipase, and phosphatase–among others–which help you to digest milk and metabolize its nutrients. People can react negatively to pasteurized milk because heat kills these enzymes and they aren’t present to digest the natural sugars, absorb calcium, and keep out pathogens.
4. Raw milk is rich in natural vitamins. It’s rich in natural fat-soluble vitamins A, K, and E; and rich in water-soluble vitamins like C and B-complex vitamins. A quart of raw milk from grass-fed cows contains about 50% more vitamin E and 7% more folate than pasteurized milk. Raw milk also contains vitamin C, which is absent from pasteurized milk. Vitamins are destroyed by heat so pasteurized milk is fortified with synthetic vitamins that are not treated the same way as natural vitamins by your body.
5. Raw butterfat from grassfed animals is rich in Conjugated Linoleic Acid. CLA is known to fight breast, intestinal, and bone cancers; hypertension; and adipose obesity. This fatty-acid isn’t found in pasteurized and skim milk.
6. Raw milk supports small farmers, not feedlots.Pasteurization of milk came about because of the unsanitary and unhealthy conditions in concentrated animal feed operations. Cows that are confined and fed an unnatural diet of grain and mash produce milk that is poor in vitamins, minerals, and full of pathogenic bacteria. Rather than focusing on improving the condition of the cows that produced unhealthy raw milk, government officials instead mandated the pasteurization of milk. This allows industrial dairies to continue operating in a way that make their cows sick. When you purchase most pasteurized milk at the grocery store, it’s supporting these concentrated animal feed operations.
In contrast, raw milk producers operate small farms with fewer cows spread out over a large amount of space. The cows graze on pasture, which is their natural diet, and they spend their time outside in the sun. By drinking raw milk, you’re supporting farmers who value their customers and their herd.
7. Raw milk is not homogenized. Homogenization breaks up the fat molecules present in butterfat allowing them to be suspended in the liquid milk rather than separated on top. This process leaves the fats subject to oxidization. Oxidized fats contribute to heart disease, hypertension, and hyperlipidemia. Raw milk isn’t homogenized, so the fat molecules remain intact, wholesome, and healthy.
8. Raw milk is easier to digest. Components of raw milk that are killed in pasteurization allow you to digest milk better. Lipase, lactase, and amylase work in conjunction with macronutrients to help you digest the milk as a whole food. In contrast, pasteurized milk is hard to digest, particularly because of the proteins in milk that are denatured by heat. Nourished Kitchen
Tip: Find a raw milk provider that you trust and try it out. Depending on what kind of grass the cows or goats eat, their milk flavor can vary throughout the year or from farm to farm. I didn’t especially like the milk at one provider that I tried, but I love the milk I buy now. Try again if you’re not satisfied with your first purchase!
Disclosure: Raw milk for sale in retail locations in Utah is required to have this label on the container: Raw milk, no matter how carefully produced, may be unsafe. Keep refrigerated.
I think this is a true statement. There is a chance your raw milk is unsafe. There is also a chance your raw eggs are unsafe. And a chance that any of your food is unsafe. Maybe the chance in raw milk is higher? It’s possible. I’ve been drinking raw milk for about two years now and I’ve never been sick from it. But I’m not saying it’s not a possibility. For now I think the benefits of drinking it outweigh the risk. But if I ever get sick from it, I may change my mind. And if I ever get sick from it, I’ll let you know!