The choice to drink raw milk is often a tumultuous one. The CDC and health authorities try hard to persuade us that raw milk is dangerous, but still there is a growing movement of people who purposely seek out raw milk. Although the price of raw milk is typically higher than organic pasteurized milk, people across the income spectrum are still choosing to buy raw milk.
My family has been drinking raw milk exclusively for over 14 years now. At times, we have had to drive over 400 miles round-trip in order to get our raw milk, and we currently pay $16 per gallon for raw milk. We're not affluent, but nonetheless we have decided that raw milk is well worth the price.
What makes raw milk worth it? Here are the top 5 reasons to drink raw milk.
Raw milk provides superior nutrition.
Raw milk has numerous health benefits.
Raw milk is better for animal health.
Raw milk is delicious.
Raw milk supports local farmers instead of large corporations and milk processors.
#1 Raw Milk Provides Superior Nutrition
Because raw milk is a whole food in its natural form, it provides much more nutrition than pasteurized milk. Check out this milk comparison chart (courtesy of Organic Pastures Dairy).
In many ways, raw milk can be likened to breastmilk: they both contain a wide array of beneficial nutrients, enzymes, vitamins, and minerals, in their natural form which is most easily utilized by the body. I'm certainly not advocating that raw milk should replace breastmilk for infants and toddlers; breastmilk is the absolute perfect food for the early years of life, however raw milk is a natural next step after breastfeeding. Raw milk is a great source of calcium, iron, Vitamins A, D & K, phosphorus, zinc, conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), and omega-3 fatty acids, plus many beneficial enzymes!
Often times, lactose-intolerance is actually pasteurization intolerance. Raw milk contains the lactase enzyme which helps the body digest lactose, so raw milk is easier to digest than pasteurized milk. Lactose-intolerance runs in my husband's family, yet he can consume moderate amounts of raw milk with no issues. And we've seen that regularly consuming raw milk actually has a beneficial effect in improving his digestion of pasteurized milk products (such as ice cream and cheese).
Akaline phosphatase (ALP) is just one of the many other enzymes present in raw milk. Intestinal alkaline phosphatase is associated with decreased inflammation in the body; it is associated with good health and less chronic illness, such as reduced rates of cardiovascular disease and Type-2 diabetes . Researchers have proposed that ALP may actually be the source of the "French paradox" whereby there is a high saturated fat intake with low incidence of cardiovascular disease and mortality . ALP enzyme is attached to the fat globules in raw milk, but it is destroyed by pasteurization.
Nut and soy milks really can't even be compared to raw milk. They have nothing even close to the wide array of micro- and macro-nutrients found in raw milk. Most of the vitamins listed on the nutrition label are actually synthetic vitamins which have been added in.
Pasteurized milk is now known as one of the foremost allergenic foods! The process of pasteurization denatures and destroys many nutrients, so much so that synthetic vitamins are added back in after pasteurization. Scientific evidence against pasteurized milk is mounting: for instance, in the PASTURE study of nearly 800 European children, it was shown that children who consumed pasteurized milk were more likely to show signs of milk allergy, whereas children who consumed raw milk seemed to be protected from milk allergy .
To make matters worse, most of the organic milk sold in stores is actually ultra-pasteurized, which means that its nutrient content has been reduced even further and its proteins have been even more damaged. Did you know that ultra-high temp pasteurized milk does not even have to be refrigerated?! It is totally dead!
#2 Raw Milk Has Numerous Health Benefits
Scientific studies have shown that raw milk is associated with a number of health benefits:
A study of over 8,000 European children showed that raw milk consumption is associated with significantly lower rates of asthma and allergies .
A study of over 900 European children concluded that, "Continuous farm [raw] milk consumption in childhood protects against asthma at school age" .
A study of over 14,800 European children concluded that there is a "significant inverse association between farm [raw] milk consumption and childhood asthma, rhinoconjunctivitis, sensitization to pollen, a mix of food allergens, and horse dander" .
A study of over 900 European children concluded that, "Early life consumption of raw cow's milk reduced the risk of manifest respiratory infections and fever by about 30%" .
A study of over 4,000 European children found that consumption of raw milk was associated with a strong protective effect against eczema .
#3 Raw Milk is Better for Animal Health
Not only is raw milk better for human health, it is better for dairy animal health, too! It is well known that conventionally-raised dairy cattle are generally raised in concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs), where they are subject to horrible living conditions. I drive past some of these CAFO dairies on the highway nearby; the smell emanating from the these dairies is horrendous and penetrating.
Cows in CAFOs are literally living in their accumulated manure. They are prone to infection and routinely given antibiotics and synthetic growth hormones to increase milk production. One study showed that up to 60% of non-organic milk tested positive for antibiotic (and pesticide) residues .
Organic milk is better, right? Well, sort of. Organic milk production does ban the use of antibiotics and growth hormones. However, increasingly, organic farms are starting to look more and more like CAFOs. Organic milk farms are being paid less for the milk than it costs to produce the milk, so more and more small organic dairies are going bankrupt. Meanwhile, large organic dairies which operate more like CAFOs are taking over the market. For instance, Horizon Organic milk comes from very large dairy herds of 8,000+ cows, many of which are confined with no access to pasture.
Raw milk dairies generally operate much differently. Raw milk dairies are much smaller, with more emphasis on animal welfare. Unhealthy cows produce unhealthy raw milk; farmers who are dedicated to producing safe and healthy raw milk are also committed to promoting the health of their herds.
#4 Raw Milk Is Delicious!
Another important reason to drink raw milk is the taste! If you've never had raw milk, you're really missing out. Raw milk is smooth, creamy, and delicious, quite different from pasteurized milk. My family prefers the taste of raw milk so much that we don't even like pasteurized milk any more.
And don't make the mistake of trying to compare the flavor and texture of raw milk to the low-temperature vat pasteurized unhomogenized milk available at natural health stores. Cream gets clumpy when it is pasteurized, and no amount of stirring will make it meld smoothly back into the milk. The cream in raw milk is nice and smooth, and will blend back into the milk with just a little shake of the jug before pouring.
#5 Raw Milk Supports Local Farmers Instead of Large Corporations and Milk Processors
The dairy system in the USA is really messed up. Dairy farmers generally sell their milk to milk processing companies, and the farmers have no control over the price of their milk. "On average, farmers spend $1.92 to produce a gallon of milk and make $1.32 when they sell it to processors". Small dairy farms are collapsing, meanwhile corporate agriculture is taking over the market. And the corporate "solution" to producing dairy is to create huge CAFO's, as described in #3 above.
Raw milk provides a real, viable alternative for dairy farmers. Producing raw milk that is safe for direct human consumption requires much more care and attention to detail, but the farmers who are willing to do this will benefit because they can sell their milk directly to consumers and local stores. Raw milk farmers can actually earn a living through their hard work, instead of selling their milk below cost of production and struggling day in and day out. Carefully produced raw milk is a WIN-WIN for both families and farmers.