Q. Is Raw Milk More Nutritious than Pasteurized Milk?

By Matthew G. Kadey, R.D., September/October 2008

Is Raw Milk More Nutritious than Pasteurized Milk?

A. It depends on who you ask. Raw milk—milk that is not pasteurized or homogenized—is making its way into more cereal bowls, with 29 states now allowing the sale of raw milk under varying restrictions. Raw-milk proponents will pay upwards of $10 a gallon, because they believe it is safe and healthier. A swell of testimonials about raw milk’s ability to relieve asthma, autism and allergies is further fueling the demand, though much of this praise remains anecdotal with few studies to back up these claims. Enthusiasts claim raw milk dishes out more flavor, vitamins, minerals and beneficial proteins, enzymes and bacteria than milk that has been “degraded” during pasteurization.

But the Centers for Disease Control and the FDA beg to differ, stating that pasteurized milk has all the same nutrients as raw milk and that raw milk comes with an added formidable risk of pathogen outbreaks. According to the CDC, these outbreaks accounted for more than 1,000 illnesses, more than 100 hospitalizations and two deaths between 1998 and 2005.

Catherine W. Donnelly, Ph.D., a food microbiologist at the University of Vermont, believes that the dangers cancel out any potential nutritional benefits. “Of particular concern is Listeria [a bacterium that results in a foodborne illness, listeriosis], which has a 30 percent mortality rate,” Donnelly warns. “If raw milk is your choice, it’s buyer beware.” When USDA scientists collected raw milk samples from 861 farms in 21 states, nearly a quarter of them contained bacteria linked to human illness, including 5 percent that tested positive for Listeria.

In short, it’s still too early to tell if raw milk lives up to its purported benefits, but the risks are real. We don’t recommend drinking raw milk or eating a raw-milk cheese that’s been aged less than the minimum of 60 days required for legal sale. (However, that caveat doesn’t apply to raw-milk cheeses aged 60 days or more, since the salt and acidity of the cheesemaking process make for a hostile environment to pathogens, says Donnelly.)

Deciding whether to take the risks associated with drinking raw milk is only one of the health-related choices you need to make when it comes to choosing the best milk for your family. When making a decision about which milk to buy, here are two other issues you may want to consider:

Fat content. Nutrition experts recommend drinking low-fat (a.k.a. 1%) or nonfat milk to limit intake of the saturated fats that boost risk of heart disease. Don’t be fooled: reduced-fat, or 2%, milk is not a low-fat food. One cup has 5 grams fat, 3 of them the saturated kind. Drink whole milk, which contains 5 grams of saturated fat per cup, only once in a while, if at all. The one exception to this rule is infants. Children under age 2 need extra fat in their diets to support their developing brains. Whole milk can help provide that fat.

Lactose. Up to 50 million Americans lack the enzyme lactase, which is needed to digest lactose, the sugar naturally found in milk. For these people, drinking most milks can cause digestive problems. Solution: Choosing lactose-free milk. This product is basically regular cow’s milk minus lactose. It provides all of the same healthful nutrients (e.g., protein and calcium), just not the sugar that stokes the digestive issues.


I developed asthma in the last year and someone suggested trying raw milk. I found a wonderful farm and joined a co-op, so I don't get in trouble by the government. (Sounds Communistic), I know! I have been strictly on raw milk and cheese for 2 weeks and have seen an 80% decrease in symptoms of my asthma. At this rate I should be completely asthma free by the end of the month. I also feel more energetic and my digestive system feels amazing and is now working like a well oiled machine. It also keeps me full longer so that I don't feel the need to snack. How in the world did we allow the government dictate what and how we should eat? The answer is that we didn't. It is our right to eat what we want, when we want, and from who we want. The cow is on this earth and NO HUMAN let alone any government will tell me that I can not drink it's milk the way God made it.


01/03/2016 - 9:19pm

These are the very reasons why I do not trust raw milk, it has more chances of harming you than pasteurised milk ever will. Again the purity of milk does not just depend on whether it is raw or not. We have been consuming pasteurised milk which may be synthetically produced and that is none the better. So basically we need to make sure that the milk is coming from a trusted certified source. I have shifted to farm fresh milk which is pasteurised, while it isn’t easy to get milk which is delivered early morning to your homes, but thanks to Pride of cows after a little looking I found them and they deliver at my place in Mumbai. This is me sighing in relief over finding something I’ve been looking for.


12/29/2015 - 2:59am

Raw food vs Process food... Which is heather? Enough said.

Processed milk is GARBAGE. It's contaminated milk that needs to be boiled to destroy the bacteria and viruses swimming around in it. It's that dirty. Not only does boiling the milk destroy the bad bacteria, but it also destroys all the key nutrients, minerals and good bacteria.

Sames goes with Orange Juice. Boiled (pasteurized) juice is nothing but colored sugar water. After boiling the juice, man made Vitamin C, D, and Calcium is then added to replace the naturally occurring ones that was destroyed after processing.

What isn't replaced are the natural enzymes, fats, iodine, etc etc. that our Body Needs.


10/23/2015 - 3:11am

raw milk a passing fad?? hahaha!! Yeah, a passing fad that has been with us since the settlers


09/18/2015 - 7:19pm

My daughter suffered from eczema (itching to the point of breaking the skin and blooding)when she was 3yrs old and miserable. I tried every thing from her Dr prescip 1% steroid cream it did'nt help, eliminating certain foods, and several other things. It would get better and then flame up. A friend suggested raw milk and we tried it no problems since then and that was 5yrs old. I saw her skin changing for the better before my own eyes.


09/14/2015 - 11:38pm

Homogenization is a major contributor to heart disease bc the fat molecules that would not normally pass into the blood stream quickly are broken down and actually damage blood vessels due to the speed of absorption/smaller size, over years this causes cholesterol to adhere to the micro lesions formed by the fat molecules clogging the blood vessel.


07/27/2015 - 2:34am

I am curious about how all of these seemingly imminent dangers are in touch with reality. China, with it's incredible population and diversity, does not pasteurize it's milk. All of their dairy is raw. According to these raging statistics, they should be wiped out in swaths by listeria. But they are not - in fact, I have yet to actually see an article about Chinese dairy anywhere.

I feel like it's all hype to keep us in the grocery stores, but that is just conjecture.


07/10/2015 - 8:52pm

My mother contracted undulant fever (brucellosis) from drinking raw milk when she was about 10 years old. She was one of 11 children, and was the only one that got sick. She was sick for almost a year and was left with a heart murmur and overall poor health for the rest of her life. Like most families back in the day, they had a couple of milk cows that were grass fed. Their living conditions were more upscale since her father was a contractor, so I do not believe uncleanliness had anything to do with it. If my mom was still alive, she would say, DO NOT DRINK UNPASTEURIZED MILK!
- Anonymous


05/06/2015 - 7:53pm

I think I will trust God for his cow then the one who are trying to dystroy his work, yes the raw milk beat it all


04/21/2015 - 5:09pm

Bought my first gallon of raw milk today along with raw yogurt. Both taste delicious and I'm excited about introducing them to my family's diet - gradually - and seeing the benefits that non-chemically processed dairy will bring for us. We are awful allergy sufferers and are hopeful that locally grown fruits and veggies, as well as locally produced honey and dairy will alleviate our symptoms.


04/18/2015 - 11:35am

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