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.


Humans have been drinking milk straight from the cow for tens of thousands of years.
It's a well known fact that kids who grow up on dairy farms, drinking fresh milk everyday, tend to be very robust and healthy - Brock Lesnar, anyone?
The problems with milk are connected to how the dairy cows are treated and fed. Most large scale Dairy farms are like industrial factories. The cow is penned up in a small cubicle, standing in it's own excrement, and is attached to milk suction tubes on it's udder. They feed the cow large amounts of corn and grain for the high calories but cows are designed to eat grasses and hay not grains. To stimulate milk production, the farmer will also dose the cow with estrogenic hormones.
Invariably, the septic environment leads the cow to develop infections, usually around the udder where the suction tubes are attached. To fight off these infections, the farmer dose the cows with anti-biotics.

Pasteurization was meant to kill the bacteria and increase shelf-life for the packaged milk.
Any milk from these dairy factory cows is filled with bacteria and estrogenic hormones and is only safe to drink after being pasteurized.
The instances where Raw Milk has made people ill is because the milk is from these dairy factory cows and the milk was unsafe to drink in the first place.
Fresh Milk from grass-fed, pastured and hormone free dairy cows is some of the most nutritious food one can consume.
It may not be possible to mass distribute plain Raw Milk nationally because the high enzyme content in the milk will curdle the milk in less than a week.
I believe that the consumer should have the right to purchase and consume Raw Milk and it's various products. If one has to sign a legal waiver to do so, is fine - as long as the choice is available.


12/07/2013 - 3:16pm

Who could believe the FDA, who approves drugs that kill people but always has reservations about natural healthy alternatives. We all know that they are a bunch of corrupt officials who get incentives from Big Pharma. Also, if you are a dietitian and still believe that saturate fats are the big culprit in causing heart disease you should consider a change of career. I have grown up on raw milk most of my life. I still make my own yogurt from raw full cream milk from grass fed cows or goats. I have never had any health problems and my blood test results are extremely good. I eat loads of saturate fat including organic egg yolks and virgin coconut oil and my cholesterol profile and CRP levels are in a very healthy range.


11/23/2013 - 10:40pm

I'm hoping that since this article is 5+ years old is the reason the author missed every major point on why we should be drinking raw milk and avoiding commercialized pasteurized milk. Raw milk laws are so much more strict that it's more likely to get sick drinking pasteurized milk than raw milk. Raw milk from a grass fed cow is one of the most nutritious things we can drink. Lactose intolerant people can probably consume raw milk without problems b/c the lactase is not removed, unlike in pasteurized milk. Lactase helps digest lactose. Removing it, along with many other important nutrients via pasteurization, is asinine to me. Also, it should be noted that we need more fat in our diets, as long as it comes from a good source. Grass fed raw milk is definitely one of those sources. Removing the fat prevents absorption of many of the nutrients we think we are absorbing. Just b/c it's on the label doesn't necessarily mean we absorb them. Choose whole milk from grass fed cows and you'll not only feel better, but also look better (i.e. lose fat). Yes, eating more fat (good fat from good sources, particularly saturated fat) will make you lose fat. As consumers we should have the choice to choose raw milk or pasteurized milk. Anyone over the age of 18 is able to purchase cigarettes (containing many known carcinogens) but not the milk we want. Advice, don't listen to governmental recommendations on nutrition. The FDA is not always looking out for our best interest, or well-being.


10/24/2013 - 6:13pm

I believe consuming raw milk is acceptable under some conditions. Espacially by following good hygiene and reducing the holding time. If the udders are cleaned well before milking source of contamination can be controlled.
Also if consuming raw milk the risk of getting ill would be less if consumed quickly. The raw milk by standing in ambient temperature for long time will cause the normal flora to multiply rapidly and getting it contaminated.


10/20/2013 - 4:12am

I do not drink raw milk, if I did, I would make sure the cows the milk comes from, are not on a diet with animals by products, that is where one of the major problems start. This where the mad cow disease comes from, cows eating other animals in their feed.


10/09/2013 - 2:37pm

1000 people became sick? Really? I wonder if the FDA and their industrialized food cronies have the guts to bring up chicken, beef or pork born food illness during the same time period. Pfft. Pathetic story based on facts alone - not to mention you sound like a sponsored, sell-out food rag at this point.


09/26/2013 - 11:37am

This article is cmpletely foolish


09/15/2013 - 7:41pm

I can't believe this guy is allowed to put the initials R.D. beside his name, or any initials. Yes, anyone linking saturated fat to heart disease obviously doesn't own a computer. If you did, you'd surely have searched for and read 'The Great Cholesterol Con' by Dr. Malcolm Kendrick. When my M.D. tries to tell me suggested cholesterol levels I stop him short and just ask for my results. Ideal is muh higher than what the M.D. says. My bro-in-law is a pharma salesman in Seattle and it is shocking the way drug companies control the dissemination of health myths by buying off doctors. His job is to wine and dine them (literally). Statins anyone? Been drinking raw milk now for 4 years and I would never go back to that store-bought swill. All of my relatives drank it their whole lives (all of them were settlers here in Saskatchewan) and guess what, they all lived into their 80's and 90's. My grandfather used to sop up bacon grease with his toast after eating 5 eggs every morning. Died at 92 of OLD AGE. Same way I wanna go.


09/07/2013 - 5:33pm

I do heavy Olympic weightlifting as well as high intensity running. I have been using raw milk as a recovery drink for about a year. For last two weeks I haven't had time to get my raw milk. In those two weeks my joints have hurt, my muscle have been very sore, and my recovery time from my workouts have nearly doubled. I will always drink raw milk.


08/31/2013 - 7:10am

I used to be one of those people that said I would never drink raw milk but now I would not drink anything but.


08/19/2013 - 11:24pm

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