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.


actually fat is as healthy for our brain as to the brain of children! we need fat for our brain to work properly too! and the reason that milk causes digestion problems is because of pasteurization. I used to be "lactose intolerant" and I've always heard that i had a problem with lactose in the milk but when i switched to Raw milk I digested it fine, i actually got heather and felt so much better than ever before because the probiotics, enzymes, vitamins and antibodies in the milk is NEEDED for us to digest the milk so by killing all the vital nutrients in the milk be heating it up is what causes digestion problems and inflammation and even cancer. Raw milk has so many good healing nutrients for us, the reason that children and babies drink milk is because it is so good for our body if it is in its raw state. The reason that raw milk has EVER made people skin is because the cows weren't kept healthy with the right foods (green grass pasture). cows that are fed right will never have bad milk.


03/26/2014 - 1:48pm

whoever wrote this article should piss off. Pasteurization and any other forms of processing were not designed with human digestive systems in mind.


04/02/2014 - 3:34pm

Whenever I get the opportunity I buy raw milk - always have. Thankfully I rediscovered a superb little farm down the road that has a happy little herd of pasture fed Jersey cows. They lead an unhurried life and are hand milked daily. Like any decent operation, the state vet checks on the herd regularly for mastitis and other issues. The milk from these cows is outstanding. Read up about pasteurization and homogenization. The latter is especially bad as it alters the cellular structure of the milk which is what gives rise to the allergies that people suffer from drinking it. The apparent 'risk' of drinking raw milk is utter bollocks. People have been drinking cow milk since time immemorial - mostly not in the supposedly 'hygienic' conditions the FDA would have you believe milk is produced under today. Why would I want to drink something obtained from an animal standing in its own feces - that doesn't event begin to make sense!


04/15/2014 - 11:04am

Well, I've never gotten sick from pasteurized milk, so why is everyone ragging on THAT?! And before you say anything, I did gymnastics for eighteen years and drank gallons of it every week. Almost never broke bones...


05/05/2014 - 2:18pm

I always buy Raw milk, cream and butter. Also nutritionist need to look at all the new FACTS. Low fat milk is full of carbs that cause heart attacks and strokes do to inflammation that they cause, including cancer!. Fat is Excellent for your heath. Good fats that is, like Raw heavy cream, milk, cheese and butter from grass feed cows, coconut and mct oils, as well as avocado and macadamia oils. Stay away from all hydrogenated oils and vegetable oils, especially canola and soy which are bad enough but 99% is from GMO crops. Read Dr Perlmutter's book Grain Brain and Maria Emmerich's book Keto adaptation.. Never believe the FDA they are only about MONEY and in bed with the RX companies and could give to rats about our health, only the almighty dollar!!!


05/06/2014 - 2:23pm

but what about the pathogens found in raw milk


12/09/2014 - 1:40am

My e-mail is Which is made first ? whole milk or non-fat milk ?
Of course. whole milk comes first. But they removed all fat and make non-fat milk. And
then add fat and make low-fat milk. And finally add to about 3.5 % fat and make whole
milk. So the whole milk we eat is the real first milk or the last fat added milk.


12/09/2014 - 10:15am

I would NEVER trust anything the CDC and FDA say. Would the Food and DRUG Admin. want you to ingest something that might clear up your allergies so you wouldn't need to take allergy drugs, when they've been lobbied by groups like National Milk producers Federation, Grocery Manufacturers Association, et. al? Think about it.


12/12/2014 - 10:10am

Why drink milk at all?


12/24/2014 - 5:09pm

Wow, look at all the Raw Milk Brigade....... I drink Pasteurized Milk and I've got heaps of energy, never broken a bone despite playing high impact sport, never been seriously ill and my Nan who also drinks Pasteurized milk is now 93 y.o. still all there mentally and walking unaided. Get off your high horses Raw Milk drinkers, your magic milk is not the elixir for eternal life everyone makes it out to be. Balanced diet is where it is at people.


12/29/2014 - 12:26am

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