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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.

COMMENTS POSTEDsort icon

Do you actually believe the things you are saying here? Or did you just cut and paste from someone else's page? If you did any true and unbiased research, you would find that the government's take on raw milk has nothing to do with raw milk and more to do with the monetary value of mass produced "supermarket" milk and the money it generates for a few large corporations.
go to www.realmilk.com for starters. The bacteria problem isn't with raw milk, it's with dirty dairies and inappropriate feed for cows.

Anonymous

02/01/2010 - 2:42pm

Your site is about eating well yet it is littered with ads from "foods" that do not contribute to eating well (the diet Snapple banner at the top for starters). What gives?

Anonymous

02/01/2010 - 2:44pm

And realmilk.com is a Sally Fallon, Weston Price talking head. Aka, massive promoter for raw milk, containing false info and misleading quotes. Not necessarily the most neutral place for information.

Thanks for the overview.

Anonymous

02/24/2010 - 9:12pm

and the FDA is also poisoning our food supply by putting ASPARTAME, SACCHARIN, AND ASCELUFAME K. Also Fluoride is also poisonous and does more harm than good because on the back of the fluoridated toothpaste, it says contact poison control if more than used for brushing is swallowed, now wouldn't that raise some curiosity and yet they still fluoridate the city waters. so in the end the more fluoridated water you consume, actually poisons you even though it's in small amounts, because as your consuming the fluoridated water, the higher toxicity it becomes, so in the end the higher you consume the fluoridated drinking water, the higher risk you are at becoming poisoned.

Anonymous

03/03/2010 - 9:01pm

So what about the peanut butter contaminations, the contaminated sprouts, e.coli in restaurant food--why doesn't somebody outlaw raw sprouts? Or restaurant food? I don't know where to go for the stats, but I bet just as many people die from those kinds of outbreaks than can actually be proved from consumption of organic, grassfed raw milk. Why doesn't somebody in the government do something about our consumption of white flour, white table salt, and white sugar, which are the root causes of most of the disease created that makes our doctors prescribe the only remedy they know about, after being taught by the drug companies, more prescription drugs. Our drinking water is full of drugs because there is no way to remove it from the water--nothing kills the chemicals from prescription drugs that are peed out by stupid people who believe everything their MD tells them. 5,000 people died (1.7 per 100,000 inhabitants.) in 1996-1998 according to the CDC which is way more than raw milk stats listed above (two deaths in 1998-2005, "attributed" to drinking raw milk. Cooking food in your own kitchen is the only way to avoid the contaminated food some idiot in a restaurant might serve to you, and buying from a farmer is the only way to trace foodbourne illness back to the source--and you can bet your booties that farmer is gonna be mighty careful about what he sells to YOU! A package of ground beef from the grocery store can contain meat from hundreds of cows. My farm ground beef contains meat from one grassfed cow/steer, with no added sludge that the government recently okayed to be added to ground beef for consumers and restaurants. Can't remember where I read that though.

Anonymous

06/18/2010 - 4:17pm

Why are so many people not realizing this: "The bacteria problem isn't with raw milk, it's with dirty dairies and inappropriate feed for cows". Get to know your dairy farmer and watch them every now and then to keep an eye on sanitation/sterialization procedure of handling the raw milk and the cows.

Anonymous

06/20/2010 - 9:37am

Drinking raw milk should be a consumers choice. We drank rawe for well over a year and seen increased health benefits. Less illness, less cavaties etc. We had to stop dinking raw for a while, but recently came back to it as the children had more illness with pastureized milk. I know some think we are crazy, but I believe the raw milk makes a difference.

Anonymous

06/20/2010 - 10:21pm

You did a great job of holding the party line and creating more fear about raw milk. Did those formidable pathogen outbreaks that killed 2 people within 8 years all come from raw milk or other sources? In actuality, hasn't E.Coli outbreaks killed more people in recent years?
I agree with the responses that says raw milk is a consumer choice. Be sure to let the buyer beware of any or all food products they buy. That is just plain common sense.

Anonymous

07/06/2010 - 7:06pm

This article was written in 2008. I agree with comments, and notice them being written in 2010. Tells me people are getting wise. It takes action on the part of consumers to make change.

Anonymous

01/02/2012 - 10:03pm

As a raw milk farmer I can tell you there is a big difference between raw milk produced for raw sale - and a raw milk sample taken from a conventional dairy accustomed to shipping their milk to the pasteurizing plant. This is a distinction that the FDA never makes. I'm not surprised that "nearly a quarter of them contained bacteria linked to human illness". With milk that dirty do you really think pasteurizing can make it "clean" again? But they are not set up to produce clean raw milk from start to finish the way we are. In MA there are strict guidelines and testing specifically for farmers selling milk raw, the milk has to be as bacterial clean as if it had already been pasteurized. We are a small diverse farm, but of the many hundreds of things we grow and produce I believe our milk is the most valuable, wholesome, and beneficial of all.

Anonymous

02/24/2012 - 11:53am

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