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.


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

I live on a dairy farm and so does the rest of my family. I've been drinking raw milk nearly all my life, so have my brothers and my dad. We don't get sick from it. If there is really bad bacteria in the milk, it is because the cow is sick, and no amount of diluting or watering down will stop you from getting sick then. If the cow is sick, the milk is bad, the cow is fine, the milk is fine. Raw milk is also thicker, and does have more proteins than the watered down stuff, I only drink it when we dry off the cows. Its not as good


04/06/2015 - 3:17am

I can't believe that in this day and age educated people can be so stupid on the subjects of real whole food. What do they think the settlers lived on. I grew up on a dairy and drank raw milk out of the bulk tank every day of my life. I find it interesting that after we started having government tell how to process food. We now have more people with allergies and such than before. Why cant we use common sense and figure out that it is the chemicals and preservatives in our food chain that are causing so many of our health problems. Think about cancer, It use to be if you smoked you would get it , now everyone has it. I have no more than a highschool education, but common sense and that will go a lot farther than some of the thinking of these people with PHD's.


02/25/2015 - 4:40pm

I agree


02/19/2015 - 4:10pm

You all realize that the reason pasteurization was started is because of the milking conditions? Of course you're going to get Listeria and who knows what else when the conditions aren't sanitary. Milking conditions are much more controlled and much more sanitary than they were years ago. Pasteurization also kills the good bacteria in milk and homogenization breaks up the fat so you don't have that awesome separation of cream like you do with raw milk.

Also, you can get listeria from :

-eady-to-eat deli meats and hot
-Refrigerated pâtés or meat spreads
-Soft cheese made with unpasteurized milk, such as queso fresco, Feta, Brie, Camembert
-Refrigerated smoked seafood
-Raw sprouts

So raw milk isn't the only thing you can get listeria from so stating that is the reason why one shouldn't drink it is a bogus reason.


01/23/2015 - 11:37am

I think that people need to realize the seriousness of raw milk. Yes you might drink it all of you life and nothing will happen to you, but you can't deny the fact that their have been serious outcomes by drinking raw milk. There are benefits for both, but are the benefits of raw milk really worth losing a child or having your child deal with health problems for the rest of their lives? And as for the FDA and RX companies, have you ever compared the price of raw milk to the price of pasteurized? Raw milk is always more expensive. Did you ever think that its just a passing fad, that farmers are trying to make more money off of. Its not for anyone to decide for you what to drink, but PLEASE make sure you are aware of all the long term effects that there are of raw milk, before you take the life and health of your child into your hands, with one simple decision!


01/11/2015 - 5:54pm

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