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.


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 - 3:18pm

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 - 12:04pm

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 - 4:34pm

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 - 2:48pm

The FDA is controlled by the same Greed that is poisoning us with GMOs and chemicals. I do not have any trust left for them! I have been drinking raw milk for only a short time (I was unable to find a good source) I feel amazing! It tastes GREAT, and is hormone and drug free!


02/02/2014 - 12:13am

I was going to rage on this article but it seems that those before me have done an exemplary job, this man has showed little to no knowledge on nutrition


01/19/2014 - 7:03pm

1000 people? In that time frame is NOTHING!! That's a great number. Look at that again...over 7 years!!! So silly...can't believe this article is allowed!!


01/09/2014 - 12:10pm

I have read that raw cow milk tastes different than pasteurized milk. Of course whether or not that milk is safe also depends upon whether or not the cows are clean, drug-free, well fed ; and allowed to graze freely. Of course one option; for country dwellers is to buy goats. Goats are easier than cows and produce milk that does NOT need to be homogenized. Let the goats live as they are meant to; no tight caging of them; and give them healthy food. You milk your goats and put the product into your refrigerator.

Of course us city dwellers can get unsweetened fortified coconut milk; from Trader Joe's which is very delicious and healthy. (of course the cow milk in stores is fortified too; with vitamin D to prevent rickets)

Fresh goat milk not available where i now live and when i gave up; stopped buying the cow milk stored here and also gave up candy, sugar, white flour products; I lost weight and felt better.

I now consume chia seeds, virgin coconut oil, unsweetened fortified coconut milk, whole grains, vegetables, berries, nuts, seeds, fruit, berries, some eggs, I go days or weeks without eating any meat. i avoid hotdogs, white flour bread, white rice, soda, milk, juice, soda, potato chips, and the prison-like rigid 3 meal a day schedule that made me so anxious , fearful , angry. I now eat whenever hungry; stop when full. I am much more calm. I have gone from my size 16 pants being tight to fitting into size 6 pants. I feel free.

Raw cow milk not available here and raw cheeses now allowed or available where i live either.

Of course if a trusted friend took me to a clean healthy well-run farm with well-treated healthy animals and from there obtained fresh goat milk, goat cheeses, raw cow milk/butter/cheese; I would eat it. But trying to buy such on my own would not be good idea


01/04/2014 - 5:14pm

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 - 4:16pm

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 - 11:40pm

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