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.


My naturapathic strongly suggested raw milk and a very clean local farmer. Just like anything "new" she tells me at first I am surprised and a bit skeptical, so I research obsessively on the web. I am a type 1 diabetic with other issues, so I definitely was "scared" to try it at first. Just like any mainstream nutritional news/information we are given from the FDA and American Diabetes Association it's mostly WRONG, and outdated. Remember when butter was bad and everyone was using "margarine", remember they said to stay away from eggs, come to find out the cholesterol in eggs is NOT what raises your cholesterol, remember and still currently the push on Equal and Splenda products and good old Sweet n Low, was touted for diabetics and is still being pushed!!!!!!!!!!!!! and two of them Equal and Splenda are known to mess up blood sugar.These associations'agencies still recommend low fat diary products, which are higher in sugars/carbohydrates are mechanically messed with and not "really" that natural. Etc.
If people are getting sick from raw milk, is there a list of these dirty dairies? A list of state s/ counties that have the best and least government standards inspection of dairy farm standards? Should we possibly use a cooler to keep it cool when it's hot out, when we bring it home if it wasn't a dirty dairy? Anyhow, I have a green tea buzz going on and I've never felt better, switching to whole fat, grass fed raw milk. mOOOOve over to Raw Milk and really don't be scared. Remember the government told us to use DDT in our pillows and sheets, coca cola had originally put cocaine in their soda, and Wonder bread was considered healthy when I was growing up, and way back when the "norm" thought that if you traveled far into the ocean you would fall off the edge of the earth because the world was flat. I stopped my statin, Zocor and have never felt better. We need cholesterol for our brain function not just 2 year olds!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Moo {:(o) and healthy cows are cute to boot, go visit your local dairy and see for yourself the conditions and actually meet the farmer, ask your supermarket if you can meet their farmers and they'll look at you cross-eyed and befuddled.


01/30/2013 - 7:15am

What do we want - organic - no pesticides or herbicides into our bodies or the environment
What do we want - 'fair trade' - people paid fairly for the work that they do, wherever they do it
What do we want - natural - no added chemicals
What do we want - 'of NATURE' - Non-GM - to preserve the natural cycle of life
What do we want - humane - as little as possible down to NIL harm or distress to animals at all levels
What do we want - environmentally responsible and sustainable products and services

When do we want it - about 30 years ago and more.


01/18/2013 - 11:18pm

We drink vat pasteurized which as close to raw as I've been able to find here, unfortunately. Supposedly the vast majority of enzymes are left alive in the low temp process, unlike the UHT milk that the big farms destroy in the name of long shelf life and huge profits. If I could find raw within a fifty mile radius, I would be back on raw milk. As it is, I drive 38 miles to get dairy fresh vat pasteurized!

It is a shame that the raw milk I grew up on is now treated like a dirty street drug. People are sheep and big money is spent on brainwashing us. Wise up! Who profits from the bs about raw milk while they feed our kids dead products so filled with hormones from mass production that our teenage boys grow breasts and our little girls have their menarche at 9 years old.


12/15/2012 - 5:27am

when i was a child we drank milk straight from the cow,and continued to do so through most of my life. i am in my fifties now and my brothers are five and eight years older and never have we been to a doctor in our lives. we all still have our own teeth,never broken a bone and i still run ten ks every morning.i think that speaks well for raw milk don't you?


12/08/2012 - 8:06pm

My husband and I just switched to drinking raw milk. He was so scared by the CDC website that it took much urging to get him to try it. One taste and he was convinced. Pasteurized milk does not compare. Their is a natural creamy viscosity and flavor totally missing from milk off the supermarket shelf. It's fair to say that one can taste the goodness. Pasteurized milk from grain fed less than healthy cows is the norm and we are seeing the consequences of consuming it. Lot's of kids with allergies, eczema and a host of auto immune diseases in the general populaton. Yes, it's a fact that pasteurizing milk compromises natures perfect food. The FDA tells us that pasteurized milk is comparable and studies show no difference. What studies can they point to?. Studies have not been done since the 1930's and 1940's and those showed raw milk to be superior with qualities that enhance health and even cure disease. I am grateful to live in rural Ma. and have access to a farm where I can purchase what should be referred to as," real milk."

An Advocate for healthy food.


11/07/2012 - 6:29pm

When I was growing up we had the milkman deliver straight from the Dairy with gold top and silver top raw milk. Nothing happened to us then, infact we were most definitely healthier and stronger than we are now as a population so I wouldn't change. Unforunately too many people are making big dollars to brainwash us all into thinking it's ok to have artificial fertilisers etc pumped into the ground and our food...plant or animal. You are what you eat and sadly that is why our health systems are under such stress these days.


10/03/2012 - 5:46am

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.


02/24/2012 - 11:53am

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.


01/02/2012 - 10:03pm

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.


07/06/2010 - 7:06pm

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.


06/20/2010 - 10:21pm

Get a full year of EatingWell magazine.
World Wide Web Health Award Winner Web Award Winner World Wide Web Health Award Winner Interactive Media Award Winner