Are There Benefits to Raw Milk?

If we had had to bet money on what would become a political hot button in 2024, we never — in a million years — would have guessed it would be milk.

Bird flu was first reported in dairy cows on March 25. As of now, it is in cows in 12 states. Three human beings have gotten ill since March.

The virus is killed by heat. We wrote a blog recommending that you cook your burgers medium to avoid health concerns. In that blog, we wrote that unpasteurized milk might be unsafe.

Somehow, the topic of pasteurizing milk has become political. Some people are acting like this is a case of “you can take my raw milk from my cold dead hands.”

Putting aside politics, we’re curious: are there benefits to raw milk? As a city-based company, raw milk is hard for us to come by. It’s expensive, and you must make a concerted effort to find it. It’s easier if you’re near a farm. But are there benefits to drinking it?

To write this, we looked at sources that no one is paying for. They aren’t funded by the government or the dairy industry. We just wanted real facts about milk!

The first thing we learned was that only one percent of Americans drink raw milk regularly! Politicians seem to want us to be fighting so that they can do whatever they want. They have made up this problem!

Raw milk is milk that hasn’t been pasteurized or homogenized. It’s exactly like any other milk you buy in the supermarket. Pasteurization is when milk is heated to 161 degrees Fahrenheit for 15 seconds to kill bacteria, yeast and mold and give it a longer life. It is then homogenized by putting it under pressure so the fats in the milk disperse evenly to improve its appearance.    

Raw milk often tastes richer and sweeter than normal milk. It often tastes grassy because of the cow’s diet and has a barnyard funk. Because of the bacteria in it, the flavor changes quickly. It goes from grassy and sweet to sour and unpleasant in a few days.

Raw milk proponents say it’s a more natural, complete food with more amino acids, vitamins, minerals and fatty acids. According to 40 different studies, only minor losses of the water-soluble vitamins B1, B6B19, B12 and C occur. And they are at very low levels, to begin with. They also say raw milk is a source of microbes that aid asthma, allergies and the immune system. None of that is backed by strong science.

One study found that children who drank raw milk were less likely to develop hay fever, asthma and respiratory infections. That’s a point for raw milk. However, children who drank milk were also more likely to live on farms. Living on a farm is also linked to having a lower risk for asthma and allergies. So, there may not be a link.

One benefit of raw milk is that it provides more calcium. While both milks have the same amount of calcium, your body can use more from raw milk.

The calcium in raw milk is readily absorbable because raw milk also contains its original enzymes that help break down and metabolize materials,” said Dr. Amy Lee, Head of Nutrition for Nucific. But, she added, “These bacteria and organisms can cause more problems,” than the benefits are worth.

If a cow is sick, it can be passed on through its raw milk. And, while milk could be sterile when it comes out of a cow, it enters the world in a barn. Milk sheds are not sterile environments. Raw milk can contain harmful bacteria, including salmonella, e. coli, listeria and many more. In the past, serious conditions have been linked to raw milk, including Guillain-Barre syndrome, hemolytic uremic syndrome, miscarriage, reactive arthritis, chronic inflammatory conditions and death.

The people who are at the highest risk for getting ill from raw milk are usually considered to be pregnant women, children, older folks and people with immune system concerns. Even with a virus, it seems they would be at a higher risk than others.

A big drawback of raw milk is that it only lasts seven to 10 days. It goes bad quickly because of how high the bacteria content is.

It’s also illegal in almost half of the U.S. to buy. Some states allow you to buy it directly from a farmer. If you want to drink raw milk, look up where the latest ill herds are and ensure you know where your milk comes from.

Pasteurizing milk is one of the great public health achievements of the 20th century,” said Dr. Marion Nestle, a nutrition, food studies and public health professor at New York Univ. “Drinking cow’s milk used to kill babies.”

From everything we have read, doing a deep dive, the only proven benefit of drinking raw milk is you absorb slightly more calcium. The illnesses linked to raw milk far outweigh the possible benefits.

This current fervor over raw milk seems more about politicians wanting to make people mad at one another rather than anything else. So, we suggest you still opt for regular milk. Maybe when the election is done, everyone will stop bickering, and they’ll do important work!

Banner image: Los Muertos Crew via Pexels

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