Clean, raw milk from grass-fed dairy cattle has sustained human populations for thousands of years. It is a complete and balanced food.
- All 20 standard amino acids required for human health
- Beneficial enzymes for digestion, immune system support, and growth
- Essential fatty acids such as conjugated linoleic acid (CLA)
- Vitamin A, vitamin D, niacin, riboflavin, thiamine, B6, B12, pantothenic acid, folic acid, phosphorus, zinc, potassium, magnesium and of course, calcium.
It also contains lactoferrin, an iron-binding protein which has anti-cancer, anti-viral and anti-microbial properties.
The FDA, CDC, and USDA will tell you that raw milk is full of bacteria that will make you sick. But I know from experience this is not true. I have had raw milk many times, have many friends who drink raw milk every day, and we are all very healthy. Raw milk from healthy, grass-fed dairy cattle is a vibrant, health building, protective food.
However, I agree that the polluted commercial milk from industrialized, factory-farmed, sick cattle will make you sick. Commercial milk has to be pasteurized because it is full of infectious organisms passed through from the sick dairy cattle from which it is taken.
Unfortunately, raw milk has gotten a bad reputation in the United States, thanks to scaring tactics used by the federal government and lobbyists who work for the commercial dairy industry.
Although legal in a few states, in many states in the US, it is illegal to sell raw milk to the public. The only way to get raw milk is to own the cow from which it came. Most raw milk dairies offer “cow shares” in which you can buy a share in a cow, and in effect become part owner. The dairy “boards” the cow for you and the other owners and you purchase the right to take several gallons of clean, rich milk home each week.
My Experiences with Raw Milk Products
The raw milk I’ve consumed came from a cow share I purchased from a locally owned dairy located about 50 miles south of us. The first time we visited a raw milk dairy, we were treated to a tour of the facility.
We stood in the milking barn and watched as the cows wandered in by themselves from the green pasture outside, seemingly aware that it was milking time.
Each cow entered a stall and waited patiently while their udders were cleaned and sanitized before the milking machine was attached. Meg, the veterinarian who owns the dairy, mentioned that the cows preferred to be milked since the heavy udder starts to become painful after a while. The cows looked healthy – their eyes were clear and bright, and the coats shiny. I was surprised at how big they were up close. The cow closest to me had a head that was at least 2 feet in length, with hooves the size of dessert plates.
The milk was transported via a set of stainless steel tubes into a super clean, stainless steel holding tank in the next room. It was from this tank that some of the milk was bottled in sterilized glass containers and placed in refrigerators for the owners to pick up. Some of the milk was transported to another stainless steel tank to be made into cream, butter, and cheese.
In addition to the untreated fresh milk, I purchased cheese and cream made from it. What a treat! The cream was so thick we had to spoon if from the jar.
And the milk tasted wonderful – creamy, cold and delicious and best of all, I was able to drink a whole glass of it in two gulps and not get sick to my stomach. If I drink pasteurized milk in any large amount, I get a stomach ache and spend the next hour in the bathroom.
Pasteurized milk, which has been heated to 145 degrees, has little left of the vitamins and nutrients present in raw milk. In addition, beneficial digestive enzymes have been destroyed. I believe so many people are lactose intolerant because the milk they drink has no beneficial enzymes, and I’m sure it’s why I get a stomach ache when I drink pasteurized milk, even though I buy organic brands.
Why Are Grass-Fed Cattle Important?
Grass-fed dairy cattle are raised under blue skies, with plenty of sunshine and green grass in the summer and clean haylage in the winter. They are healthy animals, with strong, balanced constitutions because they eat a natural diet meant for their systems – grass. Not corn, or leftover grain, or soybeans, or chicken manure, or any of the other unnatural foods that commercial dairy farms feed to cattle. This natural diet of grass translates into the maximum amount of vitamins and minerals being stored in their bodies. Those vitamins and minerals are available to us when we drink the clean, natural milk from such animals.
Meg, our local dairy owner, has a great philosophy that is at the heart of the benefits of clean, raw milk. She says “If we take care of our cows and feed them correctly, they are healthier and so are the consumers of their dairy products. Good pasture or forage is essential for animal health and, through the omega 3 fatty acids and conjugated linoleic acid in the milk we drink, it’s critical for human health, too.”
In contrast, dairy cattle in commercial “factory farms” stand on concrete for the whole of their lives, being fed pesticide soaked, genetically modified corn, old bakery waste, soybeans, the remains of other dead animals, chicken manure and worse. These foodstuffs are unnatural to the cow’s system and upset the delicately balanced ecosystem in the cow’s rumen, the special digestive area of the stomach. In addition, cows that live on these “foods” absorb lower amounts of fat-soluble vitamins A, D, and E, even when these vitamins are added to the feed; consequently, less of these vital nutrients show up in the milk.
To make matters worse, factory-farmed cows are injected with recombinant bovine growth hormone (rBGH) which forces their bodies to produce more milk on a faster time schedule. The end result is more milk, yes, but from very sick cows. Their lives are shortened and they frequently have udder infections from general ill-health and being milked so many times during the day.
Consider this: whatever these factory-farmed dairy cattle are fed and injected with winds up in the milk you drink from that cattle. Drinking commercial, pasteurized milk exposes you to the same chemicals, hormones, infections, and pollutants to which the cows are subjected.
Raw Milk Provides Complete Nutrition
Milk which comes directly from grass-fed dairy cattle has all the nutrition needed to support human health. You could live exclusively on it if that became necessary. It contains:
- Proteins: Raw cow’s milk has all 20 of the standard amino acids, and they are undamaged by the heat of pasteurization. About 80% of the proteins in milk are caseins (reasonably heat stable but easy to digest). The other 20% fall into the class of whey proteins. These are also easy to digest, but also very heat sensitive. The immunoglobulins are an extremely complex class of milk proteins also known as antibodies. These provide resistance to many viruses, bacteria, and bacterial toxins and may also help reduce the severity of asthma symptoms. Research has shown a significant loss of these important disease fighters when milk is pasteurized.
- Carbohydrates: Lactose is the primary carbohydrate in cow’s milk. People with lactose intolerance don’t have sufficient quantities of the enzyme lactase in their systems, and so they are unable to digest the lactose in pasteurized milk. But raw milk has the enzymes and other substances intact. This aids those without lactase in digesting it. Even if you are unable to drink pasteurized milk, it’s likely you would be able to drink raw cow’s milk without discomfort.
- Fats: About two-thirds of the fat in whole milk is saturated. Saturated fats are beneficial to the body in many ways. They support stable cell membranes and are necessary for the production of key hormones. Saturated fats are the preferred energy source for the heart, and saturated fats serve as a vehicle for essential fatty acids like EPA and DHA. Conjugated Linoleic Acid (CLA), an important fatty acid, is abundant in milk from pastured cows. Some of CLA’s many benefits include its ability to raise metabolic rates, remove abdominal fat, boost muscle growth, reduce resistance to insulin, and strengthen the immune system. Grass-fed milk has 3-5 times more CLA than the pasteurized milk from factory-farmed cows.
- Vitamins: Whole grass-fed milk has a complete list of vitamins, including A, D, and K2. Pasteurization destroys the natural nutrition in raw cow milk, so vitamins must be added at the end of the pasteurization process, especially the fat-soluble vitamins A and D.
- Minerals: Raw milk contains many health-building minerals such as calcium, potassium, phosphorus and other trace elements, all in perfect balance for excellent health.
- Enzymes: Milk from grass-fed cattle contains some 60 functional enzymes that are beneficial to human health.
- Cholesterol: Whole milk contains about 3mg of cholesterol per gram. Cholesterol is essential to life. Every cell in your body requires cholesterol to maintain membrane integrity. Cholesterol is also the starting material from which your body makes vitamin D, hormones and bile acids for digestion. It helps the body fight infections and acts as a protective substance against stroke and cancer. The brain has special cells to make cholesterol for itself since blood cholesterol can’t get across the blood/brain barrier. There are many studies that show that people with high cholesterol levels live the longest. Cholesterol is so important to your body that it will make it if you don’t eat enough.
- Beneficial Bacteria: Raw milk is a living food with amazing self-protective properties. It gets better as it ages. Fermenting raw cow or goats milk increases the digestibility of the enzymes and the number of vitamins and minerals present. Yogurt, kefir and other fermented milk products provide many health benefits.
If you don’t have access to clean, raw milk, at least buy organic milk from grass-fed cows. Both Organic Valley and Natural by Nature brand milk are from grass-fed cows.
The Weston A. Price Foundation is leading the charge to ensure all Americans have the right to clean, unpasteurized milk if they want it. You can find out more about the fight for your right to choose what you want to drink and eat here.
Recently, the Weston Price Foundation started the Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund to help raw milk dairy farmers fight the harassment they receive from state governments, the FDA and the USDA.
Resources for Further Reading
- Testimonials about the Health Benefits of Raw Milk
- Information about the Safety of Raw Milk
- The Untold Story of Milk, Revised and Updated: The History, Politics, and Science of Nature’s Perfect Food: Raw Milk from Pasture-Fed Cows by Ron Schmid, N.D.
- Real Food: What to Eat and Why by Nina Planck
- The Weston A Price Foundation and the Campaign for Real Milk
- Boston Globe Article on citizen demand
- Milk Wars
- Organic Pastures FAQ
- What Factory Farms Feed Dairy Cattle Take note of the sections on “Animal and Marine Products, and Unusual Feedstuffs. Other lists I’ve seen add “Caged Layer Waste” which is a nice way of saying chicken manure.
- About Vitamin K2
- The Cornucopia Institute has a helpful Organic Dairy Score Card where they have rated organic dairy products.