Is raw milk really safe?

When people find out that we have switched over the raw milk, almost inevitably they ask me “but it is safe? I thought you could get sick from drinking raw milk!”

I’ll admit, when I first began to hear about raw milk, I too was skeptical. Having been raised on pasteurized milk my whole life (which I never really like, by the way-  but raw milk- that is a different story!) and hearing so much about bacteria in foods, germs being passed around, anti-biotic this and that and everything, the concept of drinking something that hadn’t been boiled was a bit scary to me. It also concerned my husband and he wanted me to really check out the information that was out there before we made the switch.

I’ve had a few questions on this topic lately, both from blog readers and real life friends, so I thought that I would post some of the helpful articles and information that I found in my quest for more answers.

Here are the basic facts (as I understand them) about raw milk and it’s safety:

  • All milk has bacteria in it. Pasteurized milk destroys all of the beneficial bacteria by bringing the milk to a very high temperature  (around 145-150 F) for half an hour. However, pasteurized milk may still have harmful bacteria in it, even after this process, and many people have still become sick and have even died from drinking regular store-bought milk. On the other hand, although raw milk may also contain harmful bacteria, it’s beneficial bacteria (lactic acid bacilli) remain and actually help to protect us from harmful bacteria.
  • Because of this lack of beneficial bacteria, when pasteurized milk goes bad, it actually putrefies and goes rotten. Raw milk becomes sour at the end of it’s freshness, and is still perfectly fine to consume, and may even be more beneficial because of the greater abundance of this good bacteria (similar to the idea of yogurt). I experienced this phenomenon this week, when our milk soured earlier than I expected. After a bit of research, I realized that it was perfectly fine to use it, and so I added it to a soup- it tasted good, I did not have to waste it, and we all felt great afterwards.
  • Raw milk is produced by very conscientious farmers and dairy herders, who do everything in their power to ensure that the cows are kept healthy, the conditions are clean, the milk is immediately transferred into cool, sanitized, stainless steel containers. The standards for raw milk are extremely high, and cows are tested more regularly and cared for more scrupulously than those at a regular dairy. On this note- only milk that is coming from extremely clean facilities and carefully kept cows (given plenty of pasture, room to move, fresh air, and a clean environment) should be consumed raw.

If you are at all interested in the possibility of switching over to raw milk, I would highly recommend reading some of these links, as well as looking around on the sites Real Milk and the Weston Price Foundation.

Raw Milk
Is raw milk safe for babies?
The real reasons why raw milk is becoming more popular (this article includes a video discussing raw milk and some safety issues)
The Raw Milk movement- healthy or hazardous?
There are two raw milks
Raw Milk- how safe is it? (I cannot recommend this website, as I am not familiar with it, but this post contains a condensed version of some good information from this report. The report was compiled by Dr. William Cambell Douglas, Jr. M.D., and was intended for the Los Angeles county board of supervisors, for the purpose of the raw milk controversy that has been going on in California for quite some time.)

And one last link on learning to use soured milk and cream that I came upon last week.

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  1. Just a comment about raw milk. Everybody asks us the same questions since we switched probably 4-5 months ago. Over Christmas I didn’t get to the farm for a few weeks. I bought regular pasteurized milk from the store and all those weeks I had abdominal cramps. I went last week and bought a gallon of raw milk and now I feel better. We don’t know what all these processed things are doing to our body until taken out of our diet and put back in!

  2. Very interesting article! Seriously, I had never heard of raw milk before and certainly wouldn’t have imagined it could be obtained outside a farm if I had! Will research; thanks for the info!

  3. Thanks for this information. It is something I’ve really been thinking about. I have this sneaking suspicion that pastuerized milk is causing chronic bowel issues for my son. I’ll have to look further into this.

  4. So interesting, Joyce! Yes, you’re right. Sometimes we don’t realize how our bodies react to food until we take it out of our diet for awhile. I’ve noticed the same thing.

    Oh good, SAHMmy says, hope these links are useful to you! Also, Real Milk has a section of their site to help you locate raw milk near you, so you may be able to find a supplier that way, if you’re interested.

    fullheart (each time I type your name, it’s getting shorter, lol), I think that’s a logical suspicion. I would look into it. Personally, if I couldn’t get raw, I’d either do goat’s, or keep my kids off milk.

  5. Great post! Thank you! Ironic that I am reading this as I just came back from my 3 year old’s 1st dentist appointment!

  6. Just wondering if you could respond to the raw milk info on the CDC website…we just started using raw milk and it does make me a bit nervous…

  7. out of curiosity – how young would you be comfortable supplementing breastfeeding with raw milk vs a raw milk formula? I have a 6 month old and may need to supplement and I am looking at options beyond store bought formula 😉

  8. Please,,, let me know. from the time the cow is milked,, how long does it take the milk to get to the shelf in the supermarket?????

  9. hi there, I am preparing to make the switch to raw milk but I am concerned as I have a 1yr old that I am weaning. I tried to click the “is raw milk safe for babies” but the link is no longer there. Also is there a way to transition to raw milk or can you just switch over, I’ve a 4 and 2 yr old also and other than the “normal” fruits and veggies we don’t eat anything else raw so I don’t know if we should start with something else first or how to go about it thanks.

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