Health Benefits Of Raw Milks & Raw Milk Cheeses
In anticipation of my annual Thanksgiving feast last November, I was at the Union Square Greenmarket in New York City sampling cheeses from a farm called Consider Bardwell Farm. The cheeses tasted like real food, alive with probiotics and free from toxic stuff. All the cheeses from this farm in Vermont are hand made from the raw milk of pasture-raised cows and goats. The vendor was saying how misguided it is for doctors to tell pregnant women to avoid raw milk in any form when pregnant woman especially need all the probiotics they can get to produce healthy babies.
I couldn’t agree more and decided to do some research on how raw milk and raw milk products benefit our health and why they’re so hard to find in the US.
WHAT IS RAW MILK
Raw milk is basically milk as it comes from the cow, goat, or sheep. It’s milk that has not been PASTEURIZED or HOMOGENIZED.
During PASTEURIZATION, milk is heated to a specific temperature for a set period of time. The process was developed by Louis Pasteur in 1864. The purpose of Pasteurization is to kill harmful organisms in the raw milk. Unfortunately, a side effect of the process is that heat also kills the good probiotic bacteria, minerals, and vitamins naturally present in raw milk.
The bulk of milk in the US is from factory farmed cows who are raised indoors in unsanitary conditions on ‘concentrated animal feeding operations’ (CAFOs) so are given antibiotics to keep them from getting sick and growth hormones to make them produce more milk. These cows are also fed genetically modified feed grains.
Factory Farmed Cows
Pasteur raised cows are not given antibiotics or grown hormones and mostly consume organic grasses.
Pasture–raised animals get a significant portion of their nutrition from organically managed pasture and stored dried forages. They may receive supplemental organic grains, both during the grazing season and into winter months. (Organic Valley, 2018)
100% organic, pasture-raised animals graze outside on organic pastures.
100% Organic, Pasture Raised Cows
HOMOGENIZATION is a process, usually done after PASTEURIZATION, during which the fat droplets in milk are broken down so the cream stays in suspension in the milk.
“Milk homogenization is accomplished by mixing massive amounts of harvested milk to create a constant, then forcing the milk at high pressure through small holes. Yet another method of homogenization uses extruders, hammermills, or colloid mills to mill (grind) solids. Milk homogenization is an essential tool of the milk food industry to prevent creating various levels of flavor and fat concentration.” (Wikipedia, 2018)
In an article on Raw Milk Benefits Skin, Allergies and Immunity, Dr Josh Axe says:
“If you’ve been told that drinking raw milk is dangerous, you’ll be surprised to know that you’ve been mislead. The truth about raw milk? An extensive look into research and claims made by the FDA and CDC related to raw milk being dangerous have been found to be completely unwarranted. It actually benefits your body in many ways, and although it might have earned a reputation among some for being dangerous, you shouldn’t miss out on all this amazing superfood has to offer because raw milk benefits are truly impressive.” (Axe, 2017)
Raw milk generally comes from grass-fed cows. It isn’t pasteurized or homogenized so, unlike processed milk, it still contains all of its natural enzymes, fatty acids, vitamins and minerals. It is a complete food.
In answer to claims that pathogenic bacteria in raw milk can make people sick, Dr Axe replies, “The risk of this happening is very, very low. In fact, according to medical researcher Dr. Ted Beals, M.D., you are 35,000 times more likely to get sick from other foods than you are from raw milk. The CDC reports that there are an estimated 48 million foodborne illnesses diagnosed each year. Of these 48 million illnesses, only about 42 (about 0.0005 percent!) each year are due to consumption of fresh, unprocessed (raw) milk.” (Axe, 2017) A
FRESH, RAW COW’S MILK
BENEFITS OF RAW MILK & RAW MILK PRODUCTS
Plentiful vitamins, enzymes, and healthy micro-organisms are found in raw milk. Numerous studies have found considerable health benefits from consuming raw milk and raw milk products: RAW MILK BOOSTS THE IMMUNE SYSTEM
A 2014 European study published in the journal Allergy and Clinical Immunology demonstrated that raw milk consumption helps prevent colds and other viruses, ear infections, and respiratory tract infections from forming in children. Commercially processed milk does not provide these health benefits.
The researchers were European scientists, doctors, and other medical professionals looking into the effects of raw milk vs boiled farm-fresh milk and commercially pasteurized milk. Participants in the study were 1,000 pregnant women in their third trimester, nearly half of whom lived and worked on livestock farms in rural areas mostly in Central Europe. 983 children were included in the final data set. The findings showed that raw milk provides vastly superior immune-boosting nutrition compared to milk processed in any way.
Raw milk was found to help lower C-reactive protein, a measure of inflammation present in the body. In contrast, the altered proteins in processed milk may help promote inflammation.
Dr. Ton Baars, a professor and senior scientist for milk quality and animal welfare at the Research Institute of Organic Agriculture in Germany, and one of the lead authors of the study said, “[W]e are now not talking about asthma and allergies, but fever and infections in young children. It means there is additional new evidence that raw milk is a protective agent in infectious diseases in young children.”. (Huff, 2014)
RAW MILK PROTECTS AGAINST ALLERGIES AND ASTHMA
A 2007 study published in the journal Clinical & Experimental Allergy found that children aged 5-13 living in rural and suburban populations in five European countries who consumed farm-produced raw milk and raw milk products had a lower incidence of asthma and allergy than children who consumed processed milk and processed milk products. “Our results indicate that consumption of farm milk may offer protection against asthma and allergy.” (Waser et al, 2007)
RAW MILK CONSUMPTION DECREASES THE INCIDENCE OF RESPIRATORY INFECTIONS AND FEVERS IN INFANTS BY 30%
It’s known that breast feeding protects infants against developing respiratory infections and fevers. A 2015 article published in the Journal of Allergy & Clinical Immunology showed that consumption of raw cow’s milk also provides the same protection. (Loss et al, 2015) & (Sjoberg, 2017)
RAW MILK HELPS PREVENT NUTRIENT DEFICIENCIES
The USDA reports that the average American consumes nearly 1,000 calories a day (out of a total 2,775) from fats, sugars and other sweeteners added to processed foods.
In contrast, nutrient-rich real foods like raw dairy, fruits, and vegetables contribute only about 424 calories.
This comparison highlights why magnesium, potassium, Vitamin A, and Vitamin K nutrient deficiencies are so common in the US.
“One serving of raw milk contains about 400 milligrams of calcium, 50 milligrams of magnesium and 500 milligrams of potassium. These minerals are vitally important for cellular function, hydration, building bone density, blood circulation, detoxification, muscle health and metabolism. These happen to be three minerals many children and adults are deficient in, which is especially problematic considering most people have a high sodium intake.” (Axe, 2017) RAW MILK BENEFITS THE SKIN
While consuming processed dairy products may cause or worsen acne, psoriasis, and eczema, consumption of raw milk does quite the opposite.
“Raw milk benefits the skin for the following reasons:
It contains healthy fats: Because raw milk contains large amounts of healthy saturated fats and omega-3 fats, it supports skin hydration. In fact, some people don’t only consume raw milk, but they use raw milk as a moisturizer topically. Today, goat milk soap bars are popular around Europe and making their way to the U.S. more often, and recipes for homemade moisturizing face creams using raw milk can be found all over the Internet.
It supplies probiotics: Probiotics in raw milk can kill off or balance bad bacteria in your gut, which can dramatically affect the health of your skin. Research shows that inflammation and unbalanced gut flora contribute to skin issues such as acne and eczema.” (Axe, 2017)
HEALTH BENEFITS OF RAW GRASS-FED MILK KEFIR
If you want to get even more of the health benefits of raw milk, try raw grass-fed milk kefir.
Milk kefir is one of the oldest cultured milk products in existence and is regarded by many (including me) as a super food. Kefir is a fermented, yogurt-like drink made from cow, goat or sheep’s milk, containing probiotic yeasts along with 10 strains of live, beneficial bacteria … billions of active probiotics to support the immune system and balance the gut microbiome. (Hardin, 2014)
See Kefir for more information.
AVAILABILITY OF RAW MILK & RAW MILK PRODUCTS IN THE US
As people are discovering the healthy micro-organisms and other nutrients in raw milk that are destroyed during pasteurization, more of us wish to include it in our diet. This may not be easy if you live in a state that forbids its sale. Some states allow the sale of raw milk in retail stores. Some other states permit cow-share programs. You can check the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) for the milk regulations in your state.
The sale of milk is the US is controlled by a series of state rules and regulations based on the federal Pasteurized Milk Ordinance (PMO). According to the NCSL in 2016, 46 states have adopted many or all of the PMO provisions. California, Maryland, New York and Pennsylvania have not but enacted their own strict milk safety laws.
Here’s a map of raw milk laws by state as of 2/10/2017:
SAFETY OF RAW MILK
Old world cheeses are traditionally made from raw, unpasteurized milk … and they taste a lot more interesting and better than almost all cheeses produced in the USA.
“States may adopt their own laws on raw milk sales. However, at the federal level, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) bans the interstate sale or distribution of raw milk. All milk sold across state lines must be pasteurized and meet the standards of the US Pasteurized Milk Ordinance.
“According to US Federal Regulation (21 CFR § 1240.61), “No person shall cause to be delivered into interstate commerce or shall sell, otherwise distribute, or hold for sale or other distribution after shipment in interstate commerce any milk or milk product in final package form for direct human consumption unless the product has been pasteurized.”
“As of Apr. 2016, the sale of raw milk in stores is legal in 13 states. 17 statesonly permit raw milk sales on farms; 8 of the states that prohibit sales allow acquisition of raw milk only through “cow-share” agreements; and in 20 other states all sales of raw milk are prohibited.
“Drinking or otherwise consuming raw milk is legal in all 50 states. With the exception of Michigan, no state expressly prohibits the sale of raw milk as animal feed.States may adopt their own laws on raw milk sales. However, at the federal level, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) bans the interstate sale or distribution of raw milk. All milk sold across state lines must be pasteurized and meet the standards of the US Pasteurized Milk Ordinance.” (ProCon.org, 2/2/2018)
So what’s behind these strict limitations on the sale of raw milk?
This is the entirely plausible explanation offered by Dr Joseph Mercola in FDA Milk Prohibition Is Dirty Dairy’s Scheme:
“Rather than forcing dirty and dangerous CAFOs to clean up their acts, the FDA has waged a war against raw milk producers — those who are typically producing milk using far healthier, more humane and more sustainable methods than the industrial dairy industry ever could.
“Under the guise of protecting public health, they’ve been slowly chipping away at Americans’ food freedom, including the choice to consume raw milk whenever and wherever they please. Fed up with the irony and blatant violation of human rights, the Tenth Amendment Center is calling on states to legalize raw milk.
“The Tenth Amendment Center is one of the latest NGOs to get involved in the raw milk legalization cause. The 10th Amendment reads:
“The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”
“What this means, then, is that the FDA is in violation of the Constitution by trying to enforce raw milk bans within states.
“Such bans tend to favor industrial dairy at the expense of small, family farms, according to Mike Maharrey, national communications director for the Tenth Amendment Center.
“… The absurdity of targeting raw milk becomes even clearer when contrasted with the real culprits in many cases of food-borne illness: CAFOs. The majority of foods that are making people sick are coming not from small organic farms selling raw milk products. They’re coming from CAFOs and the mega-companies that use their products.
“From 2009 to 2012, North Dakota, for instance, reported just 15 documented cases of bacterial infections among people who drank raw milk before they became ill.9 In contrast, in 2015 alone, ice cream from Blue Bell Creamery — the third-largest ice cream maker in the U.S. — sickened 10 people with listeria, three of whom died as a result.
“Blue Bell, whose ice cream is now back on the market, was fined just $175,000 for the incident.10 Meanwhile, raw dairy farmers have been put out of business for mere suspicion of contamination. Even in the absence of a complaint of contamination, farmers and consumers are often harassed over the buying and selling of raw milk. Ultimately, the choice of what to eat should belong to the individual consumer, not the state or federal government.” (Mercola, 2/7/2017)
CONSIDER BARDWELL FARM
Consider Bardwell Farm in West Pawlet Vermont is a producer of award winning handmade cheese from raw goat and cow milk. Their animals rotationally graze on organic pastures to produce the sweetest milk and tastiest cheese. All their raw milk cheeses are organic, antibiotic free, hormone free, naturally rinded, sustainably produced, and nutritionally complete. Consider Bardwell is an Animal Welfare Approved farm and was voted Vermont’s Sustainable Agriculture Council’s “Farm of the year” in 2013.
Here’s information from the farm’s website about its cheese making practices and the origin of its unusual name:
“Spanning the rolling hills of Vermont’s Champlain Valley and easternmost Washington County, New York, 300-acre Consider Bardwell Farm was the first cheese-making co-op in Vermont, founded in 1864 by Consider Stebbins Bardwell himself. A century later, Angela Miller and Russell Glover are revitalizing the tradition with goat milk from our herd of Oberhaslis and cow milk from our two neighbor farm partners—the Brooks and the Browes. Rotational grazing on pesticide-free and fertilizer-free pastures produces the sweetest milk and the tastiest cheese. Our cheeses are made by hand in small batches from whole, fresh milk that is antibiotic and hormone free. Only microbial (non-animal) rennet is used in our cheese making. All of our cheeses are aged on the farm in our extensive system of caves.” (Consider Bardwell Farm, 2017)
WHERE TO FIND RAW MILK CHEESES MADE FROM THE MILK OF 100% ORGANIC, PASTEUR-RAISED ANIMALS
Look for raw milk cheeses in your local cheese shops and farmer’s markets. You may be pleasantly surprised.
A PERSONAL NOTE
About a year after I’d recovered from a nasty Clostridium difficile infection during which dairy products were highly problematic, I had a strong craving for some goat cheese. Since I try to listen to this kind of information, I took the craving to mean my body was up to being able to handle goat’s milk again.
So I got a small amount of goat cheese from one of the raw milk cheese vendors at the Union Square Greenmarket. It was delicious and my body did well with it. The next week I went back to the same vendor and got some raw cow’s milk cheese. Again, my body liked it a lot.
For quite a while after those two experiments, my body craved raw milk cheeses but did not do well with dairy products made from Pasteurized milk of any kind. I understood this to have to do with the probiotics and other nutrients in the raw milk products and their lack in the processed dairy products.
Axe, J. (2017). Raw Milk Benefits Skin, Allergies and Immunity. See: https://draxe.com/raw-milk-benefits/
Consider Bardwell Farm. (2017). See: http://www.considerbardwellfarm.com/
Hardin, J.R. (2014). Kefir. See: https://www.allergiesandyourgut.com/post/kefir
Huff, E.A. (2014). European study finds raw milk boosts immunity, prevents colds and infections. See: https://www.naturalnews.com/047821_raw_milk_immunity_infections.html
Loss, G. et al. (2015). Consumption of unprocessed cow’s milk protects infants from common respiratory infections. Journal of Allergy & Clinical Immunology. 135:1, 56-62. See: Mercola, J. (2/7/2017). FDA Milk Prohibition Is Dirty Dairy’s Scheme. See: https://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2017/02/07/fda-raw-milk-prohibition-favors-big-dairy.aspx
National Conference of State Legislatures. (2016). State Milk Laws. See: http://www.ncsl.org/research/agriculture-and-rural-development/raw-milk-2012.aspx
Organic Valley. (2018). What does pasture raised mean? See: http://organicvalley.custhelp.com/app/answers/detail/a_id/22/~/what-does-pasture-raised-mean%3F
ProCon.org. (2/2/2018). Raw Milk Laws State-by-State (as of Apr. 19, 2016). See: https://milk.procon.org/view.resource.php?resourceID=005192 Sjoberg, V. (2017). Raw Milk Versus Pasteurized Milk: Benefits and Risks. See: http://www.chopra.com/articles/raw-milk-versus-pasteurized-milk-benefits-and-risks#sm.0001d7cl8b8jzdsbzxu16il3hkl6s
Waser, M. et al. (2007). Inverse association of farm milk consumption with asthma and allergy in rural and suburban populations across Europe. See: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17456213
Wikipedia. (3/5/2018). Homogenization (chemistry). See: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Homogenization_(chemistry) © Copyright 2018. Joan Rothchild Hardin. All Rights Reserved.
DISCLAIMER: Nothing on this site or blog is intended to provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.
Comments submitted prior to 8/25/2021
Most excellent! So thrilled you have taken the time and effort to compile such an outstanding and detailed article. Over the past several years, I have dealt with some serious, life-threatening health situations. I turned to raw milk during each of these crisis……Two of the most challenging situations involved my ability to eat and / or digest properly. Raw cow milk from a local farm was what sustained me thru the crisis. While my preference is goat milk, I found raw cow milk more easily obtainable. And delectably tasty! Raw milk, properly produced, is truly a delicious and nourishing gift from our Grand Creator. Had I not been educated about raw milk and not had access to this amazing healing food, I feel I would still be battling the after effects of those health crisis. Thank you for being among those who are
spreading this vital information!
In reply to Sherri
Thanks, Sherri. Excellent that you had access to raw milk to restore your health.