‘Got Raw Milk?’: The Pasteurization Scam
Friday, 16 May 2014 00:00  |  Written by Guest Contributor | Commentary

Milk courtesy of www.bluewaikiki.comRather than bow down and revere raw milk as ‘a holy nectar of the gods’ (as many of its hundreds of thousands of consumers do; 40,000 in California alone), I would like to more objectively examine the process of pasteurization and its broader role in conscientious living. Pasteurization, a process developed in the late 19th century by (quelle surprise!) Monsieur Louis Pasteur, exposes milk to brief stints of high heat, in order to kill off all bacteria and enzymes. And no bacteria means no scary germs, right? That’s what officials and dairy-industry moguls would like you to believe. But in actuality, raw milk, teeming with friendly bacteria, has many proven health benefits.

The Industrialization of Milk
Specifically in the United States, milk of the early 1800s came from sickly cows locked up in urban concrete containers and fed whiskey slop (the waste product of neighboring whiskey distilleries). Think Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle. The resulting “swill milk” was a far cry from the creamy rich goodness of earlier times. Iit was dirty, bluish and watery, so watery in fact that it refused to be made into butter, as it lacked any fat. Since the milk was contaminated by filthy hands and unsanitary equipment, it’s no wonder that child mortality rates in major American cities during this time drastically increased. Pasteur’s novel solution to the transmission of disease was sterilization. In this context, pasteurization made total sense, as it was a valid method of ensuring safety.

The Insignificant Risk of Raw
But times have changed. We now have the means and knowledge to secure hygienic facilities. So why are we still employing this archaic process? I doubt that pasteurization is advocated simply because those in charge are genuinely concerned about consumer health. Raw milk is not a large enough health liability to cause government officials to suppress it with such fervor. Ron Schmid writes in his book, The Untold Story of Milk, that “disease caused by raw milk is rare.” Other prominent figures agree. Sally Fallon, president of the Westin A. Price Foundation, also argues that the risk to raw milk drinkers is insignificant.

Schmid, after extensive research on raw milk, speculates that in the past 25 years, a few hundred incidents of minor illness have been connected to raw milk. Additionally, he found records of a few dozen more serious incidents, as well as a few isolated cases of death, for people with preexisting medical problems. Although Schmid is cautious when he writes that some “prominent advocates for raw milk have been inaccurate in their declarations that raw milk never leads to acute illness,” he still asserts that the intense and biased focus of public health authorities on the safety hazards of raw milk are unprecedented.

Schmid proceeds to give some perspective: “Some 200,000 people are sickened each day in the US due to food-borne illness, about 90 each day are hospitalized, and about 14 each day die.” Furthermore, “eggs are said by some authorities to sicken 300,000 and kill hundreds of Americans every year,” and “a nationwide study published by the USDA in 1996 found that 7.5% of the ground beef samples taken at processing plants were contaminated with Salmonella and 11.7% were contaminated with listeria.” And listeria, unlike coliform, is disease causing. Eric Schlosser writes in Fast Food Nation that “Food poisoning caused by listeria generally causes hospitalization and proves fatal in one out of every five cases.” So the big question is, why aren’t health officials going after meat and egg producers? Why is raw milk being singled out?

The Numerous Benefits of Raw Milk
Federal and state health officials warn that consuming raw milk can kill you, and considerable government heft is thrown behind efforts to keep it out of reach. But in actuality the health benefits of raw milk greatly outweigh the risks. Sandor Katz, a food activist, writes in his book, The Revolution Must Not Be Microwaved, about how alive and nourishing raw milk is. It helps build the immune system and reduces allergies and asthma, and good bacteria actually inhibit the production of pathogens in raw milk.

Katz’s book also emphasizes that raw milk is more easily digested, and that it retains its inherent nutritional value and excellent taste. For example, “calcium is a major nutrient people seek in milk, and pasteurization renders it largely unavailable…” The obvious conclusion: real milk from healthy, happy cows provides important nutrients and health benefits.

In addition to bacteria, milk naturally contains many enzymes, almost all of which are inactivated by pasteurization. Again from Katz, “One enzyme, lactase, digests lactose, the milk sugar that so many people cannot digest. Pasteurization is what makes milk indigestible for many people; among people who do not drink milk because they cannot tolerate lactose, many find that they can digest and enjoy milk raw, due to the presence of lactase.” Furthermore, the bacteria found in healthy milk also protect the milk from developing pathogenic bacteria, functioning as a built-in immune system.

Regulating the Type of Milk Mustache You Can Have
It seems the issue of raw milk has become personal, as evidenced by California’s swift and quiet passing of a state law last October, which would have in essence banned raw milk from shelves. Today, raw-milk aficionados wait for the full Senate assembly to pass SB201, which would require dairies to test for human pathogens twice a week and prevents dairies from outsourcing production to facilities that don’t conform to such strict standards. This is an improvement over the previous AB1735, which would have effectively prevented raw dairies from operating due to unachievable standards for coliform levels.

California is one of only four states in which the sale of raw milk in stores is even legal, while in 24 other states, consumers must get in contact with a willing farmer. In the remaining states raw-milk enthusiasts must resort to illegal and super stealth farm operations. But word has spread about the wonders of raw milk, and lots of people are doing what it takes to get their hands on the goods. Demand for raw milk is booming! So, if Californians lose their right to decide how to nourish themselves, the rest of the US will soon be on its way.

The Model of Mass Production
The stringent actions against raw milk, especially in recent months, suggest that something else is at play. Milk is big business! And pasteurization is firmly and intricately implanted in our modern economic system. Milk moguls want to ensure the most bang for their buck, and pasteurization is a vital business tactic, which extends the shelf life of milk and allows it to be transported over long periods and distances. Katz writes that “Laws dictating food standards are driven by the model of mass production, where sterility and uniformity are everything, rendering much of the trade in local food technically illegal.” Managing anonymous milking machines, zapping their unsanitary milk with a quick round of pasteurization, and selling it for a fantastically low price of $1.50 a quart, is just so much easier and more profitable.

It’s hard to run a monopoly sustainably and with care. The health authorities’ targeted attack on raw milk seems to be fueled by a corporate agenda. Suzanne Nelson, in her article “Drink it Raw”, from the Independent Weekly, asserts that “20th-century fear [of bacteria] becomes a powerful agent in 21st-century greed. And as one online commentator to Nelson’s article so poignantly writes, “Anyone who believes this [raw milk] issue is primarily about health, and not about running small dairy farmers out of business (or at least into the arms of the large dairy processors), is profoundly ill-informed.”

Raw Power in Action
Fortunately, California’s outraged and impassioned raw-milk aficionados took to Sacramento on January 16th, 2008, to fight against this blatant injustice. The amendment was to take effect on January 1st but the active appeals by California’s two raw-milk dairies, Organic Pastures and Claravale Farms, along with their tenacious supporters, have forced the government to reevaluate the absurd coliform limit. The clandestine passing of the bill in 2007 meant that no one had been informed of the limit until after it was passed, therefore making any chance at presenting counter evidence or holding an oppositional hearing impossible. On the 16th, Mark McAfee of Organic Pastures and the Garthwaites of Claravale Farms, strongly backed by scientists, doctors, and 1000 supporters, presented their argument against the coliform limit in a much-anticipated hearing.

Thanks to the infuriated calls and letters of raw-milk consumers along with the strong case presented by the participating dairies, the California Assembly’s Agriculture Committee voted unanimously to support a reevaluation of the standard. Raw milk will continue to be available and most likely the technical corrections will raise the limit from 10 to 50 per milliliter. Great news! McAfee proclaims it was “a very exciting day.”

However, he points out that “it wasn’t a 100% win.” Many are still skeptical about the results. Coliform bacteria are proven to be harmless. So, whether the limit is 10 or 50, and regardless of whether producers will be able to meet the new standard, the fact that a limit exists at all is a reminder of the dominant corporate paradigm of food production. This isn’t just about raw milk! The issue is indicative of many battles going on between local agrarian communities and the market-driven agribusinesses. In agricultural states such as California, as well as most traditionally agricultural regions worldwide, small farms have for many years been forced to compete with international big-box producers. This competition has devastated the sovereignty of many a community. The large number of people in support of the California raw-milk issue are a pertinent example of how consumer awareness and action can be successfully used to effect change.

Unfortunately, big businesses are doing all that is in their power to squash these popular uprisings of sorts. It is up to the concerned citizenry to continue to act locally and vocally in order to preserve the ways of living that we believe are supportive of good health and happiness. Let there be raw milk!

Additional resources:
Milk Myths

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[This piece was written by Cora Albrecht & Anya Kamenskaya and provided courtesy of the Society for Agriculture and Food Ecology. - Ed.]

Comments (8)add
Written by Joe M , October 21, 2011
You all can reason many different ways regarding to what is proper or right about farming and the concern of animals. But remember this. God gave us dominion over all animals. He has also clearly shown us that we are to be human and not like animals ourselves. A human-like responsibility is commanded. He also gave us the right to eat them. But the intended way to live is a self sufficient one. We are all supposed to raise families and support them through hard work in farming and livestock. The balance comes from a natural pace of hard work in conjunction with the speed of the seasons. To create machinery that is soley for the purpose of mass production is a blasphemy against God. Manipulating the Earth for such practices is what robs the ground, which ultimately robs the animals. You get caught up in a web of deceit that leads us by our own will. We become sellouts for the sake of profit. When this happens you get a bunch of other Godless people who complain many different ways. Some complain for the animals. Some complain for the crops. But they all don't know God. They act as if the world belongs to people. And it does not. Get a handheld plow and hook it to an animal. Compare that speed to a tractor. Moving twice as fast means the ground lasts half as long. Yet, the speed of the seasons will not change. We are robbing God and His creations. We are walking in the footsteps of Godless, selfish people. And an automatic curse comes down upon us for doing so. It comes in the form of suffering, conflict, and greed.
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Written by Joe M , October 21, 2011
It doesn't matter to me what the government tries to say about raw milk. God tells us to "prove all things". Even though we are told to respect authority, we aren't commanded to eat contaminated food if we have the ability to do otherwise. It is a fact that raw milk is safe to drink and it has been for centuries. Pasteurization is a modern practice that coincides with industrialization and commercialization. The 20th century became a time of declining morality and increased greed and profit through lies and politics. It will not improve. We can choose to either allow the government to foce us into an unethical position with God, or we can disregard the law and provide our untainted milk to those who need it. AFter all, store bought milk is illegitimate to God. Killing food is a blasphemy against God's life support. We are under no obligation to support man's ungodly abuse of His creation. Food is the very basic necessity of life, and to willfully put man's poison into our children's bodies, knowing that it is poisoned, forces us to ignore our spirit led conscience. This is always wrong. Just remember that Satan rules the world. And the government belongs to him.
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Written by Mama , January 27, 2010
I pick up raw milk straight from the farmer, since it is not sold in stores. I have to say with two young children I would not have them drink the stuff at all if I could not get it raw, locally. Any milk that you would pick up in the grocery store is much more dangerous, laden with hormones and antibiotics, in my opinion. Milk is for babies. Human milk for human babies and cow milk for cow babies. Unfortunately, my youngest is hooked on the stuff. I have to have a doctor's note at daycare for my oldest daughter, since she doesn't drink it. Any account of how milk is "produced" on a factory farm would surely turn anyone's stomach.
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Written by Nate , January 26, 2010
I've gotta say, these comments are much more interesting than the original article. That being said, I'd like to point out that tolerance to lactose past weaning is a relatively recent adaptation unique to human populations. Furthermore, it's a dominant genetic trait, meaning that intolerance to lactose is recessive. It would seem that nature is telling us that milk into adulthood is totally natural (and delicious)!
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Written by linz , January 26, 2010
I agree with you that the way humans raise meat for consumption is wrong, horrible, destructive etc. I do not agree with you that doing so is necessarily wrong - that it is wrong on some moral level. Grass-fed cows are not a red herring, they are an example of animal husbandry that is ecologically sound.

Also, I don't believe that nature "clearly tells" us anything. Nature doesn't tell, because nature doesn't care. Humans are the ones who care, who interpret. You're entitled to your beliefs about what should or shouldn't go into your body, but you can't speak for nature - no one can.

What do you mean by "it contains too much fat"? What if the only fat I get in my whole diet is from whole milk? And should we not eat avocados or coconuts or almonds? They contain quite a bit of fat too.
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Written by jimt , January 26, 2010
Oh, come on. Grass fed cows are a red herring as they are only a minute fraction of milk or beef cows.

Eating animals is one of the most destructive environmental forces on the planet (period). Check out the Global Issues site (http://www.globalissues.org/article/240/beef). Here are a few cogent statistics:

* More than one third of the world’s grain harvest is used to feed livestock.
* The total cattle population for the world is approximately 1.3 billion occupying some 24% of the land of the planet.
* Some 70 to 80% of grain produced in the United States is fed to livestock.
* Half the water consumed in the U.S. is used to grow grain for cattle feed.
* A gallon of gasoline is required to produce a pound of grain-fed beef.

And the most damning statistic of all:
* Animals eat plant protein that, if used directly, could feed 8 to 10 times as many people.

How do I know milk is for babies? Because nature clearly tells us so. It comes from pregnant animals and is specially formulated to feed new offspring. It contains much too much fat, for example, for mature animals.
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Written by linz , January 26, 2010
Vegetable agriculture uses it's fair share of resources as well. Milk from cows grazed on grass is actually a pretty efficient way of converting indigestible plant fibers into energy for humans. You could make the argument that it's a lot more sustainable than vegetable monoculture, so unless you are pretty darn exacting about where every vegetable morsel that enters your mouth comes from, veganism is no guarantee of eco-friendliness. And even small, local farms convert wilderness land into cultivated land, robbing animals of their natural habitats, and cause the death of animals in many more ways. Living takes life. Unfortunately the issue is not as simple as meat=bad; vegetables=good.

Also, who says milk is for babies? God?
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Written by jimt , January 25, 2010
Milk is for babies, not adults. I never drink the stuff. It's also ecologically unsound to use animal products. They use inordinate amounts of resources--water, food, energy, etc.
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