When we were living in Boston, I worked as a freelancer on the side, and wrote an article for Edible Boston about raw milk. In case you've never heard of it before, raw milk is milk that has been hasn't been pasteurized or homogenized -- and it's crazy controversial. Here's an excerpt from the article I wrote explaining a little more:
Supporters of raw milk believe that pasteurization (a careful reduction of some pathogenic micro-organisms using high temperatures followed quickly by cool temperatures) may render inert a large portion of naturally occurring calcium, in addition to enzymes that can aid human digestion.
Anecdotal health claims about the benefits of raw milk abound, and find support in clinical evidence from a 2007 study performed by the Institute of Social and Preventive Medicine at the University of Basel (Switzerland). The study found that children ages 5 to 15 who regularly drank raw milk had a lower incidence of asthma and allergies.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) counters on its website that there is no evidence raw milk can cure allergies and that it may, in fact, contain “a wide range of dangerous pathogens that can cause illness.” The website also describes the consumption of raw milk as “playing Russian roulette with your health.”
Despite the FDA’s warnings, however, raw milk drinkers have seen the product ease the symptoms of muscular dystrophy, depression, digestive problems, eczema, asthma, various allergies, brain damage, chronic fatigue, Asperger’s syndrome, attention deficit disorder (ADD), obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) and lactose intolerance. [Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources (MDAR) Commissioner Scott] Soares is among those who believe that the consumption of raw milk is likely not harmful to your health. In 2008, while he was the assistant agricultural commissioner, he told the Boston Globe he believed that the risks of consuming raw milk were minimal. “I do believe it’s a safe product,” he told the Globe. That same year, Reuters named raw milk controversy as the year’s top health debate.
As I continued research for the article, I became more and more intrigued about the benefits -- and potential drawbacks -- of raw milk. I learned that some people view the process of pasturization as archaic -- it came into fashion in the United States in the 1800s, when farms were moved farther away from urban areas (making transporting unrefrigerated raw milk for days unsafe), and when people lived in extremely close quarters in those urban areas, allowing disease to spread more easily.
We've gotten much better at understanding how to prevent disease and produce safe food since then, and as long as farms adhere to strict standards and regulations, I think raw milk can be a good choice for some people.
I wrote this article around the time I was dealing my diagnosis of endometriosis -- which some physicians believe is an autoimmune problem -- and when we moved back to western Massachusetts, I thought, why not give it a shot?
Now I buy raw milk by the half-gallon (Kristie's not into it so it's not worth buying it by the gallon) from Flayvors of Cook Farm. It tastes a little sweeter to me (kind of like the milk we drank in Curacao, which wasn't raw), but it only took me about a week to adjust to the tase.
The only states in which it's legal to sell raw milk in stores are Connecticut and California, so I have to drive to the farm to pick it up in person. It's definitely more expensive than regular milk -- $4 for a half-gallon. The raw milk Flayvors sells is homogenized (no thick cream at the top). I can meet the cows my milk comes from, and learn their names.
I feel like it's a healthier choice for me, but as far as specific health benefits go, I can't say I've seen any effects on the endometriosis or my health in general (although I've also been on a hormonal medication to successfully suppress the endo for the past two years, and been taking lots of vitamins and supplements). But the raw milk has certainly never made me sick, and I intend to keep drinking it, at least for the immediate future.
That being said, do your research. Get recommendations from friends. Find out if raw milk is right for you and your family.
Would you ever try raw milk?