Pasteurized or Raw: How do you like your milk?

Pasteurization is simply the heating of a liquid just below the boiling point and held there for a specific amount of time to eliminate bacteria.  Bacteria are destroyed by heat.  Pasteurization reduces the number of viable pathogens reducing the chance of disease.  Louis Pasteur is the discoverer and hence the name Pasteurization.  We have been pasteurizing milk since the early 1900’s.

Benefits of Pasteurization:

  • Pasteurization prevents tuberculosis, diphtheria, polio salmonellosis, strep throat, scarlet fever and typhoid fever.
  • Pasteurized milk has a refrigerated shelf life of 2 to 3 weeks.
  • Ultra-Pasteurized has a refrigerated shelf life of 2 to 3 months.
  • Pasteurization destroys animal bacteria from animal shedding, unclean udders, or unclean barn environments which might mix with the milk.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) believes firmly in the benefit of pasteurizing milk.  The FDA states that the milks enzymes, amino acids and proteins are largely unaffected in pasteurization.  Meaning pasteurized milk is as healthy as raw milk.

Raw milk is milk straight from the cow or goat.  Clean raw milk from grass fed cows was used in the early part of the last century as medicine.  Raw milk has a creamy fresh taste.  Proponents of raw milk claim that pasteurization kills the healthy bacteria, enzymes and proteins.  Not that many years ago raw milk was the only kind of milk available, everyone was drinking it.

Benefits of Raw:

  • Raw milk contains all 22 essential amino acids.
  • Raw milk tastes wonderful.
  • Lactose intolerant people often have no problem digesting raw milk products.
  • Raw milk is a complete protein.
  • Raw milk reduces allergy related conditions in children by 40% (The Internet Journal of Asthma, Allergy and Immunology).

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that 800 people in the US have gotten sick from drinking raw milk or eating cheese made from raw milk since 1998.

In Indiana where I live it is illegal to sell raw milk for human consumption.  If you don’t want to get into trouble and do want to enjoy raw milk you can buy into a “cow share”.  You become part owner of a cow on a local farm and you are allowed to drink milk from your own cow.  Raw milk sales are legal in only 28 of our 50 states.  You can find information about your state from

From reviewing lots of information it seems like pasteurization prevents diseases that are prevalent in today’s unclean dairy farming milk production environment.  In our society most of us buy are milk from the supermarket, who received their supply from large farms that are many miles away.    If we could all gain access to a healthy grass fed cow that was kept in a clean environment we would be better off drinking raw milk.  However, the society we live in is not set up for everyone to be close to their own source of milk.  But if you are struggling with health issues it would be worth obtaining some raw milk to see if your health improves, as many claim.  Be cautious and  make sure the cow is healthy, grass fed and kept in a clean environment and you should be as safe as picking up a tomato at the grocery store.


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