Raw Milk: The Sexy Bad Boy of the Dairy Industry

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raw milkWanna be a rebel, on the cutting edge of a food trend with attitude?

Grab a glass of milk.

Milk?

Yes, milk, but not just any old glass of the white stuff will do. It's the raw, unpasteurized milk, which is illegal to sell in many states, that is the drink making people think.

Despite warnings from the FDA and others about the dangers of unpasteurized milk, it continues to attract a strong following of devoted drinkers.

It's even making its way into trendy restaurants.

“We find raw milk a little bit sexy,” Chef Jason Fox of San Francisco's Commonwealth restaurant told Chow.

Most enthusiasts of raw milk, however, like it for more than its trend status.

I caught up with one such enthusiast, Dr. Catherine Shanahan, who is Cornell trained in biochemistry, board certified in Family Medicine, and author of Deep Nutrition: Why Your Genes Need Traditional Food, and Food Rules: A Doctor's Guide to Healthy Living, to find out more about it.

First, Dr. Shanahan said she prefers the term "real" milk since "raw" implies the milk isn't quite ready to be consumed.

"Raw milk is milk as nature made it, like breast milk. It's the way people drank cow, goat, sheep, camel and even mare's milk for thousands of years until the 20th century when milk distribution middlemen profoundly changed the way milk was produced and sold by batching milk from different farms. Since fresh milk is something of a specialty product, it's also a higher quality milk, typically, because the animals on the small, family run farms that sell raw milk are usually much better fed and cared for, and that changes everything."

She believes the opposition to its consumption is based on ignorance, fear and "moneyed interests".

She said while there are dangers associated with real milk consumption, they aren't different than those from other foods that are handled by people, stored and subject to contact with manure.

"It's difficult to assess the real harms since raw milk has this reputation for being potentially dangerous, more so than say spinach or peanut butter, and will be blamed even when it may actually be the spinach or peanut butter that sent someone to the hospital," Shanahan said. "This skews statistics."

What are the benefits?

"Taste, nutrition, supporting small farms and humane production of milk. Many many people have told me their kids do better on raw milk, especially kids with eczema and allergic problems."

She does offer some caution, however, and recommends a gradual introduction to it, especially for children.

"Don't use more than a few ounces for the first few days. I cannot recommend it to anyone on powerful immune suppressing medications," she said. "And make sure that your kids bellies are full of good bacteria first. The best way to beef up those good bacteria is with yoghurt, kefir, and probiotics. Try to gain some sense of the care given to the animals, and make sure you talk to other people who have consumed milk from the same source."

Do you drink raw milk? Would you?


Image via kthread/Flickr

drinks, food, food safety