What is real, raw milk?
Real milk is milk that comes from pastured cows, that contains all the fat and that has not been processed in any way—it is raw and unhomogenized.
For a brochure summarizing the safety and health benefits of raw milk, see our Campaign for Real Milk Brochure.
For an extensive and fully referenced presentation on the safety, health benefits and economic benefits of real raw milk, see our Campaign for Real Milk PowerPoint Presentation. For an overview on the safety, health benefits, and economic benefits of real raw milk, see Fresh, Unprocessed (Raw) Whole Milk: Safety, Health and Economic Issues.
Is it safe to drink real, raw milk?
Real milk that has been produced under sanitary and healthy conditions is a safe and healthy food. It is important that the cows are healthy (tested free of TB and undulant fever) and do not have any infections (such as mastitis). The cows should be eating food appropriate to cows, which is mostly grass, hay or silage, with only a small amount of grain, if any. The milk should be full-fat milk, as many important anti-microbial and health-supporting components are in the fat. The cows should be milked under sanitary conditions and the milk chilled down immediately.
For information on safe handling of raw milk, see Safe Handling – Consumers’ Guide to Preserving the Quality of Fresh, Unprocessed Whole Milk available from the Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund.
For information on safe production of raw milk, see the Raw Milk Production Handbook available from the Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund.
To read David Gumpert’s remarks from the Raw Milk Debate at Harvard Law School, see “Raw Milk Safety vs. Rights: Striking a Balance.”
What makes real raw milk safe?
Raw milk contains many components that kill pathogens and strengthen the immune system. These include lacto-peroxidase, lacto-ferrin, anti-microbial components of blood (leukocytes, B-macrophages, neutrophils, T-lymphocytes, immunoglobulins and antibodies), special carbohydrates (polysaccharides and oligosaccharides), special fats (medium chain fatty acids, phospholipids and spingolipids), complement enzymes, lysozyme, hormones, growth factors, mucins, fibronectin, glycomacropeptide, beneficial bacteria, bifidus factor and B12-binding protein. These components are largely inactivated by the heat of pasteurization and ultrapasteurization. For further information, see Part I of our Campaign for Real Milk PowerPoint Presentation.
This five-fold protective system destroys pathogens in the milk, stimulates the Immune system, builds healthy gut wall, prevents absorption of pathogens and toxins in the gut and ensures assimilation of all the nutrients.
So powerful is the anti-microbial system in raw milk that when large quantities of pathogens are added to raw milk, their numbers diminish over time and eventually disappear. For a discussion of scientific papers showing the pathogen-killing properties of raw milk, see Does Raw Milk Kill Pathogens? by Dr. Ted Beals.
Of course, this marvelous protective system can be overwhelmed by very dirty conditions. That is why we do not recommend raw milk from confinement dairies, or raw milk that is produced under unsanitary conditions. Raw milk producers have a responsibility to produce raw milk in the cleanest possible conditions. Cows should not be allowed to wallow in mud and muck; they should be well fed; and all equipment washed and stored properly. We strongly advise all raw milk producers to be members of the Raw Milk Institute (RAWMI) and to implement their guidelines for safe raw milk practices.