Raw Milk: Local at its Best?

August 12, 2011

You have probably heard of raw milk by now, so what is it and will you see it on a store near you?

What’s the fuss over raw milk, and does SupermarketGuru foresee raw milk on supermarket shelves? Raw milk is milk that comes from cows, sheep, or goats and has not undergone pasteurization to kill potentially harmful bacteria. According to the Food and Drug Administration and also acknowledged by those who choose to consume raw milk, raw unpasteurized milk can carry dangerous bacteria such as Salmonella, E. coli, and Listeria; the latter believe the dangers of consuming raw milk have been greatly exaggerated by the media and realize that all foods pose potential risk - let’s not forget spinach, cookie dough, turkey, and ground beef. 

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately one percent of the population consumes raw milk. So why has the raw vs. pasteurized argument taken center stage if such a small percentage of the population actually consumes the stuff? The Lempert Report attributes the national conversation about raw milk to the like of the “know your farmer, know your food” movement, a push for consumers to buy more local, fresh foods and less of the processed type- which includes pasteurized milk according to raw milk enthusiasts.

Raw milk is thought to be more nutritious: containing enzymes, beneficial bacteria and fats in their natural form, as well as anecdotally alleviating allergies, increasing general immunity, and being easier on digestion. Pasteurization and homogenization are thought to destroy and deactivate the various benefits found in raw milk. (Do note that the CDC readily opposes this view)

Pasteurization became popularized in the 1930’s when raw milk accounted for 25 percent of all food related outbreaks, due to bovine tuberculosis and brucellosis which have since, been virtually eradicated in US cattle. E.coli, Listeria and Salmonella are modern day germs that have spread to dairies and feedlots, thus a continued need for sterilization. Pasteurization partially sterilizes raw foods during a heating process designed to destroy all bacteria (the good and the bad). Along with partial sterility, pasteurized products have a much longer shelf life.

Currently raw milk is legally sold in retail outlets in 10 states, while 15 states can legally sell raw milk on farms. If raw milk is to make it mainstream, or at least legalized for retail sales in more states, SupermarketGuru suggests a standard, mandatory safety and inspection process, as well as best practices regarding temperature during storage, transport and retail as well as general handling practices. Consumers should also be educated about the pros and cons before buying raw milk products. 

For more on the raw milk pros and cons visit:
The Campaign for Real Milk 
The CDC 
Real Raw Milk Facts