Milk War

by Catherine Haug, August 31, 2011

By now I’m sure most of you know that I’m an avid supporter of raw (unpasteurized) milk, despite the preponderance of public opinion that pasteurized milk keeps you safe. Do you wonder why?

Back in the early 1950s we had many dairies here in the Flathead, and most of them delivered their farm-fresh milk to your door in glass bottles with special paper caps. This milk was not pasteurized. As a growing toddler, I thrived on raw milk.

But as time progressed, dairies consolidated or closed; milk was pasteurized and sold in markets. Those who wanted it could still get raw milk, but we had to drive to the farm to get it. By the time I was on my own, raw milk was very hard to find, so I stopped drinking milk altogether, to avoid the mucous produced by pasteurized milk.

Why did public preference change? For the full story, go to, but read on for the short version, and also a discussion on the healthfulness of raw milk.

Brief history of commercial milk

Back in the 1800s (and prior), all milk was sold raw. But as the century progressed, people moved from rural areas to  large metropolitan areas like New York, Boston and Chicago in search of work. In these cities, the dairies were part of the slaughterhouse grounds. They were filthy, the cows were underfed and sick. And their milk was killing infants and children. The people pressed for help and government responded. They set up rules for two different kinds of dairies:

  • Most opted to follow new rules for cleanliness and be inspected regularly, in order to be a certified raw milk dairy.
  • Those who didn’t want to clean up their act could pasteurize their milk to make it safe.

The certified dairies were preferred by their customers, as their children thrived. Many of the pasteurizing dairies went under; those that remained pressed to oust the raw competition by revising the laws. And now, in most states, sale of raw milk is limited or (as in Montana), outright illegal.

Meanwhile, the pasteurizing dairies consolidated and started heating the milk to even higher temperatures in the ultra-pasteurization process. This provided a longer shelf-life so the milk could be warehoused then trucked to distant locations, allowing further consolidation of the milk industry.

But at the same time, this heat-treated milk was causing illness: lactose intolerance, digestive disorders, allergy symptoms, asthma, and yes, even more severe problems caused by bad bacteria, including salmonella. Milk sales declined, eventually causing the industry to launch its “Got Milk” campaign. At the same time they pressed for stricter legislation against their raw milk competition.

Milk War

Raw milk is having a resurgence (even in states like Montana, where it is strictly illegal), because people are discovering the health-promoting and healing benefits of raw milk. Some families are raising their own goats; some farms form cow-share businesses in order to provide raw milk to the share owners.

Commercial dairies are truly up against a wall, but they have new legislation on their side, in the form of the Food Safety Modernization Act of 2011, which grants the FDA extraordinary new powers to detain any food the agency suspects to be unsafe, whether there are good grounds for suspicion or not. Farmers are being arrested at gun point! for selling raw milk, even in states like Massachusetts, where the sale is legal.

Benefits of raw milk from pasture-fed cows

Raw milk tastes great! But it also has many health benefits as well, including the following, which are destroyed or greatly reduced by pasteurization (1):

  • Beneficial, probiotic bacteria that keep bad bacteria out of the milk and help the consumer fight back against bad microbes already living in his gut;
  • Live, active enzymes such as phosphatase, which aids the absorption of calcium in your bones; lipase enzyme which helps to hydrolyze and absorb fats; and lactase enzyme required for digestion of milk sugar.

Raw, natural butterfat:

  • Is necessary for utilization of certain vitamins and minerals, and which has strong anti-carcinogenic properties;
  • Contains conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) which has anti-cancerogenic, and many other health-promoting properties;
  • High omega-3 and low omega-6 ratios;
  • Rich in fat-soluble vitamins A, D and K.

It’s important to note that these benefits are maximized in grass-fed cows. Some dairies let their cows range in pasture during the months they are not being milked, but then keep them in confinement and feed them corn and soy feed during the months they are milked. This is not healthy for the cow, and it does not provide all the benefits listed above, especially not the benefits of butterfat.

Illness from clean raw milk?

Much of the public argument against raw milk centers around foodborne illness caused by pathogenic microbes such as e. coli, salmonella, tuberculosis, lysteria, and so on. Commercial dairies and the FDA want you to believe that only raw milk carries these bad bugs, and only pasteurization can keep you safe.

Yet there are more recorded incidents of microbial illness from pasteurized milk, than from raw milk. How can this be? Because the natural bacteria in raw milk produce antimicrobial substances that keep bad bacteria from getting a foothold. And as raw milk sours from the action of the good bugs in the milk, the lactic acid they produce creates an environment that cannot support the pathogenic microbes. Raw milk sours; pasteurized milk spoils.

A study

A 2007 study using data from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) casts further doubt on the belief that raw milk is not safe. In the US, over a 12-year period, illnesses attributed (but not proven) to raw milk averaged 42; total foodborne illnesses in the US averaged 48,000,000. Study author, Dr. Ted Beals, concludes: “Using this average of 42 illnesses per year [from raw milk], we can show, using government figures, that you are about 35,000 times more likely to become ill from other foods than you are from raw milk.” (3)

Of course, a national average of 42 reported (but not confirmed) cases per year is 42 too many. But when compared to proven foodborne illness from all foods of over 1 million cases per year, 42 is really a small number.

Sally Fallon of the the Weston A. Price Foundation (WAPF), and author of Nourishing Traditions adds: “With good management practices in small grass-based dairies offering fresh unprocessed whole milk for direct human consumption, we may be able to reduce the risk even further.”

Sustainability of Pasture-Fed Dairy Cows

Getting your milk from cows/goats raised in pasture has benefits for the planet, as well as health benefits for the consumer.

Raising pasture is far more sustainable than big-AG production of soy and grain feed for livestock. The latter requires the use of pesticides and synthetic fertilizers to grow the crops, both of which are made from petroleum and require huge amounts of energy from fossil fuels to produce. The former relies on natural fertilizers and traditional crop-management techniques to keep pests at bay.

Cows kept in confinement produce huge amounts of urine and manure that requires disposal – and that leach into ground water, causing pollution and the spread of disease. Cows ranging in pasture fertilize the soil with their waste products that compost over time.

For More infomation


  1. Mercola:Why is this “Unsafe” Food Banned When It’s 35,000 Times SAFER Than Others?
  2. WAPF: Government Data Proves Raw Milk Safe
  3. Dr. Ted Beals: Those Pathogens, What You Should Know

For more information

2 Responses to “Milk War”

  1. Leif Peterson says:

    Hi, do you have a source for raw milk in the Flathead? I live in Whitefish.

  2. Catherine says:

    Hi Leif,
    Yes, I know of a cow-share program for raw milk between Creston and C Falls. I will send you the contact info in a private email.

    Every year there are more people raising goats for milk, and there is likely a source near Whitefish or C Falls. Your best bet to find a source of raw cow or goat milk is to contact the WAPF (Weston A Price Foundation). You can go to their Real (Raw) Milk: Where website, but it is not as up to date as contacting the local WAPF chapter leader: Lisa Guinn at