Farm-Fresh Unprocessed Whole Milk: Comments on Its Safety

I recently met Ted Beals and also spoke to him by phone about raw milk safety standards. He says there are two kinds of raw milk: the kind that is fit for human consumption and the kind that requires pastuerization. He prefers not to call it raw milk; he calls it farm fresh, unprocessed whole milk. I like just Farm-Fresh Milk–but since milk is highly regulated, calling it Mjlk would not qualify it for an exemption.

Ted Beals is a pathologist who retired from the faculty of the University of Michigan Medical School and the Senior Executive Service of the Department of Veterans Affairs in Washington, D.C. He is an international consultant on milk safety. He and his wife, Peggy, a registered nurse, live in Grass Lake, Mich. They have consumed fresh, unprocessed whole milk from several Michigan dairies for many years.

Comments on Raw Milk Safety

By Ted Beals

Families that drive long distances to obtain farm fresh, unprocessed whole milk want the nutritional and health values they know are present in this milk. They know how important it is for their growing children. There is no controversy over the values of milk in our regular diet. All across the country people are allowed to consume raw milk.

However, families have been faced with the threat that the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP) would shut down the dairies supplying this nutrient dense food. They say fresh milk is inherently dangerous and poses a threat to the public health. The truth is that fresh milk has been part of the diets of cultures around the world for as long as recorded history. If it was dangerous, people would have quit drinking it long ago.

Those obsessed with banning raw milk repeat over and over that people who drink it get sick. What they do not say is how often this happens compared to the risks we face in everyday life. Millions of Americans are drinking raw milk regularly. Outbreaks attributed to raw milk are extremely rare. Using national data, the risk from injury driving to pick up my fresh unprocessed whole milk is higher than the reported risk of becoming ill from drinking that milk.

The experts agree, many ready-to-eat foods are far more risky than raw milk, but DATCP is not closing down grocery stores and delis. Those obsessed with banning the sale of raw milk claim that milk is obviously dangerous because bacteria grow rapidly and even traces of contamination will result in illness. Many bacteria, including some that are necessary for our own digestive processes, do grow well in milk. Beneficial bacteria are present in fresh milk and act like probiotics. Pasteurization kills those beneficial bacteria. However, the rare virulent pathogens that can cause disease in some people do not grow well in milk.

All of the textbooks on dairy science describe all of the various components of milk that are altered by heating and they detail the proven destructive effects of homogenization. So why do the industrial dairies pasteurize, some even ultra-pasteurizing? Because the milk takes a long time to move through the system from the farm to the grocery store. It can spoil before it reaches the home. When you obtain your raw milk fresh directly from your own personal dairy farmer, you know where it is produced. You personally know the farm family. Know they manage their dairy to provide clean milk from healthy cows fed to maximize the nutritional value of the milk. These dairies are proud to show you their pasture, how they care for their cows and produce milk that is intended to be consumed unprocessed. There is no plan to make everyone drink raw milk.

Some families want the law to allow them to choose to buy milk for their growing families that is not pasteurized. They want the choice to find a dairy family that produces the milk that they know is good, pay them fully for the effort they put into providing a safe quality product. And they acknowledge that like everything in life, nothing can be guaranteed totally safe.

5 responses to “Farm-Fresh Unprocessed Whole Milk: Comments on Its Safety

  1. I have a question. I bought some raw milk from a dairyman in MO which I have been purchasing for 6 months, now, and got some for my neighbor, also. I used my containers. My neighbor drank the milk down to the bottom of the 1/2 gal. glass jar container and found a 4 inch worm there, which made her decide to never drink raw milk again. My question is: can worms be living in the milk of the mammary glands of cows and be transferred to the milk that we drink? I’ve never heard of this, ever.

  2. I would add that people are generally unaware of the need for beneficial bacteria to maintain healthy gut flora. We have learned to fear all bacteria, especially with all the food scares of recent years. This is a big hurdle to overcome since we’ve been taught since childhood to sanitize everything.

  3. I grew up on a dairy farm and drank raw farm fresh milk much of my life. If you lived on a farm you would know the process dairy farmer’s have to go through to get the milk to the milk can (early days) or the bulk tank (now days). There was nothing better than to go to the barn and have a warm glass of milk right from the old cow or scoop off the top of the milk can fresh whipping cream. Now those were the days.
    A worm in the milk made me laugh. I never heard of such a thing.
    Farmer’s now days have it hard. It is the middle man that get’s the profit. That is why there are less and less family run farms in our country. Soon they will all be run out of business and that would be a shame.

  4. Melanie Braselton

    I am moving to a rural area and am interested in purchasing fresh milk…what should I look for in a farm…I am concerned about cleanliness….do the cows get cleaned (thier udders) before they are milked….how can I tell if the farmer has done a good job with hygiene?
    and, also, what are the dangers of drinking fresh milk?

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