Sunday, November 29, 2009

Raw Milk is a Raw Deal

As this article states, there is a very heated debate on the merits of raw versus pasteurized dairy products. We all know that milk is one of the healthiest, most complete foods out there (though a good argument could be made for the egg as well).

The gist of the debate centers around the thought that pastuerized milk is less wholesome than raw milk. Many think that the pastuerization process destroys many of the nutrients in milk. With the rise of the internet and the missinformation that is easily disseminated through it, sites abound to encourage you onto this new/old nutritional bandwagon.

As with all good conspiracy theories and "cult mentality" encouragements, there is some truth in the claims made by raw milk advocates. Citing old scientific articles on the husbandry of dairy cattle and the evils of "factory farming," raw milk advocates will have you believe that pasteurization was developed purely to cover-up the mistakes and mishandling of milk products from unfeeling capitalists who want to destroy the family farm.

Let's look at milk: it is a natural blending of protein, calcium and other nutrients that provides everything a body needs, especially a mammalian one. True, it has been consumed  safely for years prior to pasteurization and even refrigeration, but the reason for that wasn't because it was a healthier product. 

The reason for that is because more people lived on the farm or within an easy buggy ride of one. As industry was revolutionized, cities grew and town mice and country mice moved farther away from each other. There was a need to develop ways to feed people. Refrigeration and pastuerization were two of the inventions that made city-life possible, and allowed people who lived far away from the farm to have wholesome food. Many of the people who died from unpastuerized milk in days gone by were children, and statistics on those deaths are shady at best.

And, as untasteful as it may be to most of us, the rise of the factory farm has lead to consistent, cheap, wholesome food that can feed more people. And then there is the "organic food" craze. Both of these are topics that I'll need to cover some other time.

But is raw milk good for you? According to the Food and Drug Administration, raw milk contains many bacterial species including Brucella species (which can cause severe disease and even abortion), Campylobacter jejuni (a leading cause of diarrhea), Coxiella Burnetii (Q fever), Escherichia coli (another cause of diarrhea as well as a myriad of other diseases), enterotoxigenic Staphylococcus aureus (diarrhea and septicemia), Listeria monocytogenes (leads to death in up to 25% of people infected with it), Mycobacterium bovis (causes tuberculosis in cattle, and may cause it in some people), Mycobacterium tuberculosis (the mycobacterium that causes TB in humans), Salmonella species (diarrhea and speticemia), Yersinia enterocolitica (diarrhea, septicemia, severe abdominal pain), and on and on. Pasteurization kills all of these.

If I need to list more reasons not to consume raw milk, you are a much braver soul than I.

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