Got ‘Raw’ Milk?

Why Raw Milk?
Raw milk is full of harmful bacteria, isn’t it? We’ve heard the horror stories of people getting sick after drinking unpasteurized milk. So why go to the trouble to obtain raw milk?

Before 1800, raw milk was the only option. Dairies in Boston and New York began commercially producing low quality milk. The cows were not pastured and dairies would feed their cows poor quality brewer’s mash. They did not have access to refrigeration, milking machines or even hot water. The cows lived in filthy conditions. The result was that millions of people died before pasteurization became common. (Yet, milk from the countryside was thought to be the best medicine of the day.)

Zachary loves milk!

Today, people go to great lengths to obtain fresh clean whole raw milk. Many, who can’t drink pasteurized milk, can drink raw milk without any problems, because it contains the necessary enzymes needed to assimilate and digest the nutrients in milk. Organically-raised, grass-fed cows produce milk which contains hundreds of healthy, “good” bacteria, including lactobacillus and acidophilus.

Be a Wise Consumer
Milk is no different from other foods. The heat of pasteurization destroys enzymes, diminishes vitamins, denatures fragile milk proteins, destroys vitamin B12 and vitamin B6, kills beneficial bacteria and actually promotes pathogens.

Purchasing raw milk from a farmer, who sells pasteurized milk, is not the same quality as milk from cows raised for raw milk consumption. Pasteurization allows farmers to keep their cows in less than ideal conditions (as was the case in the 1800s). They rely on the pasteurization process to kill any bacteria resulting from dirty conditions in their herd.

Risks of Raw Milk
The number one concern is that unpasteurized milk carries health risks of bacterial infection. States allowing the sale of raw milk have stringent standards. It’s important to know that not all raw milk is safe to drink. Cleanliness is vital. Those who live in states banning the sale of raw milk should beware of a few things before entering an agreement with a dairy farmer.

Ask some vital questions:
Do the cows forage year-round or are they fed grain?
Does the farmer and his family drink the milk themselves?
How long has he been producing raw milk?
Are the cows clean?
What conditions are the cows raised in and milked?

There’s a vast difference between the quality and safety of milk from organically-raised, grass-fed cows, and conventionally-raised, grain-fed livestock. If a cow is covered in filth and manure, stinks, is wet and cold and doesn’t look comfortable, that should be a warning sign that her milk is less than ideal for raw consumption. Cows, which are fed primarily grain and are raised under substandard conditions, will likely produce milk that is unhealthy to drink raw.  Grains, antibiotics, growth hormones, and filthy living conditions change the pH balance and the natural bacteria present in the cow’s gut, which in turn affects the natural bacteria and pathogens present in her milk.

Purchasing Raw Milk
Healthy and clean cows mean healthy milk. Presently, only six states permit the retail sale of raw milk: California, Connecticut, Maine, Pennsylvania, Washington and Arizona.

Colorado is one of 29 states with cow/goat-share programs. Consumers make a cow-share agreement with a local dairy farmer. They pay the farmer a fee for boarding their cow or goat (or share of a cow), caring for the cow and milking the cow. A contract is signed in which the dairy farmer agrees to board, feed, milk and care for the herd. The cow share-owner then obtains (but does not purchase) the milk from his own cow.

I spoke with Keith Lafferty, who owns Lafferty Farm a small farm in Erie, Colorado. Keith said it’s very important to know your farmer. Lafferty Farm is registered with the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE). His milk is sampled monthly for bacterial and coliform limits, as well as pathogens. Keith and his wife, Nickie have six children who help with the family business. Keith milks his four cows every day and is looking to increase his milking herd. He is also excited about expanding his business to include eggs and produce. He says his milk is not certified organic, but it’s been years since any pesticides have been used on his land and his cows are pastured for most of the year.

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