Has Milk Been Getting a Raw Deal?

Dairy cow

It’s funny. While I was growing up, we drank milk right out of the bulk tank. Well, the bulk tank was actually an old ice cream bucket in the refrigerator, but you know what I mean, right? Little did we know of the contraband we were ingesting and what extreme rebels our parents were. That last part makes me chuckle the most, I think—my parents, the rebels. ☺

We never worried about E. coli, salmonella, or listeria. As a matter of fact, I’m certain I never even heard those words. Nope, we just took the lid off the bucket, gave the milk a stir, and scooped out what we needed. My seven siblings and I had no idea how darn lucky we were to have access to this bootlegged beverage.

Of course, I’m not downplaying the fact that these can be devastating diseases, and they have, in fact, been associated with consuming raw milk. But E. coli outbreaks have also been associated with spinach (organic, even), ground beef, and processed cookie dough—none of which has been banned from your local market. And, as we found out recently, pasteurization doesn’t guarantee food safety.

Isn’t it just like anything else? Shouldn’t we know where our food comes from and how it’s handled before we cart it home and nosh on it as needed? On the farm, we were exposed to most everything that our cows were exposed to, and our milk only had to make the trek across the gravel driveway. Of course, not much could happen to the milk along that particular path before it got safely to the fridge. We never had to question where our milk came from and what happened to it along the way.

These days, the raw milk debate is a heated one. There are a handful of states that allow consumers to buy it right at the grocery store, and a good number that let you buy it directly from the farmer. Some states require you to buy a cow share from a farm, while others let you buy a cow as a pet. But in some states, it’s just flat-out illegal. “Whatcha in for, Joe?” “Oh, I got caught throwin’ back some of that there raw milk.” Bummer.

June is National Dairy Month, a time that always makes me feel sentimental about my childhood on the farm and what a great way it was to grow up. It was a time of small family farms with incredibly supportive communities, where you could always depend on your neighbors. To celebrate our nation’s farmers, doesn’t it seem like an obvious time to learn more about the product that started it all?

When it comes to the raw milk debate, if you need more information to decide which side of the barbed wire fence you sit on, check out some of these links.

Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund: These guys are always out there advocating for the farmers who work so hard to provide us with the nourishment we all need.

Selene River Press Archives: Dr. Royal Lee and other knowledgeable folks touted the value of raw milk and other real whole foods long ago. Type “raw milk” into the Archives’ search box and dig into your self-health education.

The Untold Story of Milk—The History, Politics and Science of Nature’s Perfect Food: Raw Milk from Pasture-Fed Cows: Everything you ever wanted to know about the history of the milk industry and how it became what it is today. You know you’ve been curious about this for a long time. Go ahead. Admit it.

Paula Widish

Paula Widish, author of Trophia: Simple Steps to Everyday Self-Health, is a freelance writer and self-healther. She loves nothing more than sharing tidbits of information she discovers with others. (Actually, she loves her family more than that—and probably bacon too.) Paula has a bachelor’s degree in Psychology and Public Relations and is a Certified Professional Life Coach through International Coach Academy.

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