Pasteurized Milk vs. Raw Milk

Fresh milk in a glass on the table

One of the major problems with sorting through all of the opposing viewpoints is the lack of solid data using real milk rather than the pasteurized, overly processed milk that is commonplace in the markets. It’s impossible to draw any kind of conclusion about raw milk solely from studies using pasteurized milk as they are vastly different products. So given that, here is my take on the issue based on the previous discussions. The order in which I would place dairy consumption is:

  1. No Dairy
  2. Raw, Fermented Dairy (Kefir and Yogurt)
  3. Raw, Fatty Dairy (Butter and Cream)
  4. Raw Milk and Cheese
  5. Organic, hormone- and antibiotic-free Dairy

And now for the reasoning. I still advise avoiding dairy on a daily basis, though for an occasional food, I don’t think it’s as bad as foods like wheat and sugar. Milk contains powerful hormones intended solely for building the body weight and immune system of the offspring of the species from which it comes. It can be argued that the hormones are not all that different amongst mammalian species, just different quantities and that is likely true.

However, the argument that humans have been consuming dairy for 10,000 years, so it must be alright doesn’t entirely hold water. It is a concentrated source of calories and nutrition, but that doesn’t make it an optimal source. Any food that ensured survival to reproductive age was of benefit to our ancestors. Basically all a food had to do was not kill a person and even pasteurized milk fills the bill there. While some of us have adapted to at least tolerate the lactose in milk, others have not.

Next up, I’d place fermented products created from raw dairy. These include kefir and yogurt. Fermented dairy products are good sources of probiotics and most of the lactose in them has been consumed by the bacteria doing the fermentation. By fermenting the milk, lactose intolerant folks can easily consume it, though it seems they have less trouble with raw milk as well.

I place fatty dairy third, foods such as butter and cream that are mostly fat, because you greatly reduce the whey and casein factions when you remove most of the protein. As we saw a couple weeks ago, whey carries with it betacellulin and casein has plenty of allergenic properties.

Next is raw milk and cheese (and any other dairy foods), which of course should come from properly-raised pastured cows. By choosing raw products, you ensure that the milk is still the food it was when it emerged from the animal, not a “milk-like drinkable substance” (to paraphrase Michael Pollan). Understand that items 2-4, the raw milk-derived foods are all very close in my book and could easily be 2a, 2b, and 2c, rather than 2, 3, and 4.

Finally, if you can’t source raw dairy and are determined to drink milk, at least get organic stuff from cows raised without the rBGH and antibiotics. You can be more positive that the source of your milk was raised in a more healthful way than the typical confinement feedlot, though let’s not be utopian; “organic” cows are still unlikely to be raised on pasture and live the happy life of a cow.

I can’t think of a reason for including pasteurized, homogenized dairy products in a whole foods diet. “Cooked and crushed” milk is most certainly not an unprocessed product, yet that’s what so many nutritionists advocate when describing the proper diet. Humorously, it’s nearly always “low-fat dairy,” which is by definition a processed product because dairy isn’t low-fat in its natural state. Calves don’t fare well on a diet of pasteurized milk, so why should we expect humans to do so?

So there it is…my take on dairy for what it’s worth. I don’t think dairy a few times a week is going to be harmful so long as your body can handle it. I don’t think pasteurized/homogenized milk is good to include on a regular basis, however. If you can get raw milk and handle it with no digestive or mucous issues, then you’re probably okay. The question still lingering is how does the betacellulin attached to the whey component affect the body in raw milk? Is the effect of stimulating the EGF receptors the same as in pasteurized milk?

Obviously, rational minds such as ours are free to differ. Feel free to debate in the comments.

Finally, to wrap it all up, here’s a funny video from one of Lewis Black’s stand-up shows. For those that don’t know Lewis Black’s comedy, this isn’t work-safe or child-safe due to some of the language.

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