Drink your milk. It may be the motto of parents everywhere, but when deciding whether or not that milk should be raw, the conversation becomes a bit more complicated.
If that tall glass of milk is raw milk, it means it’s from cows, sheep or goats that has not been pasteurized or homogenized. Pasteurization kills the bacteria in raw milk, and homogenization prevents milk fat from separating out of milk products.
Fans of raw milk maintain that is healthier and tastier than pasteurized milk. Some of those favor it because it doesn’t contain antibiotics while others say it fights digestive problems and allergies.
Sounds simple enough, but the Federal Drug Administration does not recommend the ingestion of raw milk, warns that consuming raw milk is done at your own risk and says there is no evidence to support those who say it fights illnesses or allergies. According to the FDA, more than 2,500 people became ill from unpasteurized milk between 1987 and 2010, and three people died.
Recently, 60 people became ill from raw milk in Pennsylvania. And while raw milk containers normally come with a big warning label on the side, people can become sick without consuming raw milk themselves but after being in contact with someone who has — which means the debate over raw milk becomes a debate over whether an individual’s right to eat and drink what they want outweighs the potential health effects of others.
Currently, while it is illegal to transport raw milk across state lines, 30 states in the U.S. allow customers to purchase raw milk. In most states, raw milk can only be purchased from farmers, but seven states allow its retail sale; and some states have standard on the amount of bacteria permissible in raw milk.
Despite the debate that pops up every time an outbreak occurs, the number of states allowing the sale of raw milk hasn’t changed since 2008. But even with raw milk legally sold in 30 states, people who want to consume it have to work for it. Most states don’t allow retail sales, and Whole Foods, which use to sell raw milk in its store, pulled it from shelves in 2010 due to several outbreaks and because of the difficulty the company was having applying different state raw milk standards to different stores. For raw milk fans, that means perusing state agricultural websites, finding out which local farms are selling raw milk and trips to the farm where raw milk can cost upward of $13 per gallon.
And it soon may become even more complicated. As more states consider requiring bacteria level testing on raw milk, more and more farmers may not be able to afford the production of it if they are forced to pay for that testing.
What do you think? Have you tried raw milk? If you’re a fan of raw milk, why are you? Should raw milk be sold in grocery stores, only at farms or banned completely?