Is raw milk healthy?

What about Raw Milk? I know the general arguments against milk as ‘Toxin’ cites above, personally I am a vegan, but what is the actual research on Raw milk vs pasteurized milk. I work in the area of local food and farmers markets and I am exposed to vegetarians and omnivores that are big boosters for raw milk. With so much propaganda and misinformation being flung from both the sides of the raw vs. pasteurized milk its hard to make sense of it all. What does the research say? I find it hard to believe that raw milk is the super food a lot of people claim it is.

Image credit: USDAgov /Flickr

WKing / Originally posted below Hormones in Skim vs. Whole Milk


There was a systematic review published in November that looked at some of the claims of raw milk advocates. The researchers basically concluded that the impact of pasteurization on the nutritive value of milk appears to be minimal.

The greater issue is that of infectious disease (the reason it’s illegal in most states). Advocates argue that consuming raw milk is a matter of personal choice, but not when they go on to infect others. For example, in a raw milk outbreak of E.coli O157:H7 that hospitalized a number of children in Connecticut, in one household a kid who consumed raw milk infected a sibling who didn’t, who then infected a third. For those who are interested there are a number of recent commentaries on the dangers (here and here for example). Before pasteurization and the virtual elimination of bovine tuberculosis, hundreds of thousands of Americans died as a result of TB-infected milk. Let’s not go back to that era.

Pasteurized or not, organic or not, there continue to be public health concerns about the hormones present in all milk (particularly skim). See, for example, my videos Dairy Hormonal Interference and The Acne-Promoting Effects of Milk.

  • jess

    I have seen your videos on the many negative health impacts of cow’s milk. What is the effect of goat’s milk on the human system?

    • Not alot of studies on goat milk not surprising since not as commonly consumed as cow’s milk. It’s composition is very similar to cow’s milk. There are many health organizations that recommend against feeding to infants for a number of reasons. Given all that I would imagine it has all the adverse effects of cheese made from cow’s milk.

  • Wes

    Thanks! That was my comment that I posted last spring (I think) Im so glad to see this!

  • My research indicates that there is far more problems associated with homogenization that pasteurization.
    Just to be clear I do not recommend any type of bovid teat sucretions

  • moho212

    I’m curious to know how to fold in the claims made by those milking a cow on a homestead scale, where the cow receives optimal grass/forage nutrition and care in handling. Wondering if the disease risks lessen significantly enough to assess meticulously raised grass-fed raw milk differently. These are often the comeback arguments by those advocating raw milk, along with claims that there are benefits to the soil and farm ecosystem that grazing animals can offer.

  • Em

    My coop just started carrying glass bottles of raw almond milk. I prefer glass to plastic bottles or plastic lined cartons, but is contamination is big concern when the milk is not from cows?

  • Joyce

    I grew up in a large rural family. We had our own farm animals and thus consumed raw milk, as did my parents before me. When I had children, I went out of my way to find raw milk, draining it out of a large milk vat into my containers, from a farm whose animals were regularly tested and results were posted. To get around the law, the farmer did not sell it to me. By inquiring and word of mouth, I found the location, left my donation on a shelf and in a sense was pilfering the milk, at my own risk.

    I did it for 3 reasons: First, I had read a report of the prevalence of young men having heart attacks in their 30’s, following the provision of the advanced school lunch program that provided such treated milk to all children. This was a critical factor to me, as I had 3 little sons at the time (early 60’s).

    Second, pasteurization kills bacteria natural to milk, which one might only guess might just be essential to human consumption and digestion of milk, after so many moons of mankind’s milk digestion, prior to the decision to increase the ‘shelf life’ of raw cow milk, as well as kill ‘unsavory bacteria’ for whenever the milk inspection might not be adequate.

    Third, homogenization destroys the size of the cream particle, so that it cannot float to the top, which change also interferes with human’s ability to digest and assimilate the tiny particles that are now undefinable in whole milk.

    I remain surprised that there have been no major challenges to so called improvement in so large an area of our food supply. Are there connections to certain illnesses? heart attack in young men? allergies? plaque in veins and glands? etc. Has commercialism again been the primary benefactor, after all….while the public has been sold on an inferior product, while made to believe it is superior to nature? The same approving agencies are responsible for the current soy travesty…which is shocking! I refer you to: The Truth About Soy – Food Revolution Network Blog, as well as: Dr Bruce Fife, THE COCONUT OIL MIRACLE.

    • Aurora Cooney

      “…while the public has been sold on an inferior product, while make to believe it is superior to nature?” My question is….why is it natural to drink the milk from another species? All mammals ween themselves from their mother’s milk. Cow milk is natural….for a calf.

    • Han

      Milk is only digestable by babies. After say the fourth year milk digestibility goes down. That a large part of the Northern European population is not lactose intollerant does not mean milk is healthy. It just means they can tollerate it.

      Milk is unhealthy for various reasons. I understand you have been brought up with the idea that it’s healthy and it will take more than a few good speeches to convince you of that fact. But you are at the right place. Search for “milk” in the search bar and you’ll find a lot of relevant videos which present the information of various scientific studies in a clear format.

      Best of luck.

  • Alaister Copland

    I think the real difference between raw and pasteurized milk is highlighted when you leave them around long enough for the curds to separate from the whey. The pasteurized version goes putrid while the raw version never does, even after weeks or even months. It simply evolves into a soft cheese, a bit like cottage cheese, and protein-rich whey, each of which is both delicious and highly nutritious. From a local farmer, we buy raw milk from grass-fed cows to deliberately create these products. I haven’t bought pasteurized milk for over ten years and never will again.

    • Ryan K

      What we really need is some studies that compare raw and pasteurized/homogenized dairy consumption in non-industrialized societies with large dairy consumption, like rural India. It just seems to me that in a culture where cows are revered and the cow owner walks up to your door and milks the cow right in front of you, that it’s by definition going to be better for you. Although I’m pretty much vegan, traditional Indian diet is centered around so many of the vegetables, pulses, fruit (amla), and spices (turmeric, etc) that this site promotes (based on scientific evidence), that it’s hard to believe they’re so wrong about dairy. I feel much of the science supporting whole-food plant-based diet over SAD is really just comparing industrially processed food vs minimally processed (meat, dairy, egg, and grain production being in general more industrialized/intensively farmed than fruit/vegetable/nut production). Consumption of dairy and eggs produced traditionally, and even perhaps traditional small consumption of wild meats, insects, and eggs, may be healthy.