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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.


Michael Greger M.D., FACLM

Michael Greger, M.D. FACLM, is a physician, New York Times bestselling author, and internationally recognized professional speaker on a number of important public health issues. Dr. Greger has lectured at the Conference on World Affairs, the National Institutes of Health, and the International Bird Flu Summit, testified before Congress, appeared on The Dr. Oz Show and The Colbert Report, and was invited as an expert witness in defense of Oprah Winfrey at the infamous "meat defamation" trial.

25 responses to “Is raw milk healthy?

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    1. 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.

    2. Goat milk is more easily digested. The dominant fatty acid group (caprinols) have shorter chains that the buteric and palmitic acids found in cow milk. For this reason, the “micelles” (fat globules) are about 1/5th the size of fat globules in raw cow milk. This also tends to keep goat milk from separating into cream and skim milk.

      In this regard, goat milk is more similar to human milk than cow milk.

      When anyone says that goat milk “composition is very similar to cow’s milk,” run and hide! The fact is that milk from different species, different varieties, different individuals, and even the same animal at different points in its lactation, can be significantly different. I’ve had goats of the same breed assay out at 3.5% butterfat and 8% butterfat!

      One thing is certain: goat milk never contains the “A1” protein that causes a lot of grief to those who believe themselves “lactose intolerant.” It is found primarily in Holstein cows, the result of selective breeding programs to make output higher. Milk from most non-Holstein cows and other dairy ruminants do not contain the A1 protein. It is also associated with diabetes and heart disease.

      All of the “studies” showing health problems for milk are done with A1, non-organic, grain-fed, confined, pasteurized, homogenized cow milk. The industrially-assembled, white milk-like substance you buy in the supermarket is not “very similar” to grass-fed, organic, raw, non-A1 milk at all!

  1. 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

  2. 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.

  3. 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?

  4. 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.

    1. “…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.

      1. I suspect human milk consumption has more to do with opposable thumbs and a large brain than any perversion of natural laws.

        And you have the weaning part backwards: the mother weans the babies, not the other way ’round. I had a goat continue to nurse a three-year old! (That would be roughly equivalent to an 18-year old human still nursing.) It was hilarious to watch! And adult goats will happily lap up milk presented to them. I’ve seen over-full milk goats nursing themselves, to relieve the pressure. It seems only some social stigma keeps them from suckling each other as adults.

        One only need look at an adult cat or dog, happily lapping up cow milk, to belie the veganazi propaganda that “no other animal consumes milk from another species as an adult.” No other animal puts comments on blogs, either, but I sure don’t see militant vegans giving THAT up!

    2. 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.

      1. Milk is only digestable by babies.

        Simply untrue.

        The ability to digest lactose has independently evolved at least five times in human history, in several different populations.

        The use of milk by humans actually predates agriculture by perhaps a thousand years. The early pastoralists were a bridge between active hunter-gatherers and sedentary farmers, and were perhaps healthier than either.

        It is true that certain populations with no tradition of dairy animals have not evolved the ability to digest milk. I would no more suggest that everyone should drink milk than I will allow myself to be bullied by those who say no one should drink milk. Grass-fed, organic, raw, non-A1 milk is a fine food for those who choose to drink it. And those who choose not to, should not impose their bias on others.

        1. Only if you feel it is OK to steal the milk from your own relatives would that be OK. Because no cow enjoys being raped and have her calf ripped away from her right after birth, nor do they enjoy their milk being taken.

          Hilarious to me a bully.

          1. Veganazi talking points!

            Do you have any, k’know, actual experience with which to back up your fallacious assertions?

            Have you ever been around a ruminant in heat? They are not “raped.” At such times, they desire the attention of the opposite sex, every bit as much as humans do. In fact, good dairy management practices keep them from getting pregnant too young or too often for their good health. Goats can be impregnated as early as sixteen weeks — the human equivalent of a two-year-old child! But we make them wait until they are a year and a half.

            We dam-raise our kids. They are half-weaned at four weeks, and fully weaned at twelve. We do not “rip them away right after birth.” They continue to have close relationships with their dams throughout their lives. But their dams can produce milk for years (sometimes, some individuals) without being bred again, which is something we strive for.

            They actually seem to enjoy being milked! At least, they wait for me to call their name, and then they eagerly run and jump up on the milking stand! There is no discernible discomfort during milking — or if there is, I’m alerted that something (like sub-clinical mastitis) is wrong, and I take appropriate action. For mastitis, the first such “action” is to double up on milking, to flush it out of their system. In “the natural world,” untreated mastitis would lead to calcification, reduced ability to produce milk, and starvation of future offspring.

            I think you are conflating dairy consumption with the despicable practices of the industrial confined-animal feedlot operation (CAFO) dairy system. I’ll stand by your side and cheer you on if you attack that!

            But by attacking tens of thousands of small, responsible dairists by attacking the very concept of dairying, you just look as silly as you would by attacking gardeners for “raping” their tomato plants and separating them from their young “right after birth.”

            I have undying respect for extra-hard-working vegans who grow all their own food — it is extremely difficult to get the protein and quality fat you need that way! But typical veganazis aren’t even aware of the carnage their choice causes. Ever seen the vultures following a soy combine, snacking on the thousands of rodents, rabbits, and snakes chopped up by the machinery?

            I would love to see vegans attack the industrial food system, and I’d cheer them on! But they can’t do that, because almost all of them are hopelessly embedded in that industrial food system, dependent on it for cheap vegetable protein and fat.

            Want to impress me? Get out and grow the equivalent amount of protein and quality fat that my goats go out and gather for me! But that’s not possible while sitting in a vegan internet café, sipping an industrially-produced soy latté.

          2. Hilarious to me a bully.

            According to the dictionary, bullies

            use superior strength or influence to intimidate (someone), typically to force him or her to do what one wants.

            Your use of words like “steal” and “rape” are bullying words, by assuming facts not in evidence, in order to force others to stop consuming dairy products.

            Read something other than veganazi propaganda, so you will at least have some arguments that won’t leave thinking people rolling on the floor laughing at your ignorance.

          3. Han, these cows would not even have a life to ‘enjoy’ if it were not for the milk they produce for human consumption, they’d never have been reared in the first place.

    3. Joyce. I could not agree with you any more. The “milk” typically sold in grocery stores is not milk at all, any more than “almond milk” is milk at all. Or, that Almond milk has much almond extract in it. However, fear driven decisions that are out of date to protect the masses from an epidemic allow the process of rendering an otherwise wholesome food worthless and actually harmful. There are some who are so against eating anything that comes from or of an animal that they use the worst example for cow’s milk to represent the sample for their nutritional advice. How about this. Pick or conduct studies using the best example for the nutritional value of cow’s milk using clean raw milk from non-genetically altered, over hybridized milk cows- Dexter cows perhaps.

  5. 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.

    1. 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.

      1. really just comparing industrially processed food vs minimally processed… Consumption of dairy and eggs produced traditionally, and even perhaps traditional small consumption of wild meats, insects, and eggs, may be healthy.

        Well said!

        Weston A. Price did a lot of the research you wish for, and I invite you to look it over via his foundation’s website. Among other things, he found that cats fed industrial milk suffered from numerous maladies, compared to cats fed “natural” milk.

        My personal ethic is that I have to be willing to kill it in order to eat it. We have milk goats and egg chickens, and so have the “excess males” problem. We pressure-can our excess roosters and older hens, and I eat meat just a few times a year. (I’ve not been able to do that with a goat yet, but we sell the male goats to others who eat them.)

  6. Dr. Greger, could you please address the 1930’s article by JR Crewe (I think) called The Raw Milk Cure? There seems to be no critiques of this work as far as the benefits of raw milk in his patients… I understand the dangerous of raw, unpasteurized milk, but has any of Crewe’s research (mostly anecdotal) been addressed/refuted?
    Thank you

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