Have you ever heard of raw milk? Many people struggle to choose between raw milk and pasteurized milk due to their lack of knowledge between the two. There is misleading information about raw milk that causes controversy and confusion. Laws that ban the sale of raw milk in certain states or counties cause people to question whether it is safe or not.
Raw milk is milk produced from cows, sheep, goats or other animals that has not been pasteurized. The Raw Milk Institute states that, “Raw milk is a living whole food that contains: enzymes, a biodiversity of beneficial bacteria, sugars, proteins, fats, minerals, antibodies and other essential elements needed to nourish a growing baby.”
Pasteurization is a process named after the scientist Louis Pasteur. This method uses heat to destroy pathogens and germs found in food that may be harmful or deadly to humans after consumption. During pasteurization the milk is heated anywhere from 145 degrees to 280 degrees Fahrenheit. The most common method in the US heats the milk for 15 seconds or longer at a temperature of 161 degrees Fahrenheit. Pasteurization is a process of partial sterilization that kills the harmful pathogens, but also kills beneficial bacteria as well.
New Mexico laws allow raw milk to be sold in certain counties in the state as long as their bacteria levels are low. If these levels are within requirement, referred to as grade A, the dairy must label their product stating that “raw milk may cause illness or harmful disease.”
Only 1% of milk consumed in the U.S. is raw milk. Why so little? Raw milk has been proven to be safe and has caused very few illnesses to millions of people throughout history. When raw milk causes illnesses and diseases it is most likely to be caused from bad sanitization. If a farmer has sanitized his cows, has a very clean milking parlor, and the equipment in his creamery is always clean, there should be few harmful bacteria.
Many generations of my family have produced their own raw milk and have drank it with no negative health impacts. Buying local allows you to meet your farmer in person, see what kind of person he is, what methods he uses, and how clean his farm and creamery may be. Another important factor most people forget about is how the cow is being raised. Whether the cow is fed all natural food and grains is very important. Buying non local milk increases the risk of bacteria and disease because of the time it takes you to receive it, and the fact that multiple hands touch the product.
The dilemma labeling raw milk as “unsafe” is a dilemma that shouldn’t exist. Basic research shows raw milk is safe and even healthier than pasteurized milk.
Pasteurized milk has been the clear choice for the majority of people, but is it the right choice? Pasteurized milk is often assumed to be completely safe, but it also has been proven to cause some illnesses and to contain fewer beneficial proteins. Pasteurized milk is also absorbed by our bodies differently than raw milk. So is raw milk or pasteurized milk the way to go?
After taking a trip to one of the New Mexico dairy farms in my local area, I was convinced raw milk is the way to go. I visited De Smet Dairy in Bosque Farms, which is only 20 minutes south of Albuquerque. During my visit I met Mike, who is one of the owners, and who earned the 2014 Young Farmer of the Year award.
Mike and the De Smet dairy farm have proudly produced and sold raw milk in New Mexico for the past six months, and have the USDA ranking of #1 for cleanest milk. Mike told me that this reward has come from hard work. He cleans and sanitizes his cows and all materials that come in contact with the milk. He uses stainless steel products because they have been proven to be the safest. He also cleans his material with 100 degree water and then again with 180 degree water with detergents and chlorine. His method of rotational grazing keeps his cows mobile and healthy.
De Smet dairy produces about 1000 gallons a week, and sells about 350 1/2 gallons daily. De Smet produces all their milk off of 20 cows. Their goal is to grow their herd to 100 cows in the future. At the rate De Smet is expanding and with their efforts to become more sustainable, they may become the biggest dairy farm in the Southwest.
If you would like to visit to De Smet Dairy they are very welcoming and open daily from noon-5pm. They are located at 2405 McNew Road in Bosque Farms, New Mexico. I had a great experience there; the cows are tame, which gives a perfect family experience. I believe one day people will understand raw milk is not only the right choice but a more beneficial choice as well.
-Posted by Gordon