No to raw milk, period. I absolutely recommend against it, and this is why: you can die.

If you’re reading a lot about resilient living, or natural food, on the internet, you’re going to come across a boatload of claims, such as:

  • Government inspection is a conspiracy to limit your freedom
  • “I grew up on raw milk and I am just fine”
  • Raw milk has essential enzymes, etc. that are better for health
  • Lactose intolerant people can drink raw milk
  • Good farmers keep their cows clean and healthy, which avoids the problems
  • The problems in raw milk are historical and do not exist any more

Some of this stuff is true, like that a lot of people grew up on raw milk and are fine, and that pasteurization destroys some of the helpful things in milk. But it also destroys some deadly microorganisms that can cause very, very serious health problems (especially for children and pregnant women). You can look these things up on the internet for yourself. The effects of these illnesses can be serious, chronic and can kill you – not just a tummy ache. If you look at public health records, check out the prevalence of, say, listeria in countries where cheese made from raw milk is legal. Yikes. Check out how many kids died from drinking raw milk in the 1920s, before women’s organizations lobbied government to legislate for mandatory pasteurization. We worked hard for food safety regulations, folks, and we pay for them because they are super important.

To me, heating up milk to 145 Fahrenheit for 30 minutes preserves most of what is good and destroys all the really scary stuff, so why not do it? I do. I would never, ever take the chance. I certainly would not take any chances with the health of a defenseless child. I feel so strongly about this that I believe that any parent who gives raw milk to a child ought to be charged with neglect.

Also, I just have to challenge the stupidest claim of the raw milk lobby: that government implements these draconian food safety laws in order to limit your freedom. First of all, why the heck would they care whether you drink raw milk? Are there secret terrorist codes in it? So….why get so excited about milk? It’s not that important a freedom, is it? In fact, most jurisdictions let you drink it if you want to – they just don’t want you to endanger others.

And people will trust you. I think that most people think that the food they buy from the store is practically sterile. That is because our food safety system is now so good that people forget how many have died from pathogens in food before we built this system.

I am sure that governments would love to get out of inspecting dairies and enforcing milk safety legislation. It is extremely expensive. In the hope of avoiding this expense, government officials have tried in numerous instances to license raw milk producers, hoping that their practices would actually result in a reduced need for legislation, inspection and enforcement. They took samples back to the laboratory for testing and…not safe. Everybody meant well and tried hard, but raw milk is simply not safe. And the shelf life is terrible.

So please, when you get your cow, do all the right things to ensure her health and the hygiene of your milk (strain the dirt and hair out, for instance), then heat your milk in a double boiler to 145 degrees Fahrenheit for 30 minutes before consuming it. If you don’t have a double boiler, use a metal bowl over a pot of water. A candy or deep fry thermometer costs less than ten bucks. These few steps are hardly a lot of trouble to ensure the safety of your milk.