Written by Megan of Stetted.
Milk has a place on almost every table across North America. From the days of door-to-door delivery in glass bottles to the wide rows of brightly-lit jugs in our supermarkets, milk is something we reach for at breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
These days, it’s a difficult task to keep track of which kind is best to give to your family. From cow milk to goat milk, coconut milk to almond milk, the market is saturated with choice. But there is one choice that is likely missing from your neighborhood grocery store: raw milk.
My family was hesitant at first about raw milk. We had tried some low-temperature pasteurized milk and didn’t like the flavor. The word “raw” conjured images of strange food and a culture many of us don’t understand. However, we were blown away when we tried our first glass of whole raw milk, and now we’ve been drinking it for a full year. Pasteurized milk now tastes strange to me.
What is Raw Milk?
Raw milk is produced on small farms and comes from cows that are free to roam on the pasture, eating a healthy diet of clover, barley, grasses, and whatever else pops up in the field. This diet helps the cow have a healthy gut, and in turn, helps create creamy milk that is full of flavor.
Whole raw milk looks strange at first, because the cream rises to the top. On a good gallon of milk, the three or four inches at the top are cream – about half a quart. It can easily be poured off and saved (or used to make your own butter), or you can just shake it into the milk whenever you pour a glass.
Photo by Chiot’s Run
What Raw Really Means
Raw milk simply means that the milk isn’t heated, unlike the milk we’re used to from the grocery store. Raw milk is taken from the cow, filtered, and cooled rapidly to just above freezing. Standard milk is first heated to high temperatures very quickly, and then brought down to chill. While the high temperature pasteurization kills any potential pathogens, it also kills lots of the good kind of bacteria you do want in your gut.
Once opened, a container of raw milk can last about 10 days, provided it is properly chilled. We keep our milk the the back of the refrigerator and haven’t had a worry about the milk going bad. And when raw milk goes “bad”, it is still useable. It gets sour, but it can be used for making yogurt, cottage cheese, and even baking.
Pasteurized and UHT (ultra-high temperature) milks need longer shelf lives because they are shipped all over the country, but their freshness once opened is still the same as raw milk. In fact, I’ve had organic pasteurized milk go bad after being open only 4 days, even though the “Best by” date was not for two more weeks. Since you’re getting raw milk directly from the farmer, there’s none of the worry about how long the milk has been sitting in a warehouse cooler.
Why drink raw milk? Aside from promoting a local, real food economy, there are a multitude of benefits in drinking raw milk, according to the Weston Price Foundation.
- Raw milk contains a lot of butterfat, which is needed by the body to be able to absorb the calcium and protein in the milk.
- Raw milk is said to do everything from help with allergies (due to the varied grasses the cows eat) to ear infections.
- Raw milk helps with bone growth and can recalcify teeth.
- Raw milk has beneficial bacteria that helps the digestive system and boosts nutrient absorption.
- Raw milk naturally contains 21 minerals and 13 vitamins.
Making the Next Move
As with any food, you need to make your own decision on whether raw milk is right for your family. Currently raw milk is not allowed to be sold in stores in most states, and you might have read about crackdowns on farms across the country. The truth is that yes, sometimes raw milk causes illness – but so do eggs, peanut butter, leafy greens, and beef (and those cause it in greater numbers).
With anything that you eat, information is key. If you are curious about raw milk, go visit a producer to ask questions and see the way the cows are treated and how the milk is collected. You can find raw milk producers by visiting RealMilk.com.
Have you ever tried raw milk? Would you let your family have it?