The modern milking machine and stainless steel tank, along with efficient packaging and distribution, make pasteurisation totally unnecessary for the purposes of sanitation. And pasteurisation is no guarantee of cleanliness. All outbreaks of Salmonella from contaminated milk in recent decades - and there have been many - have occurred in pasteurised milk..... Raw milk contains lactic-acid producing bacteria that protect against pathogens. Pasteurisation destroys these helpful organisms.
You will notice that on the GAPS diet we are not allowed dairy products that have not been fermented for 24 hrs. We are allowed to try and introduce raw milk only when we are tolerating cheese well.
A traditional diet encourages the consumption of mainly raw and/or fermented dairy and an avoidance of pasteurised and/or homogenised dairy.
Here I will try and answer four questions that you might ask about milk and dairy products.
What is raw milk?
What is the difference between raw milk and store bought milk.
Why is raw milk better?
Is raw milk safe?
To answer the first question, raw milk is, simply put, raw milk. Milk that has not undergone any treatment, straight from the cow. It has not been pasteurised or homogenised.
So this also answers the second question: store bought milk has by law to be pasteurised and the vast majority of it is now also homogenised. That means that the fat is distributed evenly throughout the milk and you don't get the cream rising to the top like you did in the 'old days' (you can see I'm not young!) Only the farmer who produces the raw milk from his cows can sell it and then only directly to the public, not through a third party. So you will never find raw milk on the supermarket shelves. You might funnily enough find raw goats milk in a health food shop or organic farm shop as the law is different concerning goats milk.
So that brings us to consider why raw/fermented dairy is better than store-bought dairy.
Being so used to milk in the form we know it well, it may surprise you to know that it has relatively only recently been drunk in this way. If you go back before 1750, you would have found Europeans taking their milk as yoghurt, curds and whey (hence the nursery rhyme, 'Eating his curds and whey') et cetera.
Unless you put dairy in the fridge, or pasteurise it, it will naturally separate into curds and whey. I see this daily with my milk kefir on the kitchen worktop. This seperation is caused by the act of lacto-fermentation. This is the process by which the lactic acid producing bacteria eat the milk sugar (which is called lactose) and the milk protein (casein). These are friendly bacteria of which we hear so much talk these days, which produce lactic acid which effectively renders the milk free from bad bacteria that would make it 'go off'. Once the process is complete the dairy can be kept without refrigeration for several days. In addition it is usually well tolerated even by folk who cannot consume fresh milk.
There are several issues with the way milk is produced these days. These centre around the methods used to increase milk yields, animal feeds, and the problems caused by pasteurisation and homogenisation. Fortunately, here in the UK it is still a common sight to see pastured cattle enjoying the green vegetation in the fields, at least in Summer. Unfortunately, this is becoming increasingly rare, especially in countries such as America, as farmers try to increase their yield at minimum cost and seem to be moving towards keeping their herds in enormous sheds and feeding them cheap food stuffs such as soy. Obviously how a cow lives and eats is going to affect the milk quality, not just the quantity, and that will be passed onto us as we drink it for good or for bad. The best milk, as Weston Price found when he studied peoples from all over the world and their diets, comes from pastured animals - as God designed it so to be.
Pasteurisation is of course something we have all learnt about at school - and taught that it was a good thing and no doubt it was at the time - to solve a problem. That being that with industrialisation, more and more folk were moving from the countryside into towns which grew into cities and they had to be fed. Food had to be produced in bulk, stored and transported long distances in order to feed the masses. Whereas drinking raw milk was safe when folk produced their own for their own families, suddenly the hygiene wasn't there to mass produce it and transport it and disease was rife.
Pasteurisation involves heating the milk to a high temperature. Whereas this destroys the harmful bacteria, it destroys the good too - the enzymes needed to help us properly digest the milk, especially calcium. This makes consuming pasteurised milk taxing on the body as it tries to digest something without the necessary enzymes to do so. In time, given genetic weaknesses et cetera, in susceptible folk this can lead to allergies and/or other chronic diseases. None of us know if we are susceptible until we notice symptoms. On the other hand, drinking raw milk brings much relief from symptoms for many folk.
Homogenisation further damages the milk. If you are interested, you can read about it here:
So why is raw milk better? We have seen that since it hasn't been pasteurised it therefore has it's enzymes in tact, and so is easier for the human body to digest, but there are many other benefits as shown by these articles:
It is also probiotic, which means that every time you drink it, you are filling your gut with friendly bacteria, which could produce a die-off effect. Because of this, should you be in a position to try it and would like to, it would be wise to start with a small amount and build up slowly.
So finally is raw milk safe. YES! In our modern age with the resources to have good hygiene.Sally Fallon says:
There is a good article here too:
Where can you find raw milk?
Here in the UK you can look on the Natural Food Finder website for a map of raw milk farms. You may find raw goat's milk is easier to find.
If you can't or don't want to drink raw milk, then what is next best? Milk from organic, grass-fed cows that has preferably not been homogenised. We get ours from Abel and Cole, but you could try another organic delivery service. Waitrose sell 'Duchy Organic milk' that is not homogenised. Or you can buy Yeo Valley milk in supermarkets but this tends to be more pricey.
Again see this table:
If you would like to try fermenting milk/cream, it is really very easy. See my pages here.
Start with the best milk you can afford. The fermenting process will put some goodness back into the milk.
If you would like to try milk kefir, please ask before you buy as I might have some I can post to you, with instructions.