Unpasteurized Milk – Can It Lower Your Carbon Footprint?

Everyday the local farmer swings through the little village. He stops at his customer’s homes to fill an empty pan set out for him. Carefully, he stoops over and pours the contents of the pail into our pans. Out flows a rich, creamy liquid thick and white, which is in fact milk.  Something that most citizens of developed countries will never experienced.  Yet it’s an everyday occurrence here in some parts of the Mediterranean.

No I am not dreaming, I actual witnessed this happen many times while on vacation.

Many of my relatives live in Greece, and whenever we visit I make sure that I consume the raw, unpasteurized, fresh milk – it is heavenly. Thicker and more substantive then pasteurized whole milk with a sweet tinge to it.

I’d never thought twice about drinking it until I realized that this raw milk that I was so nonchalantly drinking every morning for breakfast was something that thousands of Americans are clamoring for from their local natural foods grocery store. Many states prohibit its sale and its illegal to sell in 23 states

Some believe in the health benefits of it, others don’t trust milk companies to handle the milk properly. In fact, it’s illegal to sell raw milk in 23 states, and many people find themselves driving across state lines to get this country road product. In a scene, straight out of the Godfather or any great gangster film, these consumers line in up in alleys awaiting their fix of this white gold.  There is a lot of misinformation out there for and against raw milk, so let’s take a journey into this taboo land and see if raw milk is something you want to try.

For starters, let’s dispel the notion that raw milk is a dangerous product that can easily kill you. Raw milk is not pasteurized, which doesn’t kill the bacteria in it, but the milk contains both good and bad bacteria like anything else.

Some people claim that by pasteurizing milk you can’t guarantee it’s healthy because during the process bacteria can contaminate the milk. They would be right. A lot of scientific studies say that pasteurization is worth the reduced risk of contamination that occurs with raw milk, but we should take a step back and look at the big picture.

Dairy products are only responsible for 1% of food-borne illnesses. All those salmonella outbreaks as of late have been tomatoes, jalapenos, lettuce or other types of raw produce. These account for 38% of all food-borne illness.

Much of the dissent against raw milk overstates the dangers of drinking it.

For instance,  the CDC says there were only 46 outbreaks affecting less than 2,000 people attributed to raw milk consumption in the United States for 20 years, from 1973-1993. In fact, in the states that allow and certify raw milk producers, many of the standards of contamination are stricter for selling raw milk. Essentially, raw milk might be a little more susceptible to contamination than pasteurized milk, but there have been no comprehensive study on this that I could find.

Proponents of raw milk contend that pasteurization destroys the nutrition of milk, thus making it a glorified version of water. This is biased as studies have shown that pasteurization decreases vitamin and nutrient levels by less than 5%. However, the big debate is over the bacteria that pasteurization destroys. Much of the bacteria in raw milk is beneficial for us, and pasteurization destroys all of it. If any of you are lactose intolerant, listen up, because you might be able to drink raw milk.

Raw milk contains bacteria that aid in the digestion of lactose, but these bacteria are killed during pasteurization. That is why many of us feel ill after drinking milk or enjoying ice cream or yogurt. However, many people who can’t handle pasteurized dairy products can enjoy raw milk products because the bacteria aids us in digestion. There have also been studies that show allergies can be reduced substantially by consuming raw milk.

On a more general level, raw milk is a better environmental buy in most cases. If you know the local source, you can often be sure of what the cow that produces it is consuming and how. Much of the milk we find at the grocery store comes from grain fed cows which consume inordinate amounts of fed. The cows are often injected with hormones to keep them from getting sick, and these chemicals and hormones not only harm the environment but are in the milk you are drinking. In addition, grain fed cows have much larger carbon footprints than grass fed cows. Most people that get raw milk bring empty containers and have them filled with milk, so the amount of waste is greatly reduced. One of the drawbacks of raw milk however is that it’s often hard to find, and many people drive hours to get it. This is obviously not environmentally friendly, so do your best to find a nearby source.

Milk most certainly does the body good, but maybe it can do the body even better if you give raw milk a shot. The risk is low, the health benefits high, and the environmental impact can be less if its an option locally available.


About the author

John R. Garnet

John's work in the energy market fostered his interest in the environment. He recently completed his graduate work at George Mason University, But more interestingly, John has a passion for food and cooking and to provides some light-hearted tips to make people's lives greener while enjoy the good life with everyday practical tips from brewing tea, growing basil, or drinking raw milk.

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