Pasteurized Milk vs. Raw Milk

By Laura Ebone

Drinking milk fresh from the cow, Dalwood Home, 1929 / Sam Hood from the State Library of New South Wales

The process of pasteurization was first discovered in the 1800s by Louis Pasteur, a French scientist. Pasteurized milk is heating milk to a certain high temperature in order to kill any bacteria within the milk possibly passed on through the dairy cow it came from. Most milk and milk products sold in the United States in commercial grocery stores contain pasteurized milk or cream. Pasteurization kills many bacteria such as ones that cause diseases.

Milk and milk based products naturally contain both good and bad bacteria. Some of the good bacteria is found in yogurt and promote gastrointestinal health. Harmful bacteria may get into milk due to cross contamination with feces or other byproducts. These bad bacteria flourish in milk since it is a prime growing spot due to all of its natural nutrients. These pathogens cause complications especially in persons with compromised immune systems including diarrhea, nausea, vomiting and dehydration. Due to this nature of milk to harbor bad bacteria, milk is pasteurized to kill it and maintain human health. After pasteurization, milk should be kept in cold temperatures to help prevent spoilage and keep milk safe to drink.

The FDA recommends against the consumption of unpasteurized or raw milk or milk products. There have been several instances of endemics where a small number of people have gotten sick and has been linked to the consumption of raw milk. Therefore, laws have been past banning the sale of raw milk in some states but in most, a ban of transporting raw milk across state lines. There have been many scientific studies conducted concluding that raw milk does not have specific health benefits over pasteurized milk.

Raw milk has its own advocates which generally does not include anyone with significant power. Most advocates are farmers and small local farmer markets. Proponents of raw milk claim that the process of pasteurization destroys naturally occurring nutrients, good bacteria, and useful enzymes for calcium absorption.

A recent documentary titled Farmageddon investigates the issue. Across the country, small independent raw milk producers have been shut down and had their entirety of their products seized, thereby halting their ability to make money. These farmers have been blamed for e.coli and salmonella outbreaks without strong evidence. The belief put forth in the documentary is that it is the FDA’s way of showing the population that it is acting against food-borne illnesses. These farmers probably have the best treated dairy cows in the nation by allowing them to eat grass (their natural food) and kept in the most sanitary conditions. In comparison to the large farms that are subsidized by the government who keep their cows in overcrowded barn factories where animals are kept in less than sanitary conditions and force fed corn because it is abundant, cheap, and more efficient.

As mentioned before, most of the dangerous illnesses contracted come from milk (or meat) that has come in contact with fecal matter. This scenario is much more likely to occur on the large farm rather than the small family farm. Consumers who have made the switch from pasteurized milk to raw milk have contended that it has great health benefits including eliminating allergies and lactose intolerance. There are no formal studies confirming these beliefs. Raw milk advocates contend that due to returning the cow to the pastures nature intended it to feed off of, the cows and their byproducts contain a much more complex system of good bacteria and nutrients helpful for the cow to grow happier and the persons it feeds to cope better with the complex sugars contained within. Most raw milk supporters do not support raw milk from corn fed cows however due to the natural turn to organic and natural.


“The Dangers of Raw Milk: Unpasteurized Milk Can Pose a Serious Health Risk.” U S Food and Drug Administration Home Page. FDA, 28 Oct. 2011. Web. 01 Feb. 2012. <;.

“Raw Milk Misconceptions and the Danger of Raw Milk Consumption.” U S Food and Drug Administration Home Page. FDA, 1 Nov. 2011. Web. 01 Feb. 2012. <;.

Wallner, Stephanie, Mary Schroeder, and Pat Kendall. “Raw Milk: Why Pasteurize?” Colorado State University Extension. Colorado State, 2006. Web. 01 Feb. 2012. <;.

Farmageddon: Documentary. Released 8 July 2011.


One thought on “Pasteurized Milk vs. Raw Milk”

  1. I used to drink raw milk in Honduras. Just boiled it for awhile and I never got sick.
    There are so many everyday things about Honduran life that are either trends or luxuries in the US, such as biking or walking everywhere, local and organic foods, backyard chickens, and cheap public transit.

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