guest post:RAW MILK #2 … is it safe?

Remember last week when we introduced you to these two lovely ladies?

photo by Kathrine Milledge

Rebekah Mocerino and Kaelin Keisel-Germann.  These two gorgeous local real food foodies are the co-chairs of our local chapter of the Weston A. Price Foundation and are making a real difference in the food sources and information that’s available for all of us!  They really know the ins and outs, the whys and why-nots of traditional nourishing foods.

And this week, they’re bringing us part TWO of a three part series on Raw Milk …

So without further ado …


Raw Milk Safety: A Bad Rap for No Good Reason

What is your opinion of raw milk?  If you live in the US you may think it’s a cesspool of disease, a public threat, or something only baby cows drink.  But if you live in Africa, Asia, Australia, New Zealand or Europe you may not give it a second thought.  It’s a fundamental part of your daily diet.  In Europe, regulations state that all raw milk products are “legal” and considered “safe for human consumption.” You can even purchase raw milk in vending machines in Europe.  Yep, vending machines.

Up until the Industrial Revolution and the introduction of Pasteurization, the only way milk was ever consumed was raw.  And people survived for several millennia … which is a pretty good track record.

So how did we get so terrified of this once sacred food that has nourished us for so long?  After all, God promised the Israelites to lead them to a land “flowing with milk and honey.” Is it safe to assume it was not the land of Smart Balance Lactose-Free & Omega-3 Fat Free Milk?  That would be a pretty cruel trick, no?

Distillery Dairies- Where it All Went Wrong

Before the 1800’s folks enjoyed milk straight from their cow/goat or from a local dairy farm.  But after the industrial revolution Americans had migrated into the city.   However the demand for fresh milk never waned and thus the distillery dairy was born.  These swill dairies, as they were also called, were set up next to whiskey distilleries.  The cows were fed the waste of the distillation process called distillery slop. These places were filthy, overwhelmingly putrid, and disease infested. Cow mortality was high and thousands of cows spent their sad lives in dark, narrow stalls, covered with flies, standing in their own excrement, and suffering from a range of infectious diseases like bovine tuberculosis and brucellosis. This unhealthy milk would not even make butter or cheese. The dairy owners often added sugar, chalk, and flour to give bulk and a “healthy” appearance to the watery, diseased milk.

Unfortunately many people, especially children, were drinking this milk getting quite sick.   Death and illness such as diarrhea, scarlet fever, typhoid, undulant fever, and tuberculosis were caused by swill milk. Infant mortality from swill milk accounted for nearly half of all deaths in New York City in 1839.

Enter Pasteurization…

Pasteurization was seen as the only option to what was known as the “milk problem”-how to make completely unsanitary milk safe for consumption. In 1893, a New Jersey doctor by the name of Henry Coit created the Medical Milk Commission to oversee or “certify” production of raw milk for cleanliness.   Coit and other physicians were able to recruit dairy farmers who were willing to meet the commissions’ strict standards in the production of clean, certified raw milk.  Unpasteurized milk was once again safe for the public.

But it didn’t last long.  Sadly, articles appeared in popular magazines like Ladies Home Journal and The Reader’s Digest falsely accusing raw milk for innumerable diseases. These articles were full of blatant lies and had no documentation. The campaign was successful, deceitful propaganda. This, combined with government officials and medical professionals being influenced by corporate dollars created a disastrous effect: the death of the American family dairy farm.

Biased Goggles Removed

If you eat today, you will put yourself at risk of a foodborne illness.  According to government data, you are much more likely to get ill from the salad bar, chicken, peanut butter, or pizza than you are from raw milk or any dairy product for that matter.  Dairy (raw or pasteurized) constitutes less than 1 % of all reported food borne illness.  But if milk worries you, you ought to be worried about pasteurized milk.  Total documented outbreaks due to pasteurized milk over the past few decades are 239,884 cases and 620 deaths!  Fact: According to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control) there have been NO reported death from raw milk since it started recording in 1973.*

milk 2  The question is…does raw milk pose a high risk?  You decide…

  • Each year roughly 1 in 6 Americans (or 48 million people) gets sick, 128,000 are hospitalized, and 3,000 die of foodborne disease.
  • From 1998-2010 there were 19 deaths from deli meats.
  • On average 15 people die a year from Gulf oysters.
  • .001 % of foodborne illness is attributed to raw milk annually; 29.4 % is caused by produce.
  • 33 deaths and one miscarriage attributed to listeria tainted cantaloupe in 2011.

Why the Prejudice Against Raw Milk?

Raw milk can become tainted and cause sickness just like any food. However the dangers of raw milk are greatly inflated.  Many examples of reporting bias, inaccuracies, and poor analysis have been found in statistical data. It is our position that the medical attitude toward raw milk today is still influenced by 40-year-old science and century-old practices from the distillery dairies.  Corporate greed and profit margins are also a huge driving force in today’s big agriculture. Small producers and willing consumers have to make a stand for the food they want.

Great News! Raw Milk is Inherently Safe

Milk from pastured cows eating their natural cow diet of green grass has built in antibiotic properties that help safeguard it from pathogenic microbes. Cows fed diets of grain produce sub-par milk that impedes its ability to protect itself. Healthy cows produce safe raw milk!

In contrast to 50 years ago, dairy farmers today have the great benefit of modern developments in equipment. Modern stainless steel tanks, refrigeration, herd testing, milking machines all contribute to dramatically safer, clean, and nutritious fresh milk.

Are you on board yet?

Next we will talk about the economics of raw milk and where to find it…


For more in depth research into raw milk:

A fascinating history of raw milk, The Untold Story of Milk:

*(See cherry picked CDC data):


P.S.  We at O’Mamas recognize that the idea of drinking raw milk is controversial (the USDA doesn’t recommend it).  But as “real food foodies” we think it’s important to have all the information before we make our own personal choices about the food we eat.  Reminder: we are not doctors or scientists.  We are moms, sharing our own experiences with food and health.  Talk to your healthcare provider before making changes to your diet or exercise regime.


Rebekah Mocerino is a military wife and a food fundamentalist. Her passion for real food developed after becoming ill in 2002. Armed with her Faith and the desire for renewed health, she slowly recovered by consuming traditional foods like raw milk, lacto-fermented sauerkraut, and pastured-raised meat stock. Rebekah enjoys sharing the therapeutic and nutritional benefits of these once cherished but now forgotten foods.

Kaelin Kiesel-Germann is a self-described “green as a cucumber traditional homemaker.” Her explorations in raising and preparing traditional foods were inspired by the research of Dr. Weston Price and visits to Mongolian pastoral nomads. Knowing that a nutrient-dense diet is a foundation for whole body health, Kaelin has served as co-chapter leader with Rebekah for the Weston A. Price Foundation-Bozeman Chapter since 2011

We’re linked up at The Nourishing Gourmet and Natural Living Mama!

We’re also linked up at Healthy Roots, Happy Soul!

5 thoughts on “guest post:RAW MILK #2 … is it safe?

  1. Great post. Unfortunately here in Spain (Europe)is imposible for almost everyone to find raw milk. I haven’t seen it in vending machines or in stores, it’s always pasteurized. As you say it must not be illegal, as I know one farm that sells it locally, but I cannot purchase it in my city. So it is not a common choice for spanish people, maybe in other european countries it is different, I don’t know.

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