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In Defense of Raw Milk

When I started milking my mini dairy goat for the first time, I couldn't have been prouder.  Sure, she only produced about a cup of milk that first milking, but I didn't care.  (She'd later produce more than a quart of milk a day.)  It was a little miracle.

But when it came to drinking the milk, I found myself facing a bit of a conundrum.  To pasteurize or not to pasteurize?

I tell you, this was a tough decision for me at the time.  I had been debating this issue long before my goat was giving milk.  Long before we even had goats, in fact.

I finally decided that, for my family, raw milk was the answer because 1.) I knew my goat, her health, and her diet, 2.) I knew how the milk was handled, from udder to refrigerator, and 3.) I felt raw milk kept more of the healthful "extras" that pasteurization removes.

Still, when I went to drink that first cup, all I had heard about the dangers of raw milk kept flashing through my mind.  When I sipped it, I felt as if I might be drinking poison.  I forbade anyone else in the family to drink any, at least until we knew if I was going to survive or not.

But I didn't die.  I let my kids drink it, and they lived too.

We've been drinking raw milk safely since.

This isn't to say that I'm not respectful of raw milk.  I handle my goat's udder carefully, disinfect everything that comes in contact with it, and make sure to chill it rapidly so that it cools to 38 degrees as quickly as possible.  I'm careful with my raw milk, so I know it's doesn't harbor any more danger than the pasteurized milk I'd buy at the store (even safer, I think, considering how that milk is produced, but more on that subject at a later date.) 

Now, a new study published in the Journal of Food Protection is confirming that raw milk, when handled properly, is a low-risk food.

The laws governing raw milk are slowly loosening.  In fact, here in my home state of California, it is perfectly legal to buy raw milk for consumption.  So, if you're interested in trying it, you can usually find raw milk from safe, credible dairy farms at your local health food store.  It's more expensive than the grocery store milk, but it's much yummier.  Plus, you'll be supporting small family farms!

(If you're not in California, you can see what the raw milk laws are in your state by visiting this site.)

Before you start drinking raw milk, I strongly encourage you to do your research, learn all you can about it, and then decide if it's right for you and your family.  Make sure you're getting your info from credible sources, though, like www.realmilk.com and www.farmtoconsumer.org.  There are plenty of sites out there that claim raw milk is a miracle food that will cure everything from cancer to warts.  Not true. 

But raw milk can be safe, healthy, delicious addition to your diet.            

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