Raw Milk

The New York Times has an article about the increase in raw milk consumption and distribution, despite its relative illegality in most states.

Raw milk is straight from the cow - it does not undergo the required pasteurization process that milk in the grocery store undergoes. I'm personally a fan of pasteurization, since it cuts down on a variety of food borne bacteria, like salmonella.

Here are two different takes on it from the story. First, a pro-raw milk advocate:

Nina Planck, the author of “Real Food: What to Eat and Why,” defied the F.D.A.’s warning and drank raw milk while she was pregnant. She not only continues to drink it while nursing her 9-month-old son, Julian, but also allows him the occasional sip. She has an arrangement with a couple of farmers to deliver it to New York City.

“We drink raw milk because we trust the traditional food chain more than the industrial one,” said Ms. Planck, who knows a number of farmers from her days as director of the New York City Greenmarkets and through her boyfriend, Rob Kaufelt, the owner of Murray’s Cheese in Greenwich Village.

And now a food scientist skeptical of raw milk's benefits:

David Barbano, director of the Northeast Dairy Foods Research Center, operated by Cornell and the University of Vermont and supported by the dairy industry, grew up drinking raw milk on a family farm. He does not remember ever getting sick, but says science has never found any evidence that it was more beneficial than pasteurized milk. In fact, he said, raw milk has very little vitamin D, which is added to most pasteurized milk.

“There is always going to be a percentage of raw milk that carries disease-causing bacteria,” said Dr. Barbano, who is a professor of food science at Cornell. “As long as I have pasteurized milk available for me, and I guess more importantly for my daughter, the risk is not worth any benefit anyone has been able to prove.”

Those who drink raw milk claim that it has an incredible taste -- as exquisite, perhaps, as some of the raw milk cheeses they've had in Europe or crème fraiĉhe.

My initial response to this is to just be grossed out. I had raw milk on the farm once (my step-dad grew up on a dairy farm in Iowa) and I thought it was really unpleasant. At the same time, I'm grossed out by any milk that isn't skim. And I was 13 at the time I had the milk, so I might feel differently about it now.

My other response, though, is that I'm also skeptical of this. While I think it's important to question scientific conclusions in order to further inquiry, my instinct is continue to appreciate the CDC and other public health organizations (despite the fact that the CDC's body mass index suggests that I'm overweight. Whatever).

I suppose, then, raw millk is not for me. But I'm willing to suspend a certain level of judgement about people who want to indulge in it. If you know more about this, please share.

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