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Buying fresh, unpasteurized milk from a local farm is good for your family's health, good for the farm and good for the environment. NOFA/Mass is working to make safe, healthy raw milk easily available in Massachusetts.
People around the world have milked animals (cows, sheep, goats, camels, etc.) for thousands of years-consuming the raw milk directly and preserving it in the form of dairy products.
Pasteurized milk (heated to over 160 °F) is a relatively new product. Pasteurization came about less than a century ago, as a reaction to milk produced in urban dairies from cows kept in confinement and fed industrial waste-largely from distilleries. Contamination of such milk was controlled by heating it ("pasteurizing" it) to kill all bacteria, both the good and the bad.
Eventually the urban dairies disappeared, but pasteurization remained. Now a growing number of people are learning that fresh milk from nearby dairy farms-where cows still graze outside and are managed using organic and sustainable practices-does not need pasteurization. It tastes better, is more beneficial to human health and the health of the environment, and directly supports local farmers and communities. In Massachusetts there are more than 24 farms that pass rigorous inspections and are certified to sell raw milk from their farm stores. Visit one of these farms to learn more about this vital and healthy product.
Why is Raw Milk So Good?
Raw milk is the ultimate whole food. It contains many nutrients essential to human health, and comes complete with companion enzymes and amino acids necessary for the human body to make use of those nutrients.
Raw Milk Contains:
- High levels of calcium and other minerals, and the enzymes necessary to metabolize these minerals. Those enzymes are destroyed in the pasteurization process.
- An abundance of beneficial bacteria that can rebalance a digestive system unable to process many foods, and can restore the immune system. These good bacteria help produce and assimilate vitamins and minerals, fight off illnesses, and regulate bodily processes. Pasteurization destroys all bacteria in milk.
- Water- and fat-soluble vitamins, two-thirds or more of which are destroyed during pasteurization. Vitamins B6 and B12 are almost entirely destroyed during pasteurization. More than 50% of milk's Vitamin C value is lost to pasteurization as well. Milk from grass-fed cows is higher in Vitamins A and D and has more omega-3 fatty acids ("the good fats") and conjugated linoleic acid (CLA).
- A level of fat necessary for the body to absorb milk's calcium and protein. Pasteurized reduced-fat or skim milk is an ineffective source of calcium.
- The enzymes phosphatase, essential for the absorption of calcium; lipase, which aids in the digestion of fats; and lactase, which helps with the digestion of lactose. Pasteurization, however, destroys all three of these enzymes.
- Amino acids, essential to the body's ability to repair tissue, metabolize protein and generate energy. Pasteurization renders these acids useless.
Economic Benefits of Raw Milk
In 1950, Massachusetts had nearly 5,000 dairy farms. In 2008, there are fewer than 180 left. The main cause for this tragedy is economic. Rising fuel and feed costs in the Northeast mean local dairies cannot compete with large, industrialized confinement dairies operating in the Midwest and Canada. Fresh raw milk, however, sells at the farm for $6 to $10 per gallon-3 to 4 times what bottlers pay.
When consumers buy milk directly from the farmer they are helping to preserve their community by paying a fair price. That way the farmer can cover costs and afford to support a family.
Environmental Benefits of Raw Milk
Farms selling raw milk and receiving a retail price are more sustainable, meaning long-term preservation of open space and the use of management practices that are beneficial to the environment.
Cows are healthiest when they are able to be outdoors, grazing on pasture. In turn, they fertilize the soil and experience fewer animal health problems. When cows graze on pasture, less energy is needed to mow, bale, and move hay, reducing fossil fuel use and cutting the carbon impact of producing a valuable food.
Massachusetts has many small grass-based dairies that are able to foster long-term sustainable farming practices, protecting the environment and the preservation of the rural and agricultural character of Massachusetts.
Practical Benefits of Raw Milk
Raw milk is extremely versatile. The milk and cream can be separated and the cream can be used to make butter, buttermilk, cream, ice cream, and sour cream. The milk can be consumed directly or used to make kefir, yogurt and cheeses.
The freshness and purity of farm fresh milk leads to very little waste. Milk purchased fresh from the farm will keep up to two weeks when refrigerated. If it sours, the milk -- unlike pasteurized milk, which goes bad -- is still healthy and can be used for baking, biscuits, pancakes, etc.
The information above is from a NOFA/Mass brochure, Raw Milk in Massachusetts.
The NOFA/Mass Raw Milk Network
If you are a consumer or dairy producer wanting to be part of The Raw Milk Network to help make safely-produced raw milk available throughout Massachusetts, contact The Raw Milk Network at (978) 355-2853.
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