What is raw milk?
Raw milk is milk (a lacteal secretion) that comes straight out of a cow, goat, sheep, horse, or any mammal. Raw milk is the first food for all mammals that, by definition, nurse their young. Raw milk is a living whole food that contains: enzymes, a biodiversity of beneficial bacteria, sugars, proteins, fats, minerals, antibodies and other essential elements needed to nourish a growing baby. Raw milk also contains a complementary immune system that provides an environment that tends to suppress the growth of pathogenic bacteria in favor of beneficial lactic acid producing bacteria. Raw milk inside of the animal generally does not contain bacteria; however, as the milk exits the breast or teat canal, protective resident bacteria join the raw milk to complete its genome.
Why is most milk pasteurized?
There are two kinds of raw milk and their sources and uses are completely different. Farmers either produce raw milk for shipping to a creamery or cheese plant to be pasteurized, or the farmer produces raw milk which is meant to be consumed in raw form. The principles, environmental conditions, animal feeds used and other practices for the production of these two kinds of raw milk are completely different.
Raw milk that is produced on farms that is then shipped to a creamery to be pasteurized is regulated according to the standards in the FDA’s Pasteurized Milk Ordinance (PMO). This set of standards does not include any requirements for testing the milk for pathogens. PMO raw milk is permitted to contain high levels of bacteria. This is because this milk will be pasteurized by heat treatment. Milk produced under the PMO is collected from many dairies and combined together at the creamery for processing and the production of final processed dairy products.
Raw milk that is produced for direct human consumption is controlled by regulations established by each individual state. There are no national regulations for human consumption raw milk. The Raw Milk Institute has established Common Standards to assist farmers that produce human consumption raw milk and serve consumers. Our Common Standards set a bench mark for national raw milk production and safety. Raw milk for human consumption always comes from one dairy that works very hard to assure that the milk they produce is safe and clean. Human consumption raw milk is never combined with other dairies’ raw milk.