I was reared on raw milk and believe so strongly in its beneficial attributes that we now have two Jersey cows which we milk so our children and grandchildren can drink raw milk.

I believe strongly in the right of people to choose.

In Ireland at present virtually all the milk available is both pasteurized and homogenized.

Raw or pasteurized milk is not available unless someone can buy directly from a farm.

55% of milk is sold in plastic containers, despite growing concern about the leaching of plastics into dairy products.

Why raw milk should be available for those who wish to purchase it of their own free will?

1. Raw milk is an excellent whole food.  It contains all the valuable enzymes that pasteurization destroys, including lactase which breaks down lactose, consequently people who are lactose-intolerant can drink it without ill-effect.

2. Enzymes help the body assimilate nutrients including calcium.  It has a higher concentration of pro-biotics including lactobacillus and acidophilus which helps the body to digest milk.

3. Raw milk also contains more vitamins and also contains CLA, a super fat that promotes weight loss and is an anti-cancer agent.  According to the US-based organization The Campaign of Real Milk, raw milk contains 10% more B-vitamins and 25% more Vitamin C than conventional milk.

They also contend that pasteurization also distorts the fragile milk protein into a variety of different shapes and configurations, many of which are allergenic.  This may partly explain the alarming rise in dairy intolerance.

4. Raw milk contains the natural butterfat which is removed or homogenized in commercial milk.  Without butterfat, the body cannot absorb and utilize the valuable vitamins and minerals in milk.

The best raw milk is from grass-fed cows, the composition of the milk is different when cows are fed on silage.

Ironically the infections in cattle that can lead to human illness, such as TB and E-coli poisoning, are more likely to result from more intensive industrialized production systems.  When cattle are kept in sheds as part of a large herd disease is endemic.  About % (we are waiting for this statistic and will send as soon as possible) of the national herd suffers from mastitis or udder infection, and prevalence levels of between 22% and 35% for mastitis causing bugs, hence the routine use of antibiotics.

Other considerations –

1. Environmental impact.  Raw milk has the lowest environmental impact.  Cows that graze on grass and feed on hay for much of the year don’t need extra grain and imported soya (much of which contains GM organisms) which are required by higher yielding cows kept indoors for longer periods.

2. Raw milk saves energy because it is not heat-treated.  If it is sold directly from the farm or a farmers market milk doesn’t need to go by milk tanker to the creamery, then central distribution and supermarket.

Raw milk must come from grass fed cows from a clean herd – TB and Brucellosis free.

Standard for hygiene.  Milk from grass fed cows contains higher levels of vitamins, including A,D,K & E and essential fatty acids.

If milk is not pasteurized producers need to be far more stringent on hygiene standards and the health of their animals.

Studies – allergies

In 2006 a study by University of London found that drinking a couple of glasses of raw milk a week reduced the risk of allergy-related conditions such as asthma, eczema, and hayfever in children.

Questions –

  1. What research proved conclusively that TB was transmitted through drinking raw milk?
  2. How many instances of disease have been linked with drinking raw milk in Ireland?
  3. Has any comparative research been done on the health of families who drink raw V pasteurized milk?

Demand for raw milk –

The demand for raw milk is growing steadily in many countries.

In the UK Arthur Betts of London FMS says that over half the emails he gets at present are from people wanting to know where to buy raw milk.

Raw milk is available in many farmers markets in the UK, including several in London.

It is also available direct from over 150 farms in England and Wales.   It is illegal to sell raw milk in Ireland.  In the US there are several campaigns for the right to access raw milk, the sale of which is either banned or severely resisted.

There have been several high profile cases where people have attempted to get around the ban by buying a share in the cows because the law allows you to drink your own milk.

In Paris, people queue at rue Raspail Farmers Market every Sunday for raw milk, cream and yoghurt.

In the UK many dairy farmers report a dramatic increase in demand for raw milk.  Steve Hook from East Sussex has seen his business rise from supplying just one customer a week to over 300 including several nutritionists.

Darina Allen, Ballymaloe Cookery School

Myrtle Allen, Ballymaloe House

Shanagarry, Co Cork

Originally Published in 2008