Should Raw Milk Be More Accessible?

Watch this video and tell us what you think. (After that check out more of our raw milk story.)



Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.

Did anyone else notice that Pashman wore a dresscoat when talking to the farmer but didn't even tuck in his shirt when talking to the professor?

Sheesh. Soon, no one will take NPR seriously.

Fun piece.

Most milk here is pasteurized but not sanitized (something that is done at the same time in the USA, I believe). I guess if it is done properly, people should be able to drink raw milk if they want. When is the last time someone got salmonella from cookie dough?

Sent by Nathan in Holland | 9:40 AM | 6-25-2008

I was the (non-resident, frequent visitor) daughter of an upstate NY farmer. I not only drank lots of raw milk, I'm still here to tell the tale 30 years later.

I have no problem with anyone drinking raw milk, especially given the problem we have had in recent years with food which was processed and we thought was "safe". (The lack of domestic & overseas FDA inspectors is a whole other issue).

Sent by Cheri Campbell | 9:48 AM | 6-25-2008

I do in spite of the fact that it's not exactly legal here.

Sent by Scott | 9:48 AM | 6-25-2008

I think it should be a legal option as long as it is clearly identified as raw.

Sent by T. Weiss | 10:01 AM | 6-25-2008

Certainly, as long as it's clearly identified. This seems like a good example of the oft-derided "heavy hand of government" that in this case should actually be removed.

Sent by Kasreyn | 10:27 AM | 6-25-2008

An informative, and very funny, book about raw milk, is "The Milk Book: The Milk of Human Kindness Is Not Pasteurized," by William Campbell Douglass II, MD. It's fascinating and really very funny.
We drink raw milk, eat raw milk cheese, and would eat raw milk butter--except that it's $13 a pound around here. I can't seem to make butter from our current supply of raw milk (it's Holstein milk--not very creamy). It's REALLY easy to make yogurt from raw milk, too, and then you're getting those "good bacteria" in your guts :) Tastes much better, too.

Sent by Theresa | 10:56 AM | 6-25-2008

We love the taste of our raw milk. Even better would be organic raw milk from pasture fed cows. Small farms are beautiful. We should have more 20 cow farms in our area. Small local farms seem to go hand and hand with raw milk. One of the farms, Sankows, we get milk from has only 20 cows, but also sheep so there are other products to purchase as well. Our two health food stores, Foodworks and Edge of the Woods, carry raw milk, our Wooster Square New Haven farmer's market does as well and one of our local orchards, Bishop's Orchard. It's great to have so many options here in Connecticut of where to get raw milk.

Sent by Eunice | 11:56 AM | 6-25-2008

I was encouraged by this segment. Why? Not more than 5 years ago I had a similar conversion from store bought milk. I now drive 3 hours to get my milk and am part of a raw milk buying club in Florida. People such as myself simply wish to have access to food we feel is more nutritious and support local farms. I am not against pasteurized milk, in fact after touring large farms up close I see why it is needed. Small scale farms using time proven methods are in a class by themselves and I feel very comfortable where my milk comes from.

Sent by Steve M. | 12:33 PM | 6-25-2008

Should raw milk be available? Yes.

Should mass-produced raw milk be available, uhhh no. I don't how you would legislate that. But the potential for lawsuit should keep mega-companies out of that market though.

Sent by WDH | 12:33 PM | 6-25-2008

Great book on the topic by Nina Planck:

Sent by Hollis | 12:37 PM | 6-25-2008

I have a herd-share agreement in Ohio and drink raw milk. I would never buy from just anyone but I'm so impressed by the cleanliness of the farm and the treatment of the animals that I'm not worried.

I don't know that there's scientific evidence that makes it healthier but I love the taste and I like supporting a small farm so it's worth it to me.

Sent by nancy averett | 1:14 PM | 6-25-2008

We drink raw milk we buy from a local health food store which comes from a near by farm where all the cows are grass-fed and hormone free. We love it!

Sent by Cody Frisby | 1:17 PM | 6-25-2008

I disagree completely. Raw milk and any mammal's milk for that matter is supposed to be for the nourishment of the calf, not for consumption by another species.

Sent by Tommasina | 1:31 PM | 6-25-2008

We get raw milk from a farm in South Florida, and we have no problem. You can make yogurt easily from this milk because the enzymes in it are alive. The milk has a taste and a texture. It's real, not watered down.

If some have had ill effects, my strictly un-medical and un-scientific guess is that they lacked natural flora and antibodies in their digestive system. You can't just go on a natural diet suddenly... you can introduce these things slowly and your body will adapt and purge itself slowly from a diet of processed foods to a diet of real foods. The ill effects some report sound to me like they might be the result of a shock to the system, with the body too-rapidly pushing out existing toxins from years of eating the average American diet.

Sent by Robert | 1:31 PM | 6-25-2008

I am sad that the much-maligned bovine gift of milk is regarded by some as a "foreign" substance unintended for "other" mammals. We can't really get human milk to pour over our granola, now can we???

Sent by SLF | 2:59 PM | 6-25-2008

Raw milk should be accessible but I think it's OK that it isn't so easy to get. I like knowing my farmers. I don't like to buy food from unknown sources any more. After drinking raw mlk for a little over a year, my bone loss went from 2.5 (almost osteoporosis) to .1 - negligible, so that is one argument for. The problem with all our food now is not whether it's raw - the problem is that it's industrial - I am lucky to be able to drink (pastured) raw milk and eat raw cheese - I first tasted it in the French Alps over 35 years ago, when i was an au pair "chez le medecin" - yes, a doctor - whose family drank milk delivered warm from the cow at dawn every day.

Sent by Tish Cotter | 4:56 PM | 6-25-2008

That was a great video. You should know we linked to you.

The Radio Sweethearts post is here:

Take care!

Sent by Matthew Trisler | 5:04 PM | 6-25-2008

I found the host's attitude and commentary during this piece to be annoying. Her fear of "the stuff" was obvious and she considered the idea of raw milk "gross."

Yes, raw milk should be legally available to consumers who want it and who can afford to pay the price for it. Incidentally, there was no mention of price in the piece.

I've been a raw goat milk drinker for over 6 years and hope to find a closer source. Our milk comes from a small operation about an hour away, and we are part of a goat-share system. With rising energy costs, the price of small-scale dairy products will only go up -- possibly to unaffordable. Let's hope that more dairy owners wise up and go small-scale and raw like the Vreelands... sooner than later.

Sent by Ann in Texas | 5:20 PM | 6-25-2008

I like the piece, guys! Kudos to your foley artist. Actually who did put this together? Dan, obviously. Winn? Zena? Did I miss the credits?

I think the problem here is the FDA has no way to deal with "at your own risk" food. I wish there was. Just slap a warning label on it and let people take their chances. Unfortunately some yahoo will always sue claiming the label wasn't clear enough or they assumed because it was at the grocery store it was safe.

The FDA is right. Reasonable people can argue what the exact risk is (I personally think it is very low), but there are some bacteria that can get into milk, listeria for one, that will certainly make you blow all ports regardless of how healthy your immune system was previously... if you are lucky. If you are unlucky you might win a dirt nap.

I have to add that the people in favor of drinking raw milk had some excellent points on individual freedom and the better taste of uncooked milk. The health benefits were sketchy to say the least. "Chronic fatigue" and "immune system booster" are two phrases that always reek of pseudo-science. The both have fuzzy definitions at best. For one thing most people will suffer from some sort of autoimmune disease in their lifetime. The very last thing we want is to have our immune systems boosted. "Yes, sir. This milk will put your arthritis into overdrive!" Science on the immune system will speak in more specific terms like T-cell counts.

I could find no science on the lactose claims and frankly they make no sense. If there were bacteria in the milk that consumed lactose the milk wouldn't have any lactose in it. The milk is sitting inside the cow in a perfect incubator, much better than your GI tract, why wouldn't the bacteria go to town there? Now the bacteria that make yogurt will eat lactose, but the flavor change is unmistakable.

Lastly a word on oligosaccharides. These are the sugars that humans cannot digest and are most prominent in legumes. The bacteria in your gut certainly break them down, but these bacteria tend to live in your colon leading to a rather fruity and musical form of digestion.

Sent by Dave Wiley | 7:05 PM | 6-25-2008

Okay, so I did miss the credits. Congrats once again, Dan and Winn.

But this got me wondering, why is the BPP doing video? Don't get me wrong I love it and wish it to go on for as long as possible in fruitful abundance, but a videographer attached to a radio show is a bit unusual. Are these videos just for us, your loyal blogettes, or does NPR have some higher purpose in mind?

Sent by Dave Wiley | 8:59 PM | 6-25-2008

Great show, here in Australia you can by raw milk as a beauty product called "bath milk" for bathing in, but of course people are really drinking it. We also have a product that was alluded to at the end of the show, beneficial bacteria that you spray on your countertops! It's not just the stuff of the future, it's called biopure, and you can buy it online:

Sent by Annie from Australia | 12:29 AM | 6-26-2008

@Dave Wiley: Glad you enjoyed the video. In response to your question...Yes, it would be unusual to have a videographer attached to a radio show. Fortunately the BPP is not simply a radio show. It's more of a Total Information Delivery System and Buddy. (Blogs don't sound so great on the radio either but that doesn't stop us from posting here all day long.)

Sent by Dan Pashman, NPR | 7:08 AM | 6-26-2008

Raw milk has raised civilizations. And while it may be illegal in half the states, it is still LEGAL is half the states. People should have to freedom to choose what they drink, especially if for health reasons. If other raw foods can be sold legally (oysters, steak tartar, suchi, etc), then legal raw milk sales, produced by sustainable, grass-fed cows, is a no-brainer.

Sent by Rosanne | 9:01 AM | 6-26-2008

Just another thought, for Dave maybe but in general - many people who go for raw dairy don't give much weight to recent "science" - but refer to the remarkable (science with a capital S) work of Weston A Price - which in turn refers us to traditions for wisdom because food science is pretty clueless, and is often at work in the interest of industrial food, where the atrocities are. It pretty much takes a libertarian to be a small farmer, it seems...

Sent by Tish | 9:22 AM | 6-26-2008

I enjoyed this piece specifically because I suffer from a dairy allergy (I am not lactose intolerant but actually allergic). It did not discover this allergy until my late teens so I remember the delicious taste of cheese. My quest to enjoy some good cheese has never ended even though when I eat it I either get a hay fever like reaction or a swollen throat. In this quest I have ingested different cheese and even a small amount of goat cheese (which gave me hives). So, one day a friend gave me some raw cheese and I had no reaction. I have been eating raw cheese for the last few months and I have not been allergic to it. I am not a scientist or a doctor, nor have I consulted one about this phenomenon. I have not tried the real stuffs (raw milk) mostly because I have no interest in drinking milk. Thanks for the piece...

Sent by krista wilbur | 10:50 AM | 6-26-2008

I wish the sale of cigarettes went through the same kind of scrutiny that unpasteurized milk goes through...

Aren't they "inherently dangerous"?

Sent by Ellen | 11:14 AM | 6-26-2008

I find it problematic that the same people who are "outraged" about the government making decisions regarding the safety of the milk supply stream are equally "outraged" when lead and other poisons are found in imported toys, pet food, and other products. De-regulation is not the answer; smart regulation is. It seems obvious that there is a safe, legal way for raw milk to get from farmer to urban consumer.

What is not obvious is what is driving the apparent obsession among young people with any pseudo-science involving what goes in our mouths and (ultimately) out our asses. There is very, very slippery slope between being a conscientious consumer and obsessive neurotic. There is also very long history of the excesses of the overclass being couched in health "imperatives" (see e.g. Victorians "taking the cure" or paying exorbitant sums for exotic spring water). I think we should see the raw milk movement for what it is- a pampered indulgence.

Sent by Jason | 12:13 PM | 6-26-2008

@Tish: many people who go for raw dairy don't give much weight to recent "science"

That's sad, but this is very much their business. Science is the only way to discover truth in the physical world. All else is speculation, anecdote, and folklore. Science, food science included, is a tool. It can be used for good or evil. I am impressed by the people who managed to invent a cake-like substance, fill it with a whipped-cream like substance, and come up with a snack food that keeps forever. Personally I think Twinkies are of the devil, but I respect the knowledge that goes into them.

Over the years I have gotten more into food science inspired by the likes of Shirley Corriher (the sweetest and smartest lady you'd ever hope to meet) and Harold McGee. At the same time I am inching closer to vegan and more interested in organic food especially the local stuff. The two are far from incompatible. I now understand more about what cooking does to the taste, structure, and nutritional value of food and can make intelligent choices rather rely on rote recipes. I can also make an awesome dessert out of chocolate, water, and air. Science. It's what's for dinner!

I am totally libertarian when it comes to food. I'd like to be informed of the risks of the food I am eating, but the final decision should be my choice. Personally I've heard wonderful things about cheese made from raw milk and would love to taste it.

Sent by Dave Wiley | 12:20 PM | 6-26-2008

I enjoyed the listening to your show on raw milk. I think its funny how much fear mongering exists in this country. People have been drinking raw milk for thousands of years and as a species we are still here. Just as the same fear of sickness caused a short lived nationwide ban on tomatoes. A little over 400 people out of 400 MILLION get sick and we act as if its the end of the world. The abillity of the consumer to choose is a basic right. Life is full of danger everyday. The government is not my parent, and I did not vote for them to be that way either. Drink raw milk and enjoy a time honored tradition. There are more pressing issues to worry about. So the next time you are having a tomato sandwitch and a cool glass of raw milk, you are living to close to the edge for most. Be not afraid.

Sent by Robert Stevenson | 1:27 PM | 6-26-2008

When I was 5 my parents moved to the countryside and soon thereafter we started buying raw milk from a small, family-owned dairy up the road. Pay at the barn on the honor system, reusable glass bottles, grassfed pasture cows. It was great. Tasted like real milk. I rarely get sick with flu or colds.

Sent by Alex King | 4:07 PM | 6-26-2008

What's the difference between milk and tomatoes (or spinach, or almonds, etc.)? Why should they be treated differently?

We don't pasteurize tomatoes even though we have occasional outbreaks of salmonela poisoning (e.g. the recent tomato scare). There would be a lot of angry people out there if the FDA required that all tomatoes sold in stores come out of a can. Do you want canned tomatoes on your salad?

This is a clear case of discrimination against milk.

Sent by Brian Glass | 12:12 PM | 6-27-2008

An excellent piece. Thank you for letting us hear from both the farmer and the scientist - although the scientist looked much more the picture of health than the somewhat portly farmer...

Sent by Jacquie Green | 12:17 PM | 7-1-2008

I think so many people in our modern world forget WHY milk was pasteurized in the first place: because it was a vector for disease! So yeah, Homo sapiens have lived for tens of thousands of years on raw milk, but many of them got sick, too. Those illnesses were greatly reduced once milk started being pasteurized. In the safety of modern America, it's too easy to forget about the recent past.

All that said, I side with the people who say "Should raw milk be available? Yes. Should mass-produced raw milk be available, uhhh no." Even the farmer they interviewed said that - commercial scale dairies and raw milk are not a good match.

Sent by TJ | 12:43 PM | 7-2-2008

@Brian Glass: "What's the difference between milk and tomatoes (or spinach, or almonds, etc.)? Why should they be treated differently?"

They should be treated differently because products that come from animals are very good at growing organisms that are harmful to animals. This is why raw fruits and vegetables can be stored safely for long periods at room temperature, whereas doing this with hamburger would involve considerably more risk.

Sent by Dave Wiley | 2:14 PM | 7-2-2008

Pasteurization extends the shelf-life of milk and hence its profitability.

I'm sure that's the REAL reason raw milk is being persecuted by the corrupted american government agencies. Natural healthy raw milk as enjoyed by our ancestors for thousands of years is a threat to the profits of the dairy corporations cartel.

Sent by Steve S. Stevenson III | 3:01 PM | 7-2-2008

That prof. from California is lying!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!And I said I'd give him The finger if I didn't have kids. I drink RAW MILK and I'm proud of it!

Sent by Elizabeth | 7:18 PM | 7-10-2008

There seems to be little difference between raw milk and pasteurized milk, at least in flavor. The REAL culprit in milk production is HOMOGENIZATION. Even most "organic" milk brands are allowed to engage in this practice whereby the cellular structure of milk is altered through intense pressure. This smacks of something similar to "hydrogenated" vegetable oils and the related trans fat issue (although hydrogen gas is not used in addition to high pressure in order to homogenize milk). Research shows that there seems to be a correlation between hardening of the arteries and homogenization of milk.

Sent by David | 11:48 AM | 7-13-2008