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What Kind of Milk Should I Buy?

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go local Even among the tangled webs of nutrition science and speculation (can you say “soaking grains”?), safe milk has got to be one of the most difficult. I bet I have more people dash a quick email or leave an unrelated comment at a post to ask about safe milk than any other food.

Why all the hype?

First of all, it is awfully confusing. Milk is one of the only foods for which “organic” is sometimes not a good answer.

Second, we Americans drink a lot of it, in general. The pediatricians of the country always ask, “How much milk are they drinking per day? Is s/he getting 3 8-oz cups in?”

And finally, some types of milk are illegal (unpasteurized), and that always adds a fun element of mystique to a subject, yes?

Related: Sweetened Condensed Milk

I tried to help you egg labels a few weeks ago as part of the Go Local! Challenge (link no longer available), and I hope some of you have found a local source for well-raised eggs (or appreciated what you already had). Today, the many faces of milk. Here are the terms we’re going to have to shuffle through:

  • Homogenized or umhomogenized?
  • Pasteurized, UHT pasteurized, or Low-temp pasteurized?
  • Raw milk/Fresh milk
  • Whole, Skim, etc.
  • Grassfed milk
  • Organic milk
  • rBST and rBGH free milk

Just to give you an idea of how far we’ve come from the natural world in some of our farming practices, I have to share a story of a trip to a hands-on farm with my kids this spring.

The well-intentioned and generally eco-friendly farmer was explaining why we were about to bottle feed the calves. She told all the children that the cows can’t give any milk to their calves, or there wouldn’t be any for us. (This was after describing the perfect food for the cows, an extruded pellet of corn, soy, silage, and other things coated in leftover fast food grease. A few of us moms were making eyes at each other across the pasture — which was made of sand — and about ready to bolt if the factory farming indoctrination got any worse!)

The reality of “olden days” farming was that the cow produced enough milk for everyone. The farmers used to say that a cow had four teats for a reason: one for the calf, one for the farmer and his family, one for the rest of the farm animals and one for the townspeople. I can’t get over how lovely and pastoral this image is. There is enough for everyone.

But What Kind to Buy?

  • Grassfed Cows are ruminants. Their stomachs are perfectly suited to harness the energy of the sun via grasses and turn it into usable energy. My stomach can’t do that. Can’t even come close. It baffles me a little bit that just because cows can eat corn, and even enjoy it according to some farmers, they’re fed corn constantly. My son can eat ketchup, and he likes ketchup, but if I fed it to him all day, every day, he wouldn’t be balanced or healthy. Same with dogs and chocolate. Just because the cows like something and eat it doesn’t mean it’s good for them.It makes my heart happy to see our farm’s cows out on pasture, looking like animals, acting their species, and living as God created them. It’s clear that they are “naturally raised.” If you’re buying milk at a store, it’s worth a call to the producer to see if the cows are on pasture at all, and if there’s actually grass in their pasture or just dirt. Even partly grassfed is a helpful step, nutrition-wise.Grassfed cattle, and their milk in particular, contains high levels of congugated linoleic acid (CLA), an UNsaturated fat, five times as much as corn/silage fed. CLA has a blue ribbon pinned on for lowering risk of death by heart attack and other heart-healthy statistical things. It helps you lose fat, gain lean muscle and improve your immune system (source).

    This article (link no longer available), published in May of this year, cites more new research on the heart-healthy qualities of grassfed beef. The Harvard researchers had to go to Costa Rica to find enough people eating grassfed beef for their story!

  • rBST and rBGH Both are bovine growth hormones to help the cow get bigger, faster. There is an interesting conversation on that here. This study showed no difference in the “composition of” organic, conventional, and no-rBST milk. In spite of all that, I have an inherent distrust of anything that mimics hormones, no matter how natural.There are a whole lot of synthetic yet “natural” hormones, meaning people produce them in our bodies, clogging up our city water and affecting wildlife and young children.Too much estrogen from treatments and birth control pills has put our ecosystem off balance; what will extra rBST/rBGH do, regardless of whether or not cows make it in their bodies? Luckily many brands listened to the public and are now selling rBST/rBGH free milk, even big store brands like Meijer, Spartan, and Walmart.
  • Organic How do you feel about your milk sitting on a shelf? If you buy organic milk, changes are you could put it in your pantry for a few months. Most organic milk, because it has to travel a distance between the field and your mouth, is “ultra-high temperature” (UHT) pasteurized. That means the food is raised to a very high heat, very quickly. There is nothing left alive, and thus it is shelf stable.It also is said to be worthless to drink, or at best no better than conventional milk, so paying double or triple the cost of milk doesn’t make any sense to me. I don’t buy organic milk at the store, unless it’s been low-temp pasteurized. Even then, it’s so expensive that I’d be better off buying another share of raw milk, because there are many more reasons than just “organic” that I choose raw milk from a local farm.
  • Pasteurized, UHT pasteurized, or Low-temp pasteurized? Pasteurizing milk is a process that arose from a genuine need, that of urban cattle growers and unsanitary situations in the early 1900s. For pastured, grassfed, organic cattle whose milk is properly and carefully handled, pasteurization is likely unnecessary.UHT pasteurization is overkill (see above), and low-temp pasteurization is a nice option. Sometimes called “VAT” pasteurized, this milk is heated to the lowest possible temp to still kill bacteria. Some small organic dairies go this route as a great alternative to UHT milk.
  • Raw/Fresh milk Some folks want to avoid pasteurization altogether. Unpasteurized milk is also referred to as raw milk or fresh milk, and there  are various regulations concerning its sale. In some states, you can buy raw milk at a store, in others, you can only buy it for “pet  consumption”, and in some states like mine (Michigan), in order to obtain raw milk, one has to own a cow. Some farmers get around this by selling “cow shares” wherein people can buy a certain share of the cow, then pay for its “boarding” in exchange for a gallon or two of milk per week. This article (Link no longer available) discusses a study in which calves were given raw milk and pasteurized milk, and within months, the calves on pasteurized milk got sick and died. There is clearly a nutritional difference between raw milk (never cooked, straight from the cow) and pasteurized milk. The book I read that really sealed the deal for raw milk in my mind was The Untold Story of Milk by Ron Schmid.
  • Some benefits of raw milk include:
    • Over 60 living enzymes that are beneficial to digestion and immune function
    • Proteins intact
    • Probiotics, aka healthy bacteria, are alive in raw milk, just as in yogurt. Raw milk doesn’t go bad, it just sours and is still safe to drink.
    • Many people have found through experience that raw, unpasteurized milk is more tolerable for people whose digestive system doesn’t handle pasteurized milk well, and other find that it improves allergies and other physical maladies. See some stories here.
    • Vitamin A&D much higher, especially in grassfed cattle in the spring and early summer.
    • See more health benefits of raw milk.

I also decided my family’s story of how we came to drink raw milk ought to be in a separate post. It is milk week, after all! If you’re interested in a list of best to worst milks, here is what milk to use for yogurt and here is a list of compromise vs. ideal foods, including milk. UPDATE: Here is my story.

There are affiliate links in this post. See my full disclosure statement here.

Find more good stuff at Real Food Wednesday at Kelly the Kitchen Kop, Pennywise Platter Thursday at The Nourishing Gourmet, and Works for Me Wednesday at We are THAT family.

Unless otherwise credited, photos are owned by the author or used with a license from Canva or Deposit Photos.

106 thoughts on “What Kind of Milk Should I Buy?”

  1. Has muons mentioned that milk in general might not be the best nutritional source do humans? It’s simply not made for people so if you talk about how it’s intended for it’s not meant for us. Now I love milk too but I don’t look to it to meet nutritional needs. There is also some data, though not tested in milk that cairn peptides found in other things have hormone like effects. Just something to keep in mind.

  2. Pingback: Living Naturally: If I can’t afford organic, where do I start? (part 2) « raising vintage kids in a modern world

  3. Currently I have in my refrigerator Stremick’s Heritage Organic and yes it says UP on it. I went to there website to read a bit more on it.
    They do get to graze but are also given naturally grown corn and grains. they receive no growth hormones and antibiotics and are pesticide free. They do state the pasteurization process is flash heating, to which I need to research. I live in a very small city (even though we are the largest in NE Oregon) so there is not alot to select from. I do feel it is a personal choice as to what each family is looking for when it comes to serving there family milk. Mine, was no growth hormones/antiobiotics. Well that was the #1 reason. I still need to do more research as I think there are only 3 brands to choose from here.

    so what got me started AGAIN on researching organic milk and its benefits ? We have family in MI who own a dairy farm, just FB them and asked if they are doing organic yet. Which the reply was “we like pesticides” LOL.. which I didn’t find LOL anyway additionally then sent along a MI link on how organic is no better than regular milk. so my research continues. But SO glad that KS is here to share my frustrations on trying to do what is best for my family when others out there think its just funny and silly that we are concerned about what we put in our bodies. Thanks everyone 🙂

    1. Loyda,
      There’s was some hubbub a while back about organic not having more vitamins/minerals/nutrients than conventionally grown stuff, so maybe that’s the source of their “better than”. Clearly, organic has a lot of differences than conventionally grown milk, but if you LIKE pesticides, it wouldn’t be “better” – a subjective term. Hope that helps give you a lens through which to read any research or articles!

      Vent here all you like! 🙂 Katie

  4. O Organics (the Safeway brand) sells both UP and P milks in the cold case. The carton milk is UP and the plastic gallon container milk is P. I always go for the Gallon Pasteurized milk.

    Am I right to assume that there are no added growth hormones in Organic milk? This is not stated on their labeling, but there is no law requiring them to do so.

    1. Soccy,
      I’m pretty doggone sure…but I can’t say I’ve specifically looked it up. 99.9% sure. 😉 Katie

  5. Great article. How can you find the healthiest milk. Do we have to raise our own cattle to keep them truelly organinic and grass fed w/ no growth hormones?

    1. Nick,
      Not really, but you probably have to find someone else who does. It’s tough to find 100% grassfed milk in stores. Here in West Michigan, there’s one farm that sells low-temp pasteurized, grassfed, organic milk. It’s super expensive, but it’s out there at least. Good luck! 🙂 Katie

  6. Hi, and thanks for your great posts about milk. It has raised a lot of questions for me….
    I have been thinking about the milk I buy (never did before) and the choices available to me. I have no source of raw milk available and as you probably know UHT is the norm in most of Europe. In the past few years pasturized milk (called “fresh milk” here) has made a comeback.

    It was very common until about 25 years ago, than all but disappeared from stores and now can be found in larger chain supermarkets as a “specialty” item, and costs 2 to 3 times the price of UHT milk. Even so, I have considered buying pasturized milk instead, but still hesitate because the UHT milk I have chosen lately comes from our Azores islands. The cattle there are mainly grassfed all year round and the levels of CLA in Azores dairy is very very high. The pasturized milk is all national too, but it is all from the mainland and so will not be as grassfed as the cows in the Açores.

    1. Sandra,
      Such a tough choice! Grassfed vs. UHT…

      Can you find some farmers who will get you milk before it goes to the factory? 😉

      1. No, I live on the mainland! The Azores Islands are in the middle of the Atlantic. My choice is between pasturized milk or grassfed-all-year-round UHT.
        It’s funny how life was simpler when we didn´t think about it, isn´t it? 🙂

  7. Hi Stephaniee, I avoid all GMO no matter how removed. One just doesn’t know the effects of it.

  8. I have been searching everywhere for an answer to this question:

    The only raw milk I have available to me is from grain fed cows (which I am pretty sure are being fed GM Roundup Ready Corn)… Should we be drinking this or pasteurized store bought organic milk??

    1. Stephanie,
      Milk and GMOs are such a personal question – where’s your limit? I am certain our family ingests a good deal of GM food, some of which I don’t even realize. But that’s not (yet!) a priority for me. However, when it comes to milk, I personally place a lot of weight on it being grassfed, for both health and sanitary reasons. I don’t think I’d go for grainfed raw milk, GMs aside. But like I said, “what kind of milk should I buy?” has no good answer, really. What is your goal for your family? The raw milk you mentioned misses two of the criteria that most raw milk includes: organic and grassfed. If you go for the organic store milk, just watch for that “UHT” ultra high temp pasteurized label – that’s one to avoid.

      Good luck on your decision!
      🙂 Katie

  9. I feel this is misleading: “Milk is one of the only foods for which “organic” is sometimes not a good answer.”

    The main point you are trying to make is that if it is Ultra Pasteurized or UHT Pasteurized…watch out.

    There are advantages, I feel, to organic milk, if simply avoiding the Ultra-Pasteurized versions.

    The main being that organic milk cows have to have access to pasture with specific rules: “animals must get at least 30 percent of their food from pasture during the grazing season.” This is a fairly new regulation.

    So for those not having access to raw milk or just not comfortable with that step, organic milk would be better than conventional, where those animals may not see the light of day at all.
    This is also a really good article:

    Of course, to each his own, I say. I just don’t want people to be misled that organic has no benefit when it comes to diary. I seem some benefit for sure. From the above article: “In 2008, a study by Newcastle University in the UK, published in the Journal of Science of Food and Agriculture, found that organic grazing cows produced milk with higher content of fatty acids, antioxidants and vitamins as compared to conventional cows that were fed grains and were kept indoors. “

    1. Angela,
      I was just trying to say that “organic” isn’t the only answer and not as cut and dry as it is with other veggies, for example. I’ve seen some photos recently of organic dairies that aren’t much better than their conventional counterparts. It’s a tough one!

      Thanks for the links! Katie

  10. Vegetable Garden Cook

    Another thought for you on what we feed our livestock animals:

    I decided to become a modern homesteader just a couple of years ago. During that time, I had to decide what kind of dairy animal to keep. Cows are cool but they pretty much need hay or pasture at all times.

    I live in an area with very wet winters and hot summers, and the wetness leaches all the nitrogen out of the soil and so the we can’t make good grass for cows to eat here, which is why I chose to keep goats.

    Yes, I have to supplement with quality hay and moderate amount of grain, but they can eat so many other things! They love to clear out invasive weeds for you, and will even eat all the doug fir tree limbs that fall down. They love bark.

    If you live in an area that can’t naturally grow quality grass, consider goat milk! This means that much less feed is trucked in to feed the animals.

    1. Great point! Sometimes asking “what should the animal eat?” isn’t the right question, I guess, but “what kind of animal can live here well?” Perfect! 🙂 Katie

  11. So is raw milk really unsafe for pregnant women to consume? I have been wanting to try it but have hesitated due to pregnancy…

    1. Erin,
      I’m pretty sure any lawyer would tell me to plead the 5th on this one 😉 but I can tell you that I’m in the midst of my 3rd pregnancy, but the first using raw milk, and you know what? I never even gave it a thought. There is a terrible risk that if there’s lysteria in the milk, it will kill the baby. That’s nothing to pander around with. But I trust my farmer, and that makes all the difference. It seems that our food supply has so many contamination problems nowadays, I’m not going to get too worked up about fresh milk from the farm, and it helps that I’ve watched 4-5 other ladies in my milk co-op go through pregnancies since I’ve joined and also not thought anything of the milk.

      If you’re worried, you might want to just wait until baby is born, and then you can enjoy the full fat creaminess while nursing! 😉 Katie

  12. Sarah @ Mum In Bloom

    Oh my. I still have so much to learn 🙁 To try & convince my husband to buy organic milk I took him on a tour of a local dairy. The baby calfs were in tiny cages, the cows in a tiny pasture. My husband was so upset at how the cows were treated that he refused to buy or drink the milk 🙁

    So, I still buy organic milk but mix it with the organic milk powder that I buy from Azure to try & save on the cost.

    I’m also going to try my hand at making yogurt & cheese but I’ll be using raw milk for that.

    I’d drink raw milk in a flash but hubby won’t even go there.

    Hmm. I gotta get that milk book you suggested from my library and read more.

    Thank you for all you do. I’ve learned so much from reading your blog 🙂

  13. I am afraid, I will die before I can taste raw milk, or eat all my food organic.I am also taking a baby steps.I try to eat all my veggies in the raw, sometimes I cook the vegetables, can’t afford the meat too expensive, so I decided not to eat meat at all until I could afford and could buy it grass fed. With lent coming and all that won’t be a problem but trying not to eat the meat is hard and sometimes I slip.
    Milk not sold in my state and the only way is share which my hubby wouldn’t do and will not allow me to, it is a waste of money he says. I try to go around and buy the VAT pasteurized milk since it is the only way I can get it thru retail without raising eye brow.
    I love your blog, I try some of the recipe wheneve I can, and tried the soaked grains, it helps to see blogs about the real food issue. Thanks

  14. Emily @ Live Renewed

    Ugh! I just had to come by to comment and say that I still don’t know what to do about the milk issue!

    Hubs doesn’t want to do raw milk – and I’m not totally sold on it either – just because there was a recent outbreak from raw milk very near here and it just kind of freaked me out.

    Anyway so my options are: I can get 100% grass-fed, cream top, organic milk that’s semi-local (Indy) for $4 a quart – that’s $16 a gallon! – I’m just not willing to pay that much for milk!

    Recently I’ve seen a brand of grass fed milk at the grocery store – but it is Ultra-Pasteurized, which from reading the other comments I realize is not the same as UHT, but still, doesn’t that kind of defeat the purpose of it being grass-fed milk? Ugh! So annoying!

    I’m leaning toward organic store brand milk (meijer) which is just regular pasteurized, for now. I know that is better than conventional milk, even thought I always make sure to buy rbst/rbgh free milk, I still worry about what else is in the fat of the milk from conventional cows, especially because we buy whole milk.

    Sometimes it’s just so frustrating to me to try to figure out what the best choice it – I guess I just needed to vent a little! Thanks for giving me a safe place where we can do that Katie! 🙂

    1. Emily, I’m the one who stood in front of Meijer milk and about had a breakdown, and I wasn’t even considering organic yet. So yep, you’re in the right place to vent! ‘Twere it me, I’d probably buy one of each every week and split my chances! 😉 Katie

  15. Well, I feel this article or what you just typed up is one-sided. I buy organic milk because after watching Food Inc., I felt that we need to support farmers who are practicing sustainability to our environment, treatment of animals, concerns with other people’s health such as free of hormones & antibiotics added, no use of corn or soy (that’s how cows get fat easily because its a filler and trace of e.coli), and help raise awareness to those who do not practice any of these factors. Those who do not practice any of these factors are obviously there for the money and businesses. Definitely should watch Food Inc.

    1. Kevin,
      I’m trying to understand which side my one side is… It certainly sounds like you and I buy similar milk, and I certainly feel it’s very important to be a good steward of the environment (one of the 4 pillars of Kitchen Stewardship). Are you saying that I buy my milk for the good of my family and you buy your milk for the good of the earth? I seek to balance both, actually. And I enjoyed Food Inc. to be sure!

      Thanks for visiting – Katie

  16. I just checked out that cornucopia site with the organic milk ratings, and the low-temp milk I buy is 5th from the top of the list (hails family farm). that milk is outstanding. it makes store-bought milk look (and taste) like a joke. not surprising it is on the list 🙂 Curious to know what they base these ratings on??

  17. AmandaonMaui

    Oh, and here’s something I thought you might find interesting:

    Dairy score card on the best brands of Organic milk.
    .-= AmandaonMaui´s last blog ..Tylenol &amp Your Gluten Free Liver =-.

  18. AmandsonMaui

    I would like to point out that most milk is not UHT which is ultra high temperature pasteurization. If your milk is bought of a shelf not in the dairy case and is in liquid form then it is UHT. In the dairy case your milk will be labeled either pasteurized or ultra-pasteurized. In Hawaii it is difficult to get milk that isn’t ultra-pasteurized as the milk is shipped on boats and so it needs to last longer which the ultra-pasteurization does. We have one organic brand from the mainland that is simply pasteurized and one non-organic that is local and simply pasteurized.

    Just read the labels, it’s not hard. I can almost guarantee that most of you who are worried that you’re drinking UHT milk are not.

    1. Amanda,
      It’s almost as easy as that – yes, reading the labels should do it, but they do sell UHT milk in the dairy case, mostly because Americans don’t have a taste for shelf-stable milk, so it’s stored cold even though it doesn’t have to be. One of my clues is that usually if the milk is in a carton like orange juice, it’s often UHT. 🙂 Katie

    2. Most of the brands of organic milk at our local grocery stores are all UHT. In fact, it is hard for me to find organic milk that is not UHT. Horizon, Stonyfield, Wild Oats, Organic Valley…they are all UHT. I have to go to Whole Foods to get organic grass-fed milk that is not UHT. According to the farmer that I buy my milk from (and I will admit that he could certainly be biased with his information, so take it for what its worth), some American milk companies actually ship their milk from as far away as Australia. This is becoming more common and would account for the increase in the ultra-pasteurization of milk.

      1. AmandaonMaui

        Elizabeth: There is a difference between UHT (Ultra Hight Temperature Pasteurized) and Ultra Pasteurized. Horizon is not UHT is Ultra Pasteurized.
        I studied the differences in the pasteurization methods in culinary school.

        Here’s a source I found online: “Ultra Pasteurization (UP) is a process similar to HTST pasteurization, but using slightly different equipment, higher temperatures and longer times. UP pasteurization results in a product with longer shelf life but still requiring refrigeration. Another method, Ultra High Temperature (UHT) sterilization raises the temperature of milk to at least 280° F for two seconds, followed by rapid cooling. UHT-pasteurized milk that is packaged aseptically results in a “shelf stable” product that does not require refrigeration until opened.”

        There’s even a chart:

        Here’s another:

        “-Pasteurized: Milk is heated to ~66C / 150F and held for ~30 seconds before cooling. This is the most common and kills the least bacteria. Milk normally requires refrigeration to prolong it’s life.

        -Ultra-Pasteurized: Milk is heated to ~72C / 162F and held for ~15 seconds before cooling. Higher temperature and shorter time, the second most common, kills more bacteria than Pasteurized. Thus enables longer refrigerated shelf life and is common on products that are consumed or sold slower such as creams and organic milks.

        -Ultra Heat Treated or UHT: Milk is heated to ~82C / 180F and cooled immediately. Highest temperature and shortest time, the least common method, kills the most bacteria. Results in shelf life of years even without refrigeration. Commonly used where milk is not common or logistics of getting Pasteurized milk or other products is problematic.”

        Now, I’m not saying that Ultra Pasteurized is better for you than Ultra High Temperature pasteurized milk, but I wanted to point out the fact that they are indeed different. People are applying the term UHT to U.P. milk, and that’s incorrect.

        I try to buy milk that is only pasteurized (Clover Organic), but sometimes I can’t get to the store that carries it (most stores carry Organic UP milk like Horizon, Organic Valley, and Stremicks). Raw milk is illegal in all forms in Hawaii.
        .-= AmandaonMaui´s last blog ..Tylenol &amp Your Gluten Free Liver =-.

        1. Yes you are absolutely right. For some reason I thought they were the same thing. I didn’t realize the shelf-stable milk was UHT. But I have heard that some refrigerated milk is heated at higher temperatures than regular milk. But from your description of ultra-pasteurized, it doesn’t sound like that’s the right term for the really high temp pasteurizing. Anyway, all I know is that when I make homemade yogurt, I cannot do it with ultra-pasteurized milk because there are no enzymes or probiotics left in the milk after ultra-pasteurization. I have to use regular pasteurized milk, or preferably, low-temp pasteurized milk which works the best because there are a lot more enzymes and probiotics left in the milk.

          1. Hm, all the Horizon milk I’ve seen IS UHT pasteurized. In fact, they sell it on the shelf at BRU.

  19. Emily @ Live Renewed

    Hi Kaite!

    So I’m revisiting the whole milk thing again – but this time I’m thinking about my dairy products in general.

    I’ve been feeling like I should switch all my dairy products – butter, cheese, cottage cheese, sour cream, cream, etc. – to organic to be sure that I avoid the hormones and antibiotics in conventional. But, it’s so much more expensive. And, my concern is that how do I know that the organic milk that is used to make other dairy products is not UHT pasteurized?

    I mean in the same way it doesn’t make sense to pay more for UHT organic milk, wouldn’t paying a lot more for organic dairy products made from UHT organic milk be the same – basically worthless?

    The milk question of what kind of milk you should buy is even much bigger than just milk, but what kind of dairy should you buy? Isn’t it?

    I’d love to hear your thoughts and I’d also love to see a post on diary products in general. 🙂 Thanks!

    1. Emily,
      Ugh, good question. Around here, we’re still 80% Kraft and store brand cheese, and I just try not to think about it. The good news is that it seems like almost all dairy products (almost!) are made with milk from cows not treated with rBST, so that’s a start. Every so often, we get raw cheddar from Brunkow in Wisconsin, and even though it’s frugal for raw cheddar or organic cheese (it’s not organic, but I think it’s grassfed, so that’s automatically pretty close), it’s still almost double a store cheese. You almost have to look at each individual company for each dairy product, because there will always be a spectrum of acceptability there. I’m putting your idea on my post list! Unfortunately…I don’t know if I have much to add…but the comments might make great conversation!
      Thanks! Katie

    2. I’ve started thinking a lot about this too. I LOVE the Land-O-Lakes spreadable butter with olive oil. That has been a staple in our house. But I’m kind of afraid to scratch beneath the surface and find out what that butter is made out of. I get all yogurt straight from the farm where we order our milk. Or I make my own yogurt out of the milk from the farm. I have been starting to get butter from the farm too, and even though it tastes wonderful and is affordable, its not the easiest to spread (I prefer to refrigerate my butter). Cheese still comes from the store. I pretty much strictly avoid processed stuff. I get Heluva Good colby-jack cheese, or fresh mozzarella or fresh parmesan. I have tried ordering from the farm and it is really expensive and we didn’t care for the taste all that much. As for the organic thing, we stayed with friends of ours this summer who own and operate a dairy farm that supplies milk to Stonyfield (the organic dairy company). And I got the low-down from them. One thing I was really happy to see is that they send their cows out to pasture every day. Grass-fed milk is huge for me and it is one of the reasons we switched to our local dairy farmers. They aren’t required to feed their cows grass, but at least some farmers are doing it. However, they still grain-feed their cows too–soy and corn. And our friend was telling us that a lot of their “organic” grain (which is what qualifies milk to be labeled as organic) comes from China and there is no way of knowing whether that grain meets the same standards for being “organic” as it does in the US. So at the end of the day, I really feel that the organic label–when it comes to milk–means very little. The more important thing to consider with milk is whether it comes from grass-fed cows, and–for me and my family–whether the milk is unhomogenized and low-temp pasteurized. You’re right, its hard to know with other dairy products what processes that milk has gone through. Your best bet is to actually contact the manufacturers and ask those questions. Maybe if more people start asking them if their milk comes from grass-fed cows or is not UHT, they might start producing products using that kind of milk. Make your voice heard!

      1. Elizabeth,
        I’m fairly sure, although not certain, that Land-O-Lakes at least has decent quality milk, for a store brand. I remember their milk was always hormone free, even before that was all the rage. ?? Hopefully their butter is a bit higher quality than the store brands, too! At least butter is generally just “cream, salt” for ingredients, right?

        Thanks for this EXCELLENT insight into organic milk! I love getting a behind the scenes look. 🙂 Katie

  20. Thank you for all this helpful info about milk. I am in the midst of changing my family’s milk-drinking habits and have been trying to educate myself on all of our options. I am not sold on raw milk. But I do not feel right drinking the overly processed milk at the grocery store anymore either. And I absolutely want grass-fed milk. The best option I have found is low-temp pasteurized unhomogenized grass-fed milk, which unfortunately is very hard to come by. I think I read in another one of your posts that unhomogenized milk is more expensive and not as superior to homogenized milk as it was initially thought to be. But I still don’t trust it. It is just another level of interference, which I am not comfortable with. I found only ONE farmer near me who sells this kind of milk, and a half gallon is $3, less than a half gallon of organic milk at my local grocery store. Also, many countries in Europe do not homogenize milk. I remember drinking “cream top” milk in England during our summers there, delivered to our doorstep. I tend to think the US has this milk thing all wrong…. especially the corn-feed-lot part. I know there is a large market for raw milk, I just wish there was a larger market for low-temp pasteurized unhomogenized grass-fed milk because I really feel like this is the best of all worlds.

    1. Just out of curiosity, do you have any info/articles/research that you would mind to pass on to me that cite the benefits of low-temp pasteurized milk? I have been searching so hard for it and have come up with nothing, even after talking with a low temp pasteurizing dairy farmer! The info is hard to find! Thank so much!

      1. Melissa,
        This is the only link I’ve got so far: Temperature Pasteurization:
        Basically, if pasteurization kills most of the enzymes, and UHT pasteurization kills ALL of the enzymes and bacteria, then low-temp pasteurization kills fewer enzymes and bacteria…but I don’t really understand why.
        Sorry I came up empty on that one!
        🙂 Katie

  21. Hi Carla, hope you don’t mind if I chip in to your ?
    Milk is very important from on Ayurvedic point of view. The science of Ayurveda is thousands of years old & has it’s basis in the nature of pure consciousness from which matter precipitates. To me that means I can rely on in as the natural way of things rather than any individuals viewpoint in any time or space.
    Ayurvedic experts go to great lengths to enable people to be able to digest & benefit from milk.
    Just Google “importance of milk in Ayurveda”
    Here’s one relevant snippet:
    “Among the eight types of milk mentioned in Ayurveda, cow’s milk is said to be the best. Cow’s milk is rejuvenating (rasayana). It strengthens the various tissues, improves memory, and boosts immunity. It is easily digested and absorbed in the body. It is especially good for mothers who are breastfeeding their babies.”
    That’s from here :

    Some means to make milk more digestible if you are having problems is cutting it by adding water, adding spices like ginger & turmeric & cooking them together a while & always drinking it warm not cold.
    Here’s another tip:
    “If you have trouble digesting milk and have not consumed it for a while then it is recommended that you start again in a gradual fashion to help your body acclimate to it. Start with drinking 1/8 of a cup of the boiled milk with ginger. Then gradually increase the amount to about a cup over a ten-day period.”
    That comes from here where there are other good helpful tips on drinking milk.
    Best wishes 🙂
    .-= FitRosie´s last blog ..Organic Additive Free Green Superfood – Sweet Wheat® =-.

  22. Hi Katie,
    I just started reading your blog after hearing about your snack book at Fake Plastic Fish.

    About the milk, I’m curious about your take as to why drink milk in the first place? Your explorations are interesting and they do depart from the base of having made the choice to drink milk. You mention that many people who have problems digesting milk can often tolerate raw milk.

    And this is where I get curious. I have been off cow dairy for mostly the last 15 years and in the last year went totally dairy free (includes sheep, goat, etc.) as my daughters were reacting to it (one I am still nursing). I found it very hard at the beginning but now I am fine with it. Reading your post made me wonder if I should try raw milk, but I got stuck on why I would go back to drinking milk at all – our health is fine, in fact we are healtheir now than during milk-days and we consume other sources of calcium and vitamins, and the kids get fish oil every day. I don’t see a real need for milk in our lives now only that it would make eating out easier (but that milk wouldn’t be raw or probably not organic anyway).
    So, can you share your reasons for drinking milk in the first place?

    1. Carla,
      A very valid question, to be certain. Partly, I love it, and it’s in so many things I love. (I’m still rather new to this traditional foods thing, you see, so some reasons are simply “old habit”.) I do think there is a lot of good in milk, and although it’s easy to say that one can get calcium from other sources, try feeding cooked spinach to a 2-year-old for a snack. !! It is nice to have milk, cheese, yogurt (and don’t forget ice cream!) for the kids especially.

      That’s probably not the super thorough, research-based answer you may have expected…but it’s where I came from. No one in my family had trouble with milk, so it wasn’t really a question of “do we” but “which one?”

      If you’re feeling healthy without it, go with your gut, of course! 🙂 Katie

  23. Could you tell me any more information about Low Temperature pasteurization? You said it was a nice alternative? How much better is it than conventional milk? Are their a lot more active enzymes in it? There is a local farm that sells their low temp pasteurized milk at the Earth Fare in my area. I love the taste and consistency and I like that it is un-homogenized. But if its not much better for my family I am not going to by it. I have had the HARDEST time finding information on low temp pasteurizing . Thanks! 🙂

    1. Melissa,
      Hmm. You got me on that one, I guess I don’t have any sources other than “I heard it…” Whoops! I asked some others for help, so hopefully we’ll hear something soon, and I’ll let you know!

      One perspective (mine) is that you can often find grassfed/organic/local milk that isn’t raw by looking for low-temp pasteurized, and those other thing are important to me. ??
      🙂 Katie

    2. I guess it is a tough subject to find info on. @seedsofnutritio shared this link with me via Twitter, but no one else had anything to back up what they thought they knew:
      Aaaaand I just noticed that’s where my grandma and mom (when she can) buys milk! Wow, small world. Basically it sounds like it’s possible that some good bacteria and enzymes survive the 30 minutes at 145F. ??? I dunno though. Kelly the Kitchen Kop thought it damaged the proteins less. Again, ???

      What a good question – I will continue to be on the look out!
      🙂 Katie

      1. Thank you so much for taking the time to reply! Yes, it is an incredibly hard subject to find info on. I even talked to the owner of the Low Temp. Pasteurized milk farm that I buy it from and he even didn’t know what percentage of enzymes survive the 30 min. at 145…only said that…”surely more survive than the milk thats flash pasteurized.” 🙂 I have to say I agree, however until I am for sure…I am having a hard time convincing my hubby that its okay for me to pay 5 dollars a gallon for milk that may or may not be good for us… :/ Please keep me posted on your findings!

  24. I live in Houston, with lots of farms just outside of town. Raw milk runs $7 a gallon, raw cream $8 a quart.
    .-= Milehimama´s last blog ..When Homeschooling Isn’t Working, part 3 =-.

  25. So whole milk isn’t necessarily a lot better than skim milk? I’m asking this because skim raw milk is often on sale at my local store, it tends to be a lot cheaper than whole raw milk. It doesn’t really matter which one I buy?

    Also, my doctor said it was bad to drink milk. He said a new study showed that it is more bad than good for you. I have a feeling raw milk would be different though.
    .-= Anne Linn´s last blog ..My Birthday =-.

    1. Anne,
      I apologize if I was unclear: I think all milk should be as close to natural form as possible, which means fat included. You need the fats to help you metabolize the rest of the milk and the other vitamins you’re eating in that meal.

      There certainly are a lot of opinions about milk, aren’t there?
      🙂 Katie

  26. Betsy (Eco-novice)

    A very interesting post. We had our first try of raw milk at a recent CSA field day. It gave my husband terrible gas, but other than that, I can’t really comment. I kind of think it’s funny that we drink so much milk — my vegan sister reminds me that we are the only mammals that drink milk beyond weaning. I, myself, love a glass of 2% organic milk with my homemade cookies.
    .-= Betsy (Eco-novice)´s last blog ..Top 10 Reasons to Make Your Own Bread =-.

  27. We actually just bought our first gallon of raw milk today. 🙂 And (not counting the deposits on the glass bottles), it’s actually CHEAPER than the “regular” store brand milk at our store. Like $1.50 cheaper. Thanks for breaking it all down for us, I was wondering what the difference is between all the milks.
    .-= keli´s last blog ..Strawberry Picking! =-.

  28. Awesome post! We are Raw Milk people too. I just wish people really understood the truth to their store bought milk. My parents think it is so gross.
    .-= Jill´s last blog ..WFMW ~ Outside Family Game =-.

  29. I am very confused about references in this article, and some of the comments, about organic milk. Why would organic milk be from grain-fed cows? All the organic producers that I know of, including some that produce for Organic Valley, pasture their cows. And why would organic milk be more likely to be ultra-pasteurized than other milk? I’m afraid I do not see the link between organic and ultra-pasturized. I see the ultra-pasteurized label more frequently on conventional milk.

    1. Dawn,
      I’ve never seen a UHT label on conventional milk, but maybe we just live in different areas. I think organic milk is more likely to be ultra high temperature pasteurized because it may have to travel farther to its destination and/or doesn’t sell as quickly, and therefore needs to last longer.

      Organic milk is possibly often from grassfed cows, but there’s no guarantee. That’s why if I was buying organic milk, I’d call the company to see what they about grass vs. grain.

      1. When I called an organic milk producer to find out why all of their milk was UHT I was told it was to keep longer for sale due to less demand than conventional milk.

        Don’t know if it is true for all producers, just that is what that one told me.

      2. prior organic stipulations for milk said cows needed “access to pasture”. they’ve just recently be changed & spell this out a bit more, however, organic milk is probably far from being 100% grassfed.

        1. Tonya,
          Oooo, oooo – you know I’d love a link to see the most recent stipulations. Got a link? Thank you! 🙂 Katie

    2. My parents are Organic Valley farmers, while the cows have access to pastures, they do feed some (organic) corn.

  30. Please, oh please, check out this blog by a mom & 3rd gen dairy farmer on a modern dairy,

    She does tons of pics & video & is starting to make cheese.

  31. Emily @ Live Renewed

    I’m also interested in hearing how much others pay for raw milk, or for organic, grass-fed, pasteurized milk. I’d like to know if $16 a gallon is typical for good quality milk, or just really high. I’m trying to decide if it’s worth it.
    .-= Emily @ Live Renewed´s last blog ..A Letter for My Dad =-.

    1. Emily,
      Some people commented at a Facebook post on the KS page on June 9 about what they pay for raw milk. Huge variation! We pay $6/gallon.
      🙂 Katie

  32. Tina, I think we’ve disagreed before, but here we go again. There’s no evidence that milk or meat from grain fed animals is bad for you. Please stop spreading false info, which really, given your venom, is hatred.

    1. Tonya, the only hostility I’ve read in this whole comment thread is from you! And venom?!? Hello projection.

      Anyway, there is plenty of evidence that grass-fed dairy and beef contain more healthy substances than grain-fed. Certainly, there are studies that have not found this, but then there are conflicting studies in most health and nutrition debates (as well as so many other fields of science.) We all have to decide which studies and info sources we find compelling. If you are confident of the info that supports your milk choices, great! Please go ahead and make them and leave those of us who make different choices in peace. Personally, I only made the choice to drink raw milk after extensive reading and research; I’m aware of the studies on both sides. I buy my milk from a NYS certified, cleanliness-freak dairyman whose milking room is cleaner than my kitchen. (And it costs $3/gallon!!) Katie has done a beautiful job of presenting balanced info about raw milk for any newbie looking to make an informed choice, including linking to the FDA’s anti-raw milk info page.

      It blows my mind that there is such venom against raw milk out there, both on a personal level and an institutional level, while no one is warning people to avoid CAFO ground beef, which has a high systemic probability of being contaminated with e coli 157h7. Some of the anti-raw milk articles out there even mention the dancer who was severely harmed by this type of e coli, even though it was from hamburger, not raw milk!

  33. I will only buy milk from a grass-fed cow. That is more important than anything else. Organic milk comes from confined cows eating grains. I would go w/0 milk before buying organic milk from grain fed cows.

    You can ferment pasteurized, grass-fed milk and it would be good for you. Milk from grain fed cows is NEVER good for you.

    We’ve been off milk for several months while doing the GAPS diet. When we do start drinking milk, it will be raw goat’s milk. Goat’s milk is always A2.

  34. My husband and I just switched over to raw milk a few weeks ago. Not only is it delicious, but we are able to make our own butter and other things with it.
    .-= Robin´s last blog ..Good things are happening! =-.

  35. Emily @ Live Renewed

    I was all ready to jump on the raw milk wagon and then there was a bacterial outbreak locally from raw milk, much like the one Andrea described above. The raw milk I was planning to get was from a different farm, but it still makes me uneasy. Also, my hubby is completely against it, because of that incident.

    I can get organic, 100% grassfed, creamline (un-homogonized), low-temp pasteurized, milk from a diary a few hours away, at a local specialty grocery store. I’ve gotten it a few times, but it is just so expensive – it is $4 a quart, so $16 a gallon!! I’m not even sure that raw milk would cost that much.

    Also, one time when I got the milk it tasted very “fishy”. I have read that it could be from the early spring grass, but I’ve also heard that it could mean the fat in the un-homogonized milk has oxidized. Does anyone else have experience with their milk tasting fishy?

    I’m just torn because we are on a super tight budget for food, and I know good milk is important, but $16 a gallon? I was buying the grassfed milk for us to drink and regular store whole milk to use for cooking, making yogurt, etc., but the last time I bought the grassfed milk it was undrinkable b/c of the fishy taste.

    This is a tough one for me right now.
    .-= Emily @ Live Renewed´s last blog ..A Letter for My Dad =-.

    1. Emily,
      We have issues in the summer only with our milk tasting “off”. Fishy, maybe. It’s so hard to describe. I think it’s when it gets too warm for a brief period of time, even if we open the fridge door too much. You may want to transport in a cooler. It is such a touch decision!

    2. We were doing non-homogenized milk for a while, and had the same experience with the off flavor. I agree, it was almost fishy. I would have liked to keep buying it, but for the same issue.

    3. We’ve also had a problem with our raw milk tasting slightly “off.” Sorry if this is TMI, but it actually kind of reminded me of the taste of refrigerated breast milk. (I had high lipase, so the milk would taste slightly off but it was still safe for my son.) After our raw milk was just two days old in the fridge we didn’t really like the taste anymore, even though we were told it was good for a week.

      1. Michelle,
        Use lots of ice and coolers to transport even for a 5-minute drive! The cold chain is vital for raw milk to stay fresh:

        I hope that helps you as much as it helped us.
        🙂 Katie

  36. Raw milk is legal in California, but the producers have to be certified. I’m assuming this must be costly, because raw whole milk is $12 a gallon at the Farmer’s Market ($14 per gallon or more at the store). Cow shares in the SF Bay Area cost just as much or more. (I recently got a link to one from the local WAPF that worked out to $15 per gallon.) We still buy raw milk when we can, but usually we buy pasteurized, homogenized, local milk from cows that are on pasture “most” of the time. We tried a local pasteurized, unhomogenized milk, but the cream seemed to almost turn into butter at the top of the bottle (you have to cut through it with a butter knife!), and my husband just couldn’t hack little bits floating in his milk. (He’s very patient with my experimentation but sometimes I go over his limit!) I’d be interested to know why the pasteurized milk had this problem when I’ve never seen it with raw milk. Sigh… I worry about milk more than any other food item in our house.

  37. Steph (The Cheapskate Cook)

    Thanks for breaking down the milk-lingo!
    I spent my high school years raising dairy goats and reaping the fabulous benefits of raw milk ( ~ 1 year after moving out of the house I developed an allergy to cow’s milk – go figure, haha). As we learned about pasturizing (eventually stopped) and cheese-making, I’ll never forget how great it was to know that our food was absolutely real.
    I also won’t forget traipsing up to the barn at 5AM in the middle of winter to milk a goat. Yeah. That was real too.

  38. I’m prob. the most lucky person as I have cows grazing right where I can see the in the organic fields near our house. It’s not raw when I get it but it’s very fresh. I’d be interested to try raw sometime.
    Re skim milk, I read somewhere that one needs the fat in the milk to help digest the rest of it, I guess the protein.
    There is more to cows than milk 🙂
    Ayur Vedic scriptures say that patting a cow is a rasayana, that is something that “promote health, provide defense against disease, and promote longevity” One gets a very settled & sweet feeling around our nearby cows & patting is free 🙂
    .-= FitRosie´s last blog ..Exercise Motivation =-.

  39. The only time I have had natural milk is while on a family farm. It was very yummy, and cheese from farms like that are so much superior over what you can buy. I buy organic milk sometimes, and it’s probasbly not low pasteurized – I am going to look for that option – but now I think I understand why what I buy seems to stay fresh longer than regular milk.

    Some of this stuff just depresses me!

  40. I used to drink about 6 glasses of pasteurized 1/2% raw milk a day. Then I discovered that dairy is linked to acne. I then avoided dairy till I became acne free which I am now since I went primal.

    I LOVE raw cheese from grassfields farm to death but have yet to try raw milk. I want to really bad and reading this article makes me want it a whole lot more.

    Since we are both from MI, what farm do you recommend I try raw milk from? Thanks!
    .-= Primal Toad´s last blog ..June Chicago Trip: Severe Storms (Tornado?) & Barefoot Golf =-.

  41. I shop at Trader Joe’s and Harris Teeter. They both sell organic, non-UHT milk by the gallon. The Trader Joe’s version appears to be non-homogenized as well. (At least, it doesn’t admit to being homogenized anywhere on the gallon.)

    We are switching to raw milk next week. Andrea’s story is certainly scary. However, I keep reminding myself that bacteria scares happen with all sorts of foods, and the outbreaks due to raw milk are actually very rare. Additionally, from what I’ve read, the stomach of grass-fed cows is highly inhospitable to e-coli. So the chances of finding e-coli in/around these cows is extremely small.

    1. emily, it has been scientifically proven that grass feeding does NOT prevent or deter e coli. here’s a lay press article on the topic. if you want an article by a couple vets with all the research articles, i have that too.

  42. Just so you (and your readers) know, pasteurization was NOT originally invented for milk. It was invented for alcohol. But then they realized that since they were feeding the leftover swill from making alcohol to the cows (who were getting sick and producing pus-filled, nasty milk), they could probably pasteurize that, too, and make it “safe” to drink.

    I have two good options here: two different low-temp pasteurized, grass-fed milks; and raw milk. Raw milk is cheaper but not as easy to get (I have to drive 2 hours). I buy raw milk every 2 – 3 weeks and turn it into ice cream, cheese etc. quickly so we can use it as best we can. If I run out and need more I’ll buy the local low-temp pasteurized milk. I also choose to buy the low-temp pasteurized cream to make butter so that I can save a lot of money on butter. It makes me laugh that I can buy a 1/2 gal. of cream! It’s only because others want fat-free milk and of course, I can’t imagine why. Ha.

    I am luckier than many, though, milk-wise. I have some pretty good options here. In general in my state there are good options because we have a significant Amish population, although raw milk is illegal. Sigh.
    .-= Kate´s last blog ..Farmer’s Markets =-.

    1. I wasn’t around in 1861 when pasteurization was invented, so I can’t speak to farm conditions then, but generally, overall I expect NONE of their sanitation was good at the time, both on farms & in households.

      distiller’s grains are not “swill” & cow’s milk is not “pus”. i guess this “pus” misnomer comes from mastitic cows. that milk is NOT entering the food supply & no manner of pasteurization would make it pass such that it could. milk pricing encourages farms to keep their somatic cell counts (mastitis indicator) low & there is a threshold where milk will not be purchased by a supplier/cooperative.

  43. The sale of aw milk here is illegal, but MI does allow the sale of cow shares. However, with all the hullabaloo about Organic Valley going on, the farm where we have been considering purchasing a cow share has been told they can no longer sell shares AND do business with OV. Not sure what they have decided yet, but until then we buy local, organic, grass fed, low pasteurized, whole milk from our health food store. Pricey at $4.49 for 1/2 gal, but worth it. I buy about 4 1/2 gal. per week and only my husband and I drink it. My 21 yo son prefers store bought 1%, so that’s what he gets. Crazy how it is legal in some states and not in others. Why should anyone tell us what we can and cannot put into our own bodies? If the question is how “dangerous” raw milk can be for our health, why do they allow cigarettes to be sold?
    So….we are doing what we can with what we have.
    .-= Cindy Young´s last blog ..CHECK OUT THESE BUNS! =-.

    1. Cindy, You would appreciate this post at the Happy Housewife:
      Also – what is the deal with Organic Valley? I’m clueless about news…

      Thanks! 🙂 Katie

      1. The “hullabaloo” she may be referring to is that Organic Valley sent out notices to their producers that if the farmers wish to remain with Organic Valley, then they can no longer sell raw milk.

        1. Thanks, Jodie! Re-reading, I realize now that I even know the farm Cindy is speaking of, I think. They chose to lose their contract with Organic Valley in order to keep serving their raw milk customers locally, such a shame though.

          1. Tribes_NaturaLaw

            It is not a shame about the farm, they made the right choice, the shame is ‘organic valley’ which is a billion dollar corporation, once masses of farmers to ‘join’, any time there’s a big group the ‘directors’ become a central dictating force, the same bogus power dicatating type as ‘govt’, then the power of the individual farmer goes down. The farmers making their own small groups themselves would be better and self directing, especially if they then make groups with the people who buy their milk. Our own power groups for freedom. We are free to make choices, but if we don’t take action make the choice for freedom, soon it won’t be possible. Most important is to talk to and inform each other in real life, make action off the web where it matters.

  44. We have WIC, and I am so glad to see that many store brands of milk are at least hormone free. I don’t buy organic milk (though I do buy Promised Land cream), and I’ve never, ever seen grass fed pasteurized milk.

    For us, being rBGH/rBST free is the most important. I do admit that I am still leery of raw milk because of listeria, and I am so very often pregnant. The benefit is just not worth the risk to me because of that.
    .-= Milehimama´s last blog ..When Homeschooling Isn’t Working, part 3 =-.

  45. AmandaonMaui

    My options are UHT Organic Non-Local, Pasteurized Local Non-Organic, and Organic Pasteurized Certified Humane from California.

    My decision falls between the latter two as the prices are the same. Oil for shipping the milk, or non-0rganic milk from a neighbor island?

    The milk from California is coming on a refrigerator ship that has food that’d be coming anyway.

    But, I want to support local dairy farming. All of the islands used to have 1 or more dairies, but they all closed. Then, a couple years ago a dairy opened again on a neighbor island.

    I wish Haleakala Dairy hadn’t closed. 🙁 The Happy Cows of California thing was actually The Happy Cows of Haleakala. California dairies bought the brand and slogan, then the dairy here shut down. Now the islands pay heavy premiums for dairy products that they wouldn’t have paid in the past.
    .-= AmandaonMaui´s last blog ..Happy Father’s Day! =-.

  46. I was a raw milk convert too, until this past spring. The co-op I was getting my milk through experienced an outbreak of a food poisoning bacteria called campylobacter. Unfortunately, I was never notified by my co-op that this was happening. I found out through a third party. My whole family was already experiencing food poisoning symptoms, the worst was for my 2 1/2 year old son who was having bloody stools. The health department tested all of the milk, the containers for collecting milk, the cows, the milking equipment, and the troughs the cows drink from. All of the tests came back negative. However, many members of the co-op tested positive for this bacteria. I never ended up having our family tested, but opted to treat as though it was the bacteria and we all had a course of antibiotics to be on the safe side. It’s the one and only time my kids have had antibiotics! From what I understand, testing for bacteria like this is kind of like fishing. You can cast your line into a pond full of fish, but it doesn’t mean you’ll neccesarily catch one. I’m relating this story just to give a warning to all who drink raw milk. Make sure you know your source well… go visit the farm. And make sure there is a system in place to notify you if there is a contamination that occurs. I found out a full 5 days after the farmers who run the co-op were getting numerous calls about people getting sick. I should have had the option on whether I wanted to give my children that milk. I still believe that raw milk is the best option if you choose to drink milk, but we no longer get raw milk. I really miss it. There is nothing like the taste! I just can’t stop thinking about what could have happened if the bacteria had been e-coli. Thankfully, it was relatively mild.
    I’m new to your blog, but I’m really loving it! Thank you for all the great info!
    Andrea Stevens

    1. That is a scary scenario, but to be fair: campylobacter can be spread easily in/among farm animals. My family had a few turns with it growing up, and we never drank a drop of raw milk or even milked cows–at our house, it was spread by too much dirty clothing/shoes piling up during lambing season in the winter. According to our doctor, too much cross contamination between barn stuff (buckets, lamb bottles, dirty barn clothing) and the house, especially kitchen/bathroom, would inevitably lead to an outbreak. Unwashed produce, or eggs, or even eggs that were cartoned by dirty hands, could lead to something similar. This is one of the realities of dealing with animals!

      1. Really, bacteria can come from anywhere, and food from the supermarket isn’t safe from outbreaks either. My problem with this particular incident was that the co-op didn’t contact the members to alert us to the possible outbreak. It just really got me thinking that with small children, what risks am I willing to take? E. coli can kill a child. While raw milk has a ton of benefits as far as good bacteria, I’ve chosen to avoid it in favor of other beneficial foods. I really miss our yummy raw milk though! : (

      2. Crystal Kehn

        Hi Amanda,
        Did your family boil the milk from your farm to drink? We live in Uganda and though our milk comes fresh from local cows everyday, we hate knowing that we have to boil out all those wonderful beneficial parts of the milk! I’m trying to find out if there is a way I can do low temp pasteurization at home? Any thoughts? Thanks!

    2. Andrea,
      I just wanted to thank you for sharing your story. It does make me think about notification – would our farm notify? I hope so, but I’ve never asked! The comments from others on this topic are really helpful, too.
      🙂 Katie

      1. just wanted to say I appreciate your comments as well, Andrea, especially

        “It just really got me thinking that with small children, what risks am I willing to take? E. coli can kill a child.”

  47. I am so used to non-fat/skim milk that to go straight to raw may be hard. Now I really appreciate this article because it shows me the difference in the grass-fed, organic 1% milk I have in the fridge (almost “there”) and raw milk that costs even more (but much better health-wise). My husband on the other hand, is thrilled about the prospect of raw milk coming into our home. But he mentions one thing, he said it needs boiled before drinking, is this true? From what I read, it seems it doesn’t, but he told me that is what they did in Mexico and is how they made it safer to drink. Seems from what you say though, it would kill a lot of good bacteria. Thanks for another enlightening post!!

    1. Erin,
      Boiling your raw milk is basically home pasteurization, which defeats the purpose of “raw” and takes it back to one of the other options listed in this post. It kills both the enzymes and bacteria – if you have a safe source of raw milk, you are able to just drink it. I would guess that perhaps the cattle conditions or even the ability to keep the milk cold in Mexico may have been different than you’ll find here. Hope you and your husband enjoy the new milk!
      🙂 Katie

  48. My pediatrician actually tells her patients to limit a child’s intake of milk to 16 oz/day (so that they are not filling up on milk and not eating food!). Unfortunately, raw milk is illegal in my state. We do have a coop that goes to another state weekly to get it, but it’s quite the hassle.

    I have been buying non- homogenized organic milk that comes from a farm the next state over at Whole Foods. I also noticed last week that Trader Joe’s is now selling a “cream on top” non-homogenized organic milk. I haven’t done research in to it yet, but it’s nice to see that option!
    .-= Camille´s last blog ..Menu Plan Monday, June 21 =-.

    1. I wanted to add that the TASTE of the higher quality milk is so worth it! The closer you get to raw… the yummier it is! My husband and I used to rarely drink milk, but now that we get the best quality we can, we drink at least one cup a day.
      .-= Camille´s last blog ..Menu Plan Monday, June 21 =-.

  49. Ah, milk, near & dear to my heart as a kid who grew up on a dairy drinking raw milk.

    first, what farm did your kids visit this year? I’d like to know. They didn’t do a good job of agvocating. i’m disappointed.

    It’s not that the cows can’t share the milk with the calves. Today’s dairy cattle produce significantly more milk than the cow back in the day that you refer to, so they could easily support their calf, farmer, & consumers. For health/biosecurity, it’s better for the calves to be housed individually. I suspect on large farms the trend is now to feed milk replacer vs. waste milk. That is also for health reasons. It should be noted that the calf receives all it’s immunity from the colostrum. If they can’t received their mom’s colostrum, they get donor colostrum or colostrum replacer. Colostrum is VERY important. Calves’ guts close shortly after birth & they are no longer able to keep building their immunity w/ their mother’s milk, like you may be familiar with with human infants. Cattle immunoglobulins are simply too large to pass through the gut once that window of opportunity passes.

    rBST/rBGH is a peptide hormone produced in similar fashion to human insulin for diabetics, via recombinant technology (a point I raised recently that made one person go “hmmm”). that’s what the r is for. Cattle produce these hormones endogenously & secrete them in their own milk. The hormones, endogenous & recombinant, are peptides, which means they get broken down in your stomach like any other protein.

    cattle experience a negative energy balance shortly after they begin a lactation cycle. they phycially cannot eat enough to keep meat on their bones. you will probably never see a chubby milking cow. with grass alone, it’s even harder to meet a cow’s energy demand because it is not as energy dense.

    post college, i am unsure how i feel about raw milk. it is legal for sale here in WA, but recently, a dairy has been in the news for e coli contamination leading to illness.

    [b]for a look at a modern dairy farm written by a mom & 3rd gen dairy farmer, please see or @dairygoddess on twitter. She’s awesome. Lotsa pics & vids from the farm on her webpage. & she’s starting a cheese business. [/b]

    1. Thanks, Tonya! I knew you’d pop in on this one… 😉
      Do you know what farmers of old used to feed their lactating cows to help them keep up their energy? I just had a farmer tell me recently that dairy cows could NOT survive on grass alone, because they wouldn’t have enough energy. Hmmmm…

      I did remember the recombinant technology post from you; that’s kind of what I meant when I said that even though the cattle naturally produce the hormone, I don’t trust adding more into the system. Too much of any good and natural thing throws off the balance.

      🙂 Katie

      1. First off, cow milk production has increased thanks to genetics (breeding such that subsequent generations are better. I’d say this is the primary way production was increased.) & use of rBST/rBGH (relatively new, so not as much influence), so it’s possible that cows back in the day didn’t need as much energy as today’s cows. without this increase in production efficiency, we might not have enough milk to go around.

        having been raised on a small & not very progressive dairy farm that grazed in the summer & fed hay in the winter from my birth in 1981 til we got out of the biz in the late 90’s, it’s really pretty unimaginable to me to have a dairy cow who is not being supplemented with silage, haylage, or some grain combo to help maintain their condition & support their milk output. like any farm kid, i was hands on in the business my whole life, so it’s not like something was happening I didn’t know about. I’ve done everything from feed calves, put up hay, vet care, milking, & breeding decisions. (ps, glad the dairy farmer corroborated what I told you about grass alone.)

        thinking back to the lovely pastoral scenes in laura ingall’s wilder books, I remember her describing the threshers. the use of grain to formulate rations is really NOT a new idea.

  50. I know all of this info…but my problem is, now that I’m in central Texas (where you’d think they should have plenty of cows grazing…) WHERE can I find raw milk? I’m Swiss, born & raised…we always had raw milk. Where can I find it?

    1. Elisa,
      You might try or I believe one or both of them has a local farmers locator. Also check your health foods stores and ask around there for someone who might know. Good luck! 🙂 Katie

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