Raw Milk Myths Part 3 of 3

June 13, 2017

Milk pouring into glass Make sure you have read Raw Milk Myths Part 1 and Raw Milk Myths Part 2. If you have, we’ll move onto the 3rd myth:

Myth #3: Pasteurization is in everyone’s best interest.

This argument is the one legislators and health officials used in the early 1900’s when sanitary regulation of dairy producers was lacking. Today, the practice of pasteurization helps mega-farms to maintain inhumane animal practices, produce inferior product and preserve plenty of profit and power.

Corporate lobbying has greatly reduced the improvement of herd and harvest. Organic regulations forbid a farm from advertising any practices they employ that are above and beyond established standards!

It is somehow “unfair” to industrial farms that smaller dairies might give their animals better feed, greener pasture and less medications. (So much for laissez-faire and the evolution of better goods due to competitive marketing.)

Legislation is preventing the development of better milk by squashing the ability of small farms to sell it. It is difficult for small farms to afford pasteurizing machinery and pay licensing and other fees to keep up with various certifying processes. Lobbyists are pushing for mandatory pasteurization of fruit juices and other products as well.

Lawrence Busch, director of Michigan State’s Institute for Food and Agricultural Standards explains that regulatory standards like these are manipulated to pacify corporate lobbyists and big industry. Standardization of practices that mega-farms already have in place and can easily afford, puts smaller farms and manufacturers at a disadvantage.

Food science professor H. Douglas Goff says, “I can understand how some people would understand it’s possible to make pathogen-free milk on a very small and very clean farm. But scaling that up, that’s where it falls apart.”

Smaller farms are a threat to large dairy producers. They usually use organic feed, green grass and rapid cooling techniques to provide raw milk.

Industrial farms don’t have enough pasture land to contain large numbers of animals and let them grass feed. The crowded conditions and inferior feed (mostly corn and soy that has been genetically engineered and treated with pesticides) necessitate antibiotic treatment. Growth hormones up milk production by many gallons per animal.

Pasteurization adds many more steps to the process of milk production, and many more opportunities for things to go wrong. The cleanliness standards for milk are lower in large dairies because the milk is going to be heat-treated anyway.

Raw Milk Myths

The following is a comparison of sanitary checklists for a raw milk dairy farm versus what California State and County Laws require for pasteurized milk.

Raw Milk Pasteurized Milk
Tested daily at independent lab for the Certified Milk Commission Tested once a month by the Health Department
Bacteria count: 10,000 per milliliter Bacteria count: 15,000 per milliliter
Streptococci test once a month No Streptococci test required
Monthly employment examination of workers Physical examination of workers at hire only
Throat culture and streptococcus test on workers monthly None
Other infectious tests of employees at regular intervals None
Bi-annual stool sample from workers None
Annual tuberculosis testing of employees None

New California law requires that all milk must contain less than 10 non-pathogenic Coliform bacteria per milliliter. Non-pathogenic Coliform does not cause illness. It is a measure used to determine the destruction of all bacteria and enzymes in milk.

Sally Fallon says that this 10 coliform-test of sterility does nothing to ensure the cleanliness of a farm. It only verifies the effectiveness of pasteurization–its destructive ability.

She points out that pasteurized milk is 1.1 to 15.3 times more likely to cause a food-borne illness than raw milk is and that people are 2000 times more likely to become ill from any other food other than milk.

Consumers have been taught to equate pasteurization with sterility and yet bacterial growth and other infection of milk easily occurs after the pasteurization process on industrial farms: during handling, bottling, transport and storage.

Just like our “sick-care” system, pasteurization treats disease that high-yield farming creates, rather than changing conditions so that disease does not occur in the first place.

America consumes the highest amount of dairy products compared to most nations and yet has increasingly higher incidences of osteoporosis and other disorders related to calcium deficiencies.

Lactose intolerance and other allergies are on the rise, homogenized milk generates dangerous free radicals, large organic milk manufacturers use Ultra High Temperature (UHT) pasteurization.

UHT-treated milk can sit on a truck or shelf without refrigeration for up to six months. This type of “flash pasteurization” leaves so little beneficial bacteria, enzymes and nutrients that it cannot be used to culture yogurt or cheese.

Taste, nutrition and sub-standards aside, what bothers people most about the dairy industry and government agencies is the regulation that limits our freedom of choice.

Terri Lawton, a dairy inspector-turned-farmer agrees. “I think the real issue has more to do with freedom to choose. People can choose to buy cigarettes which are inherently harmful and have no supposed benefits, whereas raw milk is not inherently harmful and has benefits.”

In “Some Like It Raw,” civil libertarian John Schwenkler writes:

“Pasteurization is not a cheap process, and therefore the legal demand for pasteurization favors large producers. A small, independent dairy farm may very well not be able to afford pasteurization equipment (not at government standards, at least), and thus micro-dairies can rarely operate legally on their own. With the dairy industry more centralized, it becomes easier to track and regulate—and control.

Control of the milk supply has been a primary step in the state’s efforts to control the larger food supply. Agriculture continues to fall further and further under the eye of government regulation, as do businesses as diverse as potato-chip manufacturers and fast-food restaurants. The USDA, FDA, and myriad other state and federal agencies make no bones about their goal of controlling every morsel Americans consume—all for our own good, of course. . .

Ask a random acquaintance if he would consider drinking unpasteurized milk. You may very well get a look of horror in return. Why do people feel that way? Simply because they have been indoctrinated to feel that way. Why not be just as accepting of government regulation over their mayonnaise or their chicken or their lettuce? How about their water supply or the cars they drive or how warm they keep their homes in the wintertime? Though not necessarily a conscious progression, control by the state, when left unchecked, simply grows and expands naturally.”

Tim Carney, author of The Big Ripoff, agrees. “Regulation always helps the big guys by creating barriers to entry, but there’s a more important dynamic here:  When you give the government power, you give the lobbyists power. It also works the other way: when only a handful of businesses dominate an industry, bureaucrats and politicians find it easier to control that industry.”

Consumers have grown more and more interested in the availability of raw milk, buying local and sustainable farming.

Our culture of convenience and pillage-now-pay-later attitude, as it applies to all of our natural resources, is making less and less sense as to being in anyone’s self-interest.

Henry Harris of the Food Security Roundtable believes:

“The entire economy built around food is unsafe and unethical. Food is the greatest place for communities to start taking back power. The national food system is collapsing by degrees. More than 50% of what we eat comes from the Central Valley of California. What happens when gasoline becomes $5 a gallon or drought sweeps across the cropland? The monolithic system of food production is highly unstable. It has to be replaced very soon with small, diverse sources that provide greater food security.”

Writer Chris Hedges points out that during the Depression era, local connections and bartering systems saved many from starvation. Today, we are completely separated from our food supply except as consumers: we don’t produce it ourselves, we don’t know what’s in it and we don’t know where it comes from.

The small dairy farms fighting against raw milk bans and big dairy industry have been likened to a modern-day David and Goliath story.

One of the ways that people are fighting back is with something called “cooperative capitalism.” They’re rejecting government regulation and looking for ways to form new economic relationships within their food systems.

A herdshare comes into being when a farmer sells cows to a group of consumers. The buyers help to pay for the upkeep of the animal and get free raw milk.

Contracts between consumers and farmers include regular testing to ensure cleanliness, guarantees of green pasture and organic feed, and other measures that contribute to satisfaction for both parties.

Accountability is direct, local and immediately evident. Because the raw milk is not generated for sale to the general public, the government should have no say in the matter.

In the UK, where the dairy industry is less centralized, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) says, “The government is not and will not be telling people what kind of milk to drink. People need to make their own decisions.”

It is amazing to think that a farmer can legally be prevented from selling milk from his cow to his neighbor, and that we can be forced to purchase government-sanctioned, toxin-laden and nutrient-bereft food.

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