As fewer of us grow up on farms, the dream of farm-fresh food grows. I can’t count how many times I’ve heard the fantasy of drinking milk straight from the cow. So why is it that we can’t buy raw milk at the grocery store?

raw milk

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In the simplest of terms, raw milk is simply milk that has not been pasteurized. Pasteurization is a heating process that kills harmful bacteria, including Salmonella, E.Coli, and Listeria. Just as you cook meat before you eat it, pasteurizing milk is very much a similar precaution to keep your food safe.

raw milk

Photo by Topanga McBride

The FDA requires that all milk sold is pasteurized to ensure that the milk is safe for consumption. However, in certain states, different laws allow consumers to obtain milk, whether it be directly from the farm or in the form of a cow share, where the consumer pays to help care for the cow, therefore getting a percentage of milk in return.

Just because you might be able to obtain raw milk doesn’t mean you should drink it. From 1987 to 2010, the FDA reported 133 outbreaks caused by the consumption of raw milk, resulting in 2,659 cases of illnesses, 269 hospitalizations, three deaths, six stillbirths, and two miscarriages.

raw milk

Photo by Helena Lin

The raw milk movement revolves around a series of myths, like pasteurizing milk causes allergic reactions and that pasteurization reduces the nutritional value of the milk. However, the FDA has compiled an extensive summary of resources that debunk these myths.

You still might find plenty of resources advocating for raw milk consumption, but sites like this one clearly state that they are simply for information, not for reliable medical advice.

raw milk

Photo courtesy of Topanga McBride

Even though consuming raw milk is frowned upon for food safety reasons, that doesn’t mean practices by dairy farmers are unsafe. There are plenty of regulations in place to keep the milking process as clean as possible; the pasteurization process is simply the best way to guarantee every jug of milk is safe. Even many dairy farmers who work hard to ensure that their products are safe choose to drink pasteurized milk.

While raw milk may seem like the healthiest choice due its lack of processing, we have to keep in mind that processing isn’t a bad thing. Thanks to processing techniques like pasteurization, you can drink your glass of milk in confidence.