Sunday, February 26, 2012

a balanced raw milk debate

over the past couple days, i have watched bits and pieces of a raw milk debate that occurred at harvard law school earlier this month.  it is rare that raw milk is debated by both sides in the same location at the same time.  i appreciated that this debate was fair and balanced, with leading experts from both sides of the debate.  it is long (an hour and a half) but i recommend it to you (you can watch it while nursing, doing dishes or other activities where your hands are busy but your ears are free, like i did!):

i took notes here and there throughout the debate, and here are some of the things that i learned that stuck out to me:

*raw milk contains all the components of blood (including lymphocytes, etc) except for red blood cells

*only .005% of food borne illnesses come from raw milk.  and this is not for lack of drinkers: 9 million americans (3% of our population) drink raw milk

*studies show that raw milk helps relieve asthma.  5500 people per year die of asthma.  no one has died of raw milk consumption in the past 20 years.

*CDC: "raw milk is one of the riskiest foods of all" (this is a curious point since earlier i pointed out that only .005% of food borne illnesses come from raw milk)

*yes, there are small risks involved with drinking raw milk.  but there are risks in consuming any food.  recently people have died from diseases contracted from spinach, ground beef, cantaloupe and peanut butter but no one is talking about completely banning these foods.  so why raw milk?

*a study was done with rats. some were fed exclusively raw milk and some pasteurized milk.  not only were the raw milk fed rats healthier, but they also behaved better.  the pasteurized milk fed rats tended to bite their handlers.  interestingly, anecdotally, the number one result of giving raw milk to their children that parents report is better behavior.

*the biggest disease concern with raw milk is the fact that udders are close to the cow's anus, therefore fecal contamination is a danger.  cows produce a lot of manure... 125+ lbs per day!!

*one debater (a lawyer) recommended that raw milk purchasers be forced to sign a waiver before purchasing raw milk.  one audience member asked why mcdonald's (which is causing WAY more people to become unhealthy) wouldn't have to have customers sign a waiver.

*raw milk freedom: it comes down to the pursuit of happiness.  
you can see that my notes lean towards the pro-raw milk side of things (indeed, we buy raw milk whenever i can fit it into our budget), but you will find a balanced view of both sides if you watch the video.  overall, i was more impressed with the pro-raw milk side and learned a lot that i hadn't already learned from my research, but i was also challenged by some of the points made by the raw milk cautioners. 

what do you think? do you drink raw milk?  should it be legal?  if you drink it, have you seen health benefits?  if you don't, what are your concerns?

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