Got raw milk?
I was driving through the countryside on the school bus on my way to my small, rural middle school.
It was an early fall morning and the fog was so thick I couldn’t see the car ahead of the bus.
As I stared out into the abyss without any sense of direction, the occasional sounds of tractors and mooing cows were the only thing reminding me that I wasn’t trapped in some purgatory nightmare.
When the fog cleared as we drove by one of the big dairies in town, my face was eagerly pressed to the window to get a glimpse of the world again.
In crystal clear view were thousands of cows lined up in the feedlot, standing ankle deep in their frozen poop. Dead cows piled up on the side of the road, waiting to be thrown into the incinerator.
The cows groaned and shifted uncomfortably—their massive, artificially large udders hanging like huge sacks of flour between their back legs. Workers flitted in between the rows of cows, attaching the milking machine to relieve the poor girls’ bursting udders.
What a stark contrast to the bucolic scene I’d left that morning as I waited for the school bus:
Mom walked out into the green pastures to open the gate for the three cows that waited patiently—their doe eyes blinking lazily. They walked through the lush pastures until they reached the milking barn where they lined up for their turn to lumber up onto the stanchion one at a time.
She wiped down their udders and attached the milking machine, the milk traveling directly into a closed metal container. The girls waited out in the paddock while mom hauled the large canister of warm milk into a little room off to the side of the barn and poured it through a filter right into 30 sterilized half-gallon glass jars. She closed the jars and put them into a tub filled with ice water so the milk would chill as quickly as possible.
After moving the contented cows to a fresh pasture, Mom grabbed the jars of milk out of the ice water—the cream already risen to the top—and put them in a fridge where eager families would buy them throughout the day.
This unpasteurized, non-homogenized milk straight from the cow is nothing like what you can find in the store.
But why go to all the trouble? It takes a lot longer for Mom to get 15 precious gallons of milk than for the big dairies to pump out thousands everyday.
My family made the choice to go raw for health reasons.
For years as little kids, my brother and I suffered from such severe eczema that our skin was raw and bleeding. We were on constant rounds of antibiotics for the colds we got every year and fought food allergies that made us even sicker.
We were desperate. We would do anything to feel better, even if it meant drinking raw milk. Within weeks of drinking it, our eczema disappeared, spurring my mom to start our small, family dairy, Champoeg Creamery.
Our weekly customers drink the milk for health reasons as well, fighting asthma, obesity, IBS, arthritis and a myriad of other illnesses. Even mainstream medicine is getting on board and the literature supports raw milk as a nutritious food superior to the pasteurized alternative.
Dr. Jonathan Kerr, Professor of Epidemiology at the Universidad del Rosario, has been very public about the differences between raw and pasteurized, stating, “These two entities are completely different in structure, content, nutritional benefits, and disease associations, and referring to both as “milk” underestimates this difference.”  Kerr explains that pasteurization kills beneficial bacteria, reducing the nutritional value of milk proteins and vitamins, and does not confer the same protective health benefits as raw milk.
While it is well established that kids growing up on farms have less allergies and asthma than city kids, this “farm effect” [2,3,4] phenomenon had been previously attributed to many elements. However, it seems drinking raw milk is the determining factor in many cases—not the actual farm life. [5,6,7,8]
Grass fed: Better for us, the animals and the planet.
Cows are naturally meant to roam on pasture and eat grass.
When thousands of cows are crammed into industrial feedlots living in their own filth, it’s a recipe for disaster. Infection spreads easily, tainting the milk, thus requiring pasteurization.
Conversely, cows that graze pasture are far healthier, producing high quality milk free of the contaminants present in industrial milk. As long as farmers effectively sanitize their milking equipment and maintain high standards of cleanliness, it is easy to produce safe and nutritious raw milk. [9,10,11,12,13]
Not only do the cows in industrial dairies lack a healthy environment, they are exposed to chemicals that have no place in an environmentally sustainable society. Waste runoff and the industrial byproducts pollute waterways and do as much harm to the local environment and biodiversity as they do to the cows. [14,15,16,17,18,19] Farms with a pasture-based system have healthier animals and greater biodiversity. All the more reason to seek raw milk from pastured cows.
Supporting our local farmers means so much more than simply buying healthy food.
It means we support a way of life. We support the ethical treatment of animals and a healthier planet. We support higher standards for food and understand the value of a quality product.
Although it breaks my heart to drive by the feedlot dairies just down the road from my family’s farm, their constant presence reminds us that we’re doing the right thing. We’re creating a product that heals the body rather than harms it. We’re creating a happy, healthy environment for animals that would otherwise be living in misery, kept alive by an endless stream of antibiotics and hormones.
We’re grateful for the growing number of people who are willing to take a stand and go raw.
 Kerr, J. (2014). Milk and mortality: Raw versus pasteurised milk. Bmj. Retrieved July 31, 2015, from http://www.bmj.com/content/349/bmj.g6993
 Perkin, M., & Strachan, D. (2006). Which aspects of the farming lifestyle explain the inverse association with childhood allergy? Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, 1374-1381. Retrieved July 31, 2015, from http://www.jacionline.org/article/S0091-6749(06)00651-8/abstract
 Braun-Fahrla¨nder Ch, Gassner M, Grize L, Neu U, Sennhauser FH, Varonier HS, et al. Prevalence of hay fever and allergic sensitization in farmer’s children and their peers living in the same rural community. Clin Exp Allergy 1999;29:28-34.
 von Ehrenstein OS, von Mutius E, Illi S, Baumann L, Bohm O, von Kries R. Reduced risk of hay fever and asthma among children of farmers. Clin Exp Allergy 2000;30:187-93.
 Loss, G., Apprich, S., Waser, M., Kneifel, W., Genuneit, J., Büchele, G., . . . Braun-Fahrländer, C. (2011). The protective effect of farm milk consumption on childhood asthma and atopy: The GABRIELA study. Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology.
 Riedler J, Braun-Fahrla¨nder C, Eder W, Schreuer M, Waser M, Maisch S, et al. Exposure to farming in early life and development of asthma and allergy: a cross-sectional survey. Lancet 2001;358:1129-33.
 Wlasiuk, G., & Vercelli, D. (2012). The farm effect, or: When, what and how a farming environment protects from asthma and allergic disease. Current Opinion in Allergy and Clinical Immunology, 461-466.
 Cepeda, A., Giacco, S., Villalba, S., Tapias, E., Jaller, R., Segura, A., . . . Garcia-Larsen, V. (2015). A Traditional Diet Is Associated with a Reduced Risk of Eczema and Wheeze in Colombian Children. Nutrients, 5098-5110. Retrieved July 31, 2015, from http://www.mdpi.com/2072-6643/7/7/5098
 Loss, Georg, Martin Depner, Laurien H. Ulfman, R.j. Joost Van Neerven, Alexander J. Hose, Jon Genuneit, Anne M. Karvonen, Anne Hyvärinen, Vincent Kaulek, Caroline Roduit, Juliane Weber, Roger Lauener, Petra Ina Pfefferle, Juha Pekkanen, Outi Vaarala, Jean-Charles Dalphin, Josef Riedler, Charlotte Braun-Fahrländer, Erika Von Mutius, and Markus J. Ege. “Consumption of Unprocessed Cow’s Milk Protects Infants from Common Respiratory Infections.” Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology 135.1 (2015).
 Neerven, R., Knol, E., Heck, J., & Savelkoul, H. (2012). Which factors in raw cow’s milk contribute to protection against allergies? Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, 853-858.
 Sozańska, B., Pearce, N., Dudek, K., & Cullinan, P. (2013). Consumption of unpasteurized milk and its effects on atopy and asthma in children and adult inhabitants in rural Poland. Allergy, 644-650.
 Waser, M., Michels, K., Bieli, C., Flöistrup, H., Pershagen, G., Mutius, E., . . . Braun-Fahrländer, C. (2007). Inverse association of farm milk consumption with asthma and allergy in rural and suburban populations across Europe. Clinical & Experimental Allergy Clin Exp Allergy, 661-670.
 Dhiman, T.r., G.r. Anand, L.d. Satter, and M.w. Pariza. “Conjugated Linoleic Acid Content of Milk from Cows Fed Different Diets.” Journal of Dairy Science (1999): 2146-156. Print.
 Lewis, D., Atwill, E., Lennox, M., Hou, L., Karle, B., & Tate, K. (2005). Linking on-farm dairy management practices to storm-flow fecal coliform loading for California coastal watersheds. Environmental Monitoring and Assessment Environ Monit Assess, 407-425.
 Lewis, D., Atwill, E., Lennox, M., Pereira, M., Miller, W., Conrad, P., & Tate, K. (2009). Reducing microbial contamination in storm runoff from high use areas on California coastal dairies. Water Science & Technology, 1731-1731.
 Dai, X., Saha, C., Ni, J., Heber, A., Blanes-Vidal, V., & Dunn, J. (2015). Characteristics of pollutant gas releases from swine, dairy, beef, and layer manure, and municipal wastewater. Water Research, 110-119.
 “Facts about Pollution from Livestock Farms.” NRDC:. Web. 1 Aug. 2015.
 “What’s the Problem?” EPA. Environmental Protection Agency. Web. 1 Aug. 2015.
 Fraser, Mariecia D., Jon M. Moorby, James E. Vale, and Darren M. Evans. “Mixed Grazing Systems Benefit Both Upland Biodiversity and Livestock Production.” PLoS ONE (2014). Print.
Author: Hayden Smith
Apprentice Editor: Summer Martin/Editor: Toby Israel
Photo: Author’s Own