No Crying Over Raw Milk: Analysis of the United States’ Raw Dairy Controversy

Written by Jessi VanStaalduinen

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In my Ethical Eating and Food Movements class, I was to explore a food movement and determine my own opinion on the subject. I went into this assignment with pure curiosity and little bias. My research alarmed me and I have been unable to drink pasteurized milk since. I buy raw milk from a local farm in Fremont, NH.

The population of the United States consumes government regulated, pasteurized dairy products sold at almost every grocery store, the rise of interest in its counterpart, raw dairy, has sparked controversy; this paper will illuminate evidence, contradictory to publicized claims, that raw dairy is safe and citizens should have the right to choose what they consume.


The phrase ‘raw milk’ is not familiar to the average American. Despite what many believe, the milk on supermarket shelves is not considered raw due to the mostly mandatory processing and pasteurization it endures. So, what exactly is raw milk? “Milk that comes from pastured cows, that contains all the fat and has not been processed in any way,” is a definition from one of the largest raw milk supporting foundations in the US (A campaign for Real Milk, 2016). Millions of Americans are unaware of the status of their milk, and those that do know have been led to believe pasteurizing milk is necessary for safe consumption. Government organizations and the dairy industry mislead and lie to consumers about the safety of raw dairy and have made significant efforts to make the distribution and production difficult for dairies and consumption difficult for consumers. These false claims are scare tactics to ensure monopolized market share and to protect factory farms.

I argue, that despite what anyone says, consumers in a free nation have the right to choose what kind of milk they want to buy. Both pasteurized and raw milk, and cheeses, have their pros and cons. Consumers should have readily-available, accurate information on which to base their decisions so that a trip to the grocery store does not require extensive research in order for the health and safety of their families.

This paper will explore the raw dairy industry, the benefits of consuming raw milk, the constraints placed on these dairies, and the truth about pasteurization. Thorough explanations of the arguments for and against raw milk will be presented, although I am sure my bias is obvious. I framed my research through the theoretical framework perspective and I hope it will enhance my point of view.

Theoretical Framework:

Food studies is an up and coming field. Not many institutions have programs that focus solely on it. Thus, the raw dairy industry has been at the mercy of government organizations, lack of public knowledge, and monopolizing agriculture corporations. The discussions about raw dairy are limited and mostly one-sided. Scare tactics are used by both industry and government to convince the public that pasteurization is the only way to safely drink milk, while the small percentage of the population (a difficult statistic to form) that produces and consumes raw milk is a victim of slander and not able to equally defend themselves.

My research included scientific studies of pathogenic bacteria found in raw and pasteurized milk, small dairy testimonials, extensive books on raw food by homeopathic doctors and journalists, and government websites. I believe that all of these sources are applicable to this kind of research because industry cannot be summarized by one model alone. Consumers and producers have valuable opinions, laboratories have extensive studies, and doctors have years of hands on experience; these all help the understanding of the issues surrounding the raw dairy movement.

My paper is an analysis of many sources that uncovers the truth after understanding both sides of the argument. The contribution to the field this paper makes is different because when I began my research I thought of both raw and pasteurized milk equally. After comparing conflicting resources, it became clear to me that this was not the case. My paper is unique and important to the field because I was unbiased prior to my research, strongly considered both sides, and by shedding further light can help people understand raw milk.

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