Got milk? Well, what kind of milk have you got? The options used to be just skim or whole, but now soy, almond, and hemp are available, too. Plus, another controversial choice: Raw milk. So should you be drinking the stuff or not? We gathered some facts to help you make that decision

First of all, raw milk simply means unpasteurized. Easy, right? Wrong: Drinking milk straight from the cow may have been great for Laura Ingalls, but food production—especially involving livestock—has changed significantly over the years to allow for mass production.

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Cows' confinement conditions alone can lead to infections that contaminate milk. Pasteurization is simply heating the milk to a certain temperature to kill off any bacteria, including Listeria, E. coli, Staphylococcus aureus and Salmonella. But guess what? Pasteurization doesn’t even work 100% of the time.

There are, of course, farms with clean and humane facilities whose cows can produce delicious, pathogen-free milk. And, there are plenty of creameries making raw milk cheese carefully (even lovingly), that are completely safe and yummy. 

But why bother? Why not just drink pasteurized milk and eat regular ol’ cheese?

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Well, studies show that unpasteurized milk can protect against infections, tooth decay, allergies and it improve immunity overall. Oh, and raw milk cheese is amazing! Foodies everywhere would agree that the flavors in raw milk cheese are more layered and complex than pasteurized cheese. It turns out all the bacteria getting killed off during pasteurization includes some of the bacteria that is completely safe for consumption, and maybe even good for us. 

But recently the FDA has been seriously cracking down on the production of raw milk, mostly because it really can be dangerous. According to an analysis by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, between 1993 and 2006 more than 1,500 people in the United States became sick from drinking raw milk or eating cheese made from raw milk. We agree that that sounds terrifying (but many argue these numbers are exaggerated). The FDA also wants to clarify that pasteurized milk does not reduce milk’s nutritional value, nor does it cause any more of an allergic reaction than its raw counterpart.

When it comes to raw milk, evidence seems to prove that if your body becomes accustomed to its enzymes and microorganisms, they can help strengthen your immune system. However, careful is key. Maybe the best we can do right now—unless you are buying from a trusted farmer friend—is wait until there is an abundance of E.Coli free un-pasteurized dairy on the market. It may be a struggle, but worth it if the benefits out-weigh the risks. 

On the other hand, there is a strong argument to be made that raw milk cheese—when produced under strict standards—is much safer than raw liquid milk. In fact it’s so delicious it might be worth the risk, but try to buy from a small, reputable farm if possible. Also, remember that some cheeses are safer than others in terms of bacteria hospitality: Harder and firmer cheeses like swiss, cheddar, parmesan, are less risky than Bri, Camembert, etc.  

So now that you have the facts, let us remind you that it’s your dairy and your choice. Just remember to be mindful, do your research, and when in doubt—put it between two slices of bread and fry that bad boy up!

Image via Off The Grid News