If raw milk is so bad for us, how did the human race ever survive before pasteurization? After all, we’ve been milking cows and drinking the milk for thousands of years. Why is milk now pasteurized, homogenised and basically robbed of its natural nutrient rich state? This has only been in happening for a little more than a century. So what happened?
It is a fascinating and disturbing story which is best told in the book The Untold Story of Milk by Ron Schmid. In brief the problem with milk being related to ill health and child mortality arose during the 19th century in America when cows were often locked in sheds forever in the cities next to factories distilling whisky, an industry which arose when England stopped exporting whisky to America! The cows were fed not only swill but the whisky slops from the industry and this very poor feed given to the cows was not only causing illness amongst the herds but was producing a milk which often was blue and so watery that no butter could even be made. Flour and starch was added to make it thick to look like the milk produced from healthy, pasture fed cows.
In America milk was a huge part of the diet and when child mortality rates did not fall in America as they did in Europe and England, milk was isolated as the cause. A movement by doctors therefore called to certify the milk from healthy pasture fed cows as distinct from the city milk.
By the turn of the 20th century the health authorities perceived that all raw milk caused disease due to contaminated raw milk being implicated in hundreds of outbreaks of diphtheria, typhoid and scarlet fever. By now much milk was commercially produced and a major supplier, Straus was pasteurizing his milk. Whilst he called for all raw milk in New York to be pasteurized most still believed that raw milk produced from healthy cows was safe.
Nevertheless raw milk was ongoingly blamed for more outbreaks of disease and so pasteurization of all milk except certified raw milk became law. At the time there were only 37 certified dairies supplying New York and the rest of the milk from some 44,000 farms needed to be pasteurized. By now 60 plants and 14,000 milk shops had been established. Much money was now invested in the dairy industry. It was inevitable that in the interest of the industry, not the farmers, all milk would require to be pasteuralised so that dirty milk would last for days and could be sold as fresh. It also meant that it was easier to collect because all milk could be mixed together.
Therefore in the end, by legislating against the sale or distribution of raw milk, the farmers were forced by law to sell their milk at a fraction of market value to the big milk processors. This created a “paper trail” on the milk which then was used as the basis for collecting tax from those processors and the farmers too.
And how did they achieve this blanket pasteurization? It was all conceived by commercial interests under the guise of a public health concern.