Pasteurization: What’s REALLY in Your Milk?

The Thing About Milk, part 2

You likely learned about Francis Pottenger, MD, a well known 20th century researcher, in high school science class.  Potter’s most famous studies involved thousands of cats, known as the Pottenger Cat Study, around 1940.  One of these studies compared the effects of raw vs. pasteurized milk.  One group of cats received raw milk, another pasteurized, and another received either evaporated milk or sweetened condensed milk (this is canned milk that has an almost indefinite shelf-life).  The group on raw milk not only thrived, but produced many generations of healthy cats.  The other groups became diseased, experienced skeletal changes, were unable to reproduce, and were highly susceptible to infection and chronic disease.  The cats on the condensed milk experienced these negative effects to an even greater degree. 


If pasteurization does not affect milk’s nutritional qualities, as many would have you believe, then why did the cats drinking it get so terribly sick?

Pasteurization with a Purpose?


The entire purpose of pasteurization is to kill things; and pasteurization kills milk.  In fact, the test for successful pasteurization is the absence of enzymes.  This means that pasteurization kills all of the beneficial enzymes in raw milk; the very enzymes needed to digest it.  What once was a nourishing, living food is now a dead, allergenic substance.


Because pasteurization kills enzymes, it destroys the safety net God built into milk to provide protection.  Without enzymes and good bacteria, milk can no longer heal itself or your gut.  Basically, when you drink pasteurized milk, you are drinking a sterile, lifeless substance that, if contaminated, provides the perfect environment for bad bacteria to flourish.  You’re drinking a substance that can no longer expand its nutritional and digestive qualities by gently souring after about a week, but instead suddenly putrefies and rots after several weeks in your refrigerator.  So you not only have a substance that causes allergic reactions due to its indigestibility, you also have the perfect carrier for food-borne illness.  Once you contaminate a sterile substance, bacteria will thrive.  If you are one of the lucky few who can so far drink pasteurized milk without problems, then just hope your gut is healthy enough to fight off what else may be lurking inside the milk.

Safety Standards?


According to, for milk headed for pasteurization, federal standards allow 50,000 bacteria per ml.  After pasteurization, the milk is allowed to have up to 15,000 injured or living bacteria (, which may include pathogens (disease-causing bacteria and organisms) such as listeria, salmonella, campylobacter, and e coli 0157H7, and up to 25,000 bacteria per ml in cream.   While the purpose of pasteurization is to kill things, it doesn’t always get the bad stuff.  I repeat:  pasteurization doesn’t always work.  One such bad bacterium, which infects most confinement cows (cows kept in cramped facilities inside rather than outside on a sunny pasture), survives pasteurization and has been linked to Crohn’s disease in humans.  This is why more and more milk is now ultra-pasteurized; this is like pasteurization on steroids.  It violently heats the milk up much faster and much hotter, killing more of these feisty rascals, yet altering the milk even more than regular pasteurization.  This milk is labeled as such:  the label will often say “UHT.”  When you see milk that doesn’t require refrigeration, such as those cute little single serve cartons that fit so well in a lunchbox, it has been treated with extremely high temperatures either by canning or UHT pasteurization.  (Remember Pottenger’s cats who consumed condensed milk…)


Now consider that while pasteurization kills (most but not all) bacteria, it does not remove the bacteria from the milk.  So when you drink pasteurized milk, you are drinking all kinds of dead bacteria.  Click here for pictures of cows at an organic dairy, serving up “certified organic milk” that is headed for pasteurization.  Notice image #20, the very last picture on page one — this cow is in the actual milking parlor.  While you look at this picture, think about what you’ve just read.


There are also safety standards for raw milk that is intended for human consumption.  In California, where the sale of raw milk for human consumption is legal, safety standards require that there must be fewer than 10,000 live bacteria per ml for both certified raw milk and cream (


Did you catch that?  Compare those two sets of standards and you will see that federal standards for raw milk are tighter than those for pasteurized milk. 


If fewer bacteria and pathogens are allowed in raw milk than pasteurized milk, you tell me which milk is safer to drink?


Visual imagery always helps me understand things better.  Maybe it does for you too:


 Here again are the pictures of cows at the organic dairy , serving up “certified organic milk” that is headed for pasteurization.  Notice image #20.


And two more:

And here are several pictures of cows serving up fresh milk, intended for human consumption:

The above pictures remind me of my first raw milk farmer.  Each gallon jar of milk was labeled with the date of the milking and the name of the cow.  I had jars in my fridge labeled, “Thursday a.m. — Flossie” or “Thursday p.m. — Maggie.”  Now that’s knowing where your food comes from!  I knew exactly how and when each milking was done, and the sanitary measures the farmer used to insure the integrity of every gallon.  I had the email, phone number, and address for the farmer.  He was especially careful because he knew the names of the children who were drinking his milk; a responsibility that he took very seriously. When you buy a jug of pasteurized milk, did it come from one cow near where you live, or is it a mixture of milk from who knows how many cows trucked from across the country?

What Vitamins?


In part one of this series you learned about the amazing health benefits of raw milk.  In addition to those great enzymes and healthy bacteria, there are a plethora of vitamins and minerals, in ready to absorb forms.  Milk’s saturated fat is also important in nourishing our bodies.  But milk is probably most famous for its calcium.  “Big dairy” would have you believe that pasteurization does not alter any of these important qualities in milk.  But that is not true.  In fact, pasteurization makes it so all of the nutritive qualities in milk are less available.  The test for successful pasteurization is the absence of enzymes, specifically Phosphatase, the enzyme needed for calcium absorption.  Without enzymes, our bodies have much more difficulty assimilating vitamins and minerals.  If a body has to strain to digest it, how does this milk do a body good?


Additionally, pasteurization promotes rancidity of those great fatty acids you learned about earlier, and completely destroys vitamin C, B12, and B6.


Not only are milk’s important nutrients destroyed or altered by pasteurization, but chemicals may be added in order to suppress odor and restore taste.  And, synthetic vitamins are added; synthetic vitamin D2, which is linked with heart disease, and synthetic vitamin D3, which is difficult to absorb.

Pasteurized milk, void of all life-giving and healing properties, wreaks havoc with our bodies.  For some it is unbearable gas, bloating, and constipation.  For others it may be eczema or asthma.  But for many its manifestations may be more subtle, such as tooth decay, nutritional deficiencies, auto-immune disease, heart trouble, or cancer.  These are health issues with causes difficult to pin down, but their beginnings in our society began to show up soon after the majority of milk was pasteurized.




TB is another hot button topic for raw milk.  “Big dairy” tells us that milk needs to be pasteurized in order to kill this terrible pathogen.  Many health-conscious consumers agree.  The truth is no one has ever fully confirmed, without a doubt, that people can contract the bovine form of TB by drinking raw milk.  In fact some studies have shown that it is impossible for humans to contract bovine TB.  Still, there are those who know people who were supposedly infected with TB after drinking raw milk.


In researching this article I read about Marion Snydegaard of Iowa who was voted healthiest woman in America back in the 1930’s.  She drank a lot of raw milk every day from cows that tested positive for TB.  Yet she was never infected.  Studies have shown that children who drink raw milk are actually more resistant to TB than children who drink pasteurized milk.  During the 1920’s, the Mayo Foundation was actually using raw milk to cure TB.


There is no doubt, however, that TB was a leading cause of death in America in the early 1900s, and that many people got very sick from drinking raw milk.  Tuberculosis can definitely spread through contaminated milk.  The question is, how does the milk become contaminated in the first place?


Ted Beals, MS, MD, is not only a leading raw milk advocate but he is also a respected pathologist.  According to his article, “The Risk of Bovine Tb from Raw Milk Consumption with a Focus on Michigan,” there are only 2 studies that show transmission of bovine TB from infected cow to the milk, and in both of these studies the cows were visibly infected; the cows were emaciated, had low milk production, diarrhea, etc.  According to Beals, there are two ways in which milk can become contaminated with bovine TB.  One is when the cow that is being milked actually has ulcerated lesions on its teats (which isn’t going to happen, because the handler would know the cow had TB by that point and have her put down).  The second is by handlers with active bovine TB.   The handler is not getting TB from the milk in the first place, however.  He acquires it by inhaling cough droplets from the cow, or by direct contact with materials contaminated directly by the infected cattle.


The type of TB I am talking about is bovine TB.  According to Beals, it is extremely unlikely for bovine TB to be passed via raw milk. However the human form of TB can definitely spread via raw milk.  You learned about that in part one of this series; milk became contaminated when the handlers, infected with TB, coughed directly into the open pails of milk.  It isn’t the milk that is contaminated, it is the entire process: from poorly cared for and sick cows, to infected dairymen, to unsanitary conditions.  Through the use of closed-system milking machines, the contamination of milk by TB in the 1920s was reduced to nearly zero.


TB is not a threat to cows today and most raw milk farmers will have their herds tested to confirm they are free of TB even though bovine TB has been almost eradicated due to the testing and slaughter of affected animals.


If you are concerned that you will be infected with TB if you drink raw milk, I strongly recommend that you read Dr. Beals’ complete article.

Back to Those Safety Standards…


Now that you know that milk can become contaminated by unsanitary conditions, sick herds, and sick dairymen, there are a few more safety standards you need to know about.


In California, where it is legal to sell raw milk for human consumption, there are special standards for the milking herd as well as employees.  There are also special standards for herds and employees involved with pasteurized milk.  The standards are not the same.  In fact, the standards for herds and employees involved with pasteurized milk are again not as strict as those for herds and employees involved with raw milk.


All dairy cows, for both pasteurized and certified raw milk, are vaccinated early on for both TB and Brucellosis.  All dairy cows are inspected regularly, and the milk is also tested several times a year.  However, certified raw milk dairies are visited at least weekly, sometimes more frequently, by inspectors while conventional dairies are visited monthly.  Also, testing of certified raw dairies is stricter than for conventional dairies.


Regarding employees, raw milk dairy employees receive monthly health exams, including strep tests.  Additionally, they have annual TB tests and bi-annual stool specimen tests.  There are other tests required of employees through the year.  In contrast, employees working at conventional dairies undergo a physical at the time of employment and then no further health exams are required.


Once again we see that federal safety standards are stricter for raw milk intended for human consumption than for pasteurized milk.


A Real Killer


Pasteurization has done much more than just kill the milk.  According to Mark McAfee, owner of Organic Pastures Dairy, pasteurization has killed personal responsibility.  No longer does the conventional dairy farmer need to concern himself, too much, with the proper care and cleanliness of his cows.  Pasteurization takes care of that problem for him.


Two Milks


To be honest, there are dairies out there that pasteurize their milk that have beautiful, healthy herds and truly fresh, clean milk.  I know of one such dairy right here.  They work with the utmost ethics; the cows receive the best of care.  The herd grazes outside on pasture, there are no hormones or antibiotics, no grains.  Farms such as this are good for communities.  While these farmers pasteurize their milk, they really don’t have to because their cows are healthy and their facilities are clean. 

 There are other such dairies across the country, but they are the exception rather than the rule.  Many of them would go raw if the laws were different.  Instead they low-heat pasteurize their milk, and offer non-homogenized milk.  These are good dairies, and they are definitely an option for people who cannot locate clean, raw milk.  The nutrients are still altered, the enzymes are still destroyed, but not to the same extent as regular and UHT pasteurization.  HOWEVER — if these dairies aren’t selling their milk under their own label, then you will have great difficulty finding their milk in stores because it likely winds up getting dumped into a bulk tank with milk from thousands of other cows who received low quality care.


The bottom line is this:  there are two milks.  There is raw milk that is intended for pasteurization; and there is raw milk that is intended for human consumption.  These two milks are drastically different.   Both are raw; one is not fit for humans to consume, the other is extremely beneficial for humans to consume.  It all has to do with the care and handling of the cow. 

We’ll talk about that in part 3: Feed the World, Save the Planet, the conclusion to this series on milk.  I will also talk to you about how to obtain this wonderful treasure for yourself. 


Until then, here is a point to ponder:


Remember the California raw milk dairy that injected deadly pathogens into its milk? Organic Pastures Dairy in California actually added Listeria Monocytogenes, Salmonella, Campylobacter, and e coli 0157H7 to their milk and none survived (see #9).   In fact, Organic Pastures raw milk averages approximately 1500 beneficial bacteria per ml and in all their years of existence they have never found a human pathogen in their raw milk.  Not only that, but even tests on the manure of their cows have never turned up one human pathogen.


Can the same be said for the dairy that produces your expensive, pasteurized, organic milk?



5 thoughts on “Pasteurization: What’s REALLY in Your Milk?

  1. Keep up the good work! These articles are wonderful and really help us spread the word about the benefits of raw milk. Your sister told me about your blog, and I've been directing friends to you ever since. Thank you for doing such a terrific job!

  2. We have been drinking raw milk for over a year and LOVE it! The only downfall is, is that I have to drive about 45 minutes one way to get it!!

    Great Information!

  3. You go girl!! Reading this in NOLA where there is nothing but ultra-processed stuff makes me want to get out of here. –Gpy

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