Some science behind the scenes

Raw milk

Raw milk or unpasteurized milk is milk that has not been pasteurized, a process of heating liquid foods to decontaminate them for safe drinking.

Proponents of raw milk have stated that there are benefits to its consumption, including better flavor, better nutrition, and the building of a healthy immune system. However, the medical community 'has warned of the dangers, which include a risk of infection'. 

The availability and regulation of raw milk vary around the world. 

In the early days after the scientific discovery of bacteria, there was no product testing to determine whether a farmer's milk was safe or infected, so all milk was treated as potentially contagious.  Nowadays such tests are available.  Those favouring the consumption of raw milk believe that raw milk and associated products are more nutritious, build a healthy immune system and taste better. Those favoring the consumption of pasteurized milk consider the pathogen risk associated with drinking raw milk unacceptable.

From a microbiological aspect, raw milk from a healthy usually pasture fed cow with clean teats generally does not contain significant amounts of pathogens.  In essence the risk is from farming practice, not the milk itself.  Raw-milk cheeses make up about 18 percent of France's total cheese production, and are considered far superior to cheeses made from pasteurised milk. Many French cuisine traditionalists consider pasteurized cheeses almost a sacrilege. Many traditional French cheeses have solely been made from raw milk for hundreds of years.

But, bacteria can be introduced by poor farming practise and poor hygiene.  Causes of significant pathogenic bacterial amounts in raw milk include:

  • Mastitis of the cow - usually a side effect of poor and intensive farming methods
  • Unclean teat skin of the cow - again poor farming methods and unhygienic conditions.
  • Unclean milking equipment - again poor farming methods and unhygienic conditions.
  • Time, causing bacterial growth.

 

Raw milk has a shelf life of 3 to 5 days if kept cold.

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