You might have noticed that some of our partner farmers sell raw milk through our market – but you might be hesitant to purchase it because, well, a lot of people don’t actually know what it is. In this article, we’ll be exploring what raw milk is, why it's different to standard supermarket milks, and its numerous benefits for both people and the planet.
What is raw milk?
Most of the milk on the shelves of standard supermarkets aren’t raw, because they are processed through pasteurisation (heating to kill bacteria, yeast and moulds), homogenisation (improving the texture and taste by spreading out fatty acids), or adding other chemicals to alter the flavour/longevity. These processes ultimately alter, inhibit or reduce the benefits of key enzymes, beneficial bacteria, and nutrients originally present in the milk.
In contrast, raw milk is simply milk straight from the animal, with no processing whatsoever. Before processing began in the mid 1900’s, everyone was drinking raw milk!
The benefits of raw milk
Raw milk is densely packed with an abundance of key nutrients including vitamin A, magnesium, zinc, antioxidants and healthy fatty acids. The exact values of the nutritional content will vary slightly depending on the conditions in which the cow was raised, but all the farms that Furrow works with ensure the highest possible standard of living for their livestock, meaning you’re bound to get some of the best quality raw milk out there.
Benefits bone health and growth
One of the major benefits of a drink packed with nutrients is that it has a complete essential amino acid profile, meaning that it will aid optimal body function in all areas (cell function, hydration, blood circulation, metabolism and much more). For adults, it will help maintain strong bone health and reduce the risk of developing osteoporosis in the future. For young children, the abundance of nutrients is especially critical for growth and the development of their immune systems. Several epidemiological studies have shown that those who drink raw milk have a reduced chance of developing allergies and asthma.
Can be drunk by lactose-intolerant people
It has been shown that compared to processed milk, raw milk has a lower chance of triggering lactose-intolerance symptoms. This is because during the pasteurisation process, the enzyme lactase, which is naturally present in raw milk for breaking down lactose, is broken down. Thus, people who cannot produce sufficient/any lactase won’t be able to digest it. But in natural, unprocessed, raw milk, the lactase in the milk ensures that the lactose can be properly digested in the body.
Supports small local farms and the environment
The reason you don’t see raw milk often in supermarket isles is that they tend to only be produced by local farmers. Large corporations that mass produce milk will tend towards processed milk simply to ensure consistent, uniform products with long shelf lives. But by purchasing raw milk, you’ll be supporting farmers that take good care of the animals – as this is crucial to producing good quality milk. Direct sales through platforms such as Furrow, will also ensure that they are paid a price that represents the true value of their products, and can help sustain their farm in the long-term.
Another benefit of supporting these types of farms, is that you reduce the environmental footprint. Since the cows aren’t raised under factory farming procedures, which tends to be the case for the conventional processed supermarket milk, there is less chemicals (antibiotics and growth hormones) used and leached out into the environment, less manure runoff into freshwater systems, less greenhouse gas production, and an overall more holistic approach that aligns with nature.
It tastes delicious
You won’t know until you try it – raw milk has a distinct flavour compared to supermarket milk. It tastes much more fresh, rich, and creamy. As with most produce that is grown or raised, natural always tastes better.
Is raw milk dangerous?
Most food products will have proponents for and against it. In the case of raw milk, much of the argument against their consumption surrounds the dangers of bacteria transmission (since it is unpasteurised), leading to food-borne illnesses. But the reality is, that much of the food-borne illnesses originate from consumption of food groups other than dairy, such as seafood, which has the highest risk. Furthermore, although some data may suggest that raw milk has a higher chance of inducing illness than processed milk, the relative risk means very little when considering the absolute numbers, which is that you have roughly a 1 in 94,000 chance of becoming ill from drinking unpasteurised milk, compared to 1 in 888,000 from pasteurised milk.
So, one might argue that the claims surrounding the ‘dangers’ of raw milk tend to be exaggerated and taken out of context. Given the wide-ranging benefits of raw milk, and that the welfare and hygiene of farms producing raw milk tend to be exceptionally high, these fear-mongering headlines on news articles shouldn’t be a cause for concern. For more detailed analysis and reviews of the scientific literature, check out this article.
How to use raw milk
You can use raw milk just like any other normal milk – drink it directly, or for making smoothies, oatmeals, pancakes, coffees...etc. They’re especially delicious in soups, as it adds more creaminess than regular milk.
Raw milk is also great for fermenting into foods such as kefir, yogurt or cheese. Cultured dairy contains high amounts of probiotics which are beneficial bacteria for your gut microbiome. If you want to try out raw milk origin products, you can also order them directly from our market.