Raw vs. Pasteurised Milk

Milk vending machines on continental Europe are invariably used by farmers for selling raw milk, meaning that on balance they can market their product at a much more cost-effective way – without having to invest in a pasteuriser, or having to pay for someone else to pasteurise their milk.

From the consumer’s point of view unpasteurised milk is said to have a superior taste and has a whole range of health benefits when produced under suitably hygienic conditions and originates from a healthy herd. Amongst other sources, a well researched and comprehensive study “The Case For Untreated Milk”, based on a number of scientific journals and research findings, outlines various drawbacks of pasteurisation such as the reduction of overall vitamin content, and of the digestive system’s ability to absorb those remaining. Emphasis is also placed on the destruction of anti-infective agents naturally designed to protect young animals from diseases, which can also protect humans both after ingestion, as well as keeping pathogens’ numbers low during milk storage prior to consumption. The study concludes that by incentivising farmers whose practices produce milk with a low bacterial count (less than 10,000 per ml), whilst penalising those failing to produce high quality and clean milk that is intended to be consumed unpasteurised, a balance can be found where a growing demand for natural and whole foodstuffs can be safely satisfied. Other than higher nutritional content, other studies have found additional benefits of raw milk, for example the reduction of allergy related symptoms in children, such as eczema and atopy (Journal of Allergy & Clinical Immunology, 117(6):1374-81 (June 2006)). Weighed against these and other reasons for drinking milk in its original and raw state, pasteurisation kills most, although not all, harmful micro-organisms and only once treated in this way is it considered to be safe for human consumption by food safety agencies such as the Food Standard Agency. This is useful in today’s dairy industry where production is being increasingly industrialised and milk is generally pooled when collected from farms in tankers by processors for treatment and bottling. Such practices make traceability impossible and increase the risk that at least some of the milk in a given load is unsuitable to be consumed raw. It is also a completely different scenario compared to those farmers who take great care to produce good quality, healthy milk to sell to their consumers directly and without having to pasteurise it.

Milk from vending machines is also unhomogenised, a process devised for purely aesthetical reasons which further diminishes the quality of milk by reducing the size of suspended fat globules by about 10 fold. This is thought to lead to protein molecules attached to the fat globules to bypass normal digestion in the stomach, leading to their incomplete assimilation and subsequently to allergies.

The benefits of selling raw milk for both producer and consumer are well documented on numerous websites of raw milk support organisations, but there is another group of beneficiaries which is often forgotten – the cows themselves. With stringent regulations and regular checks, carried out in random, imposed on farmers intending to sell raw milk, their herds are ultimately kept healthy which usually also means better standards and living conditions. While not exclusive to these farms, such herds tend to be of a smaller size and spend a lot of their time grazing outdoors when compared to larger, more industrialised operations where cows are predominantly kept in sheds. Maintaining high standards, however, can often mean a higher production cost which needs to be weighed against the final price achieved for each litre of milk sold. Whether it is feasible or not for individual producers to sell their milk unpasteurised under the relevant, current UK legislation will depend on a number of factors unique to their circumstances. Milk Stations are suitable for dispensing either kinds of milk, or any other fluid for that matter, meaning that the opportunity to supply milk directly to consumers is open to all.