The history of pasteurization
Story time! During the height of the industrial revolution, mass food production was created as a means to feed the ever-growing population; meat and dairy farms expanded production to keep up with the increased demand for “fresh” products in urban grocery stores. The labor and sanitary conditions in these factories were abysmal, and the American public were constantly sick as a result. Muckraker journalist Upton Sinclair’s book, The Jungle, exposed the horrid and unsanitary conditions of the meat and dairy factories to the public, who were justifiably outraged. The Pure Food and Drug Act and The Meat Inspection Act were passed in 1907, as a result. (History, Art, & Archives)
Thankfully, this legislation did well to regulate the food being sold to the public and ensured that manufacturers adopted more effective cleaning and quality control techniques for their products. In the meat industry, rats were no longer considered an acceptable ingredient in ground beef (*gag*) and soon after, pasteurization became the name of the dairy game. (Encyclopedia.com)
Louis Pasteur created the pasteurization process in the late 19th century, wherein milk is heated to the point that any potentially harmful microorganisms and enzymes are killed. By killing these organisms, the milk became safer for consumers to drink and the cartons had a longer shelf life. (Sciencehistory.org) Before the time of mass refrigeration and stainless steel storage containers, these heating techniques were the only way to kill off inevitable bacteria and make dairy products safe for consumption.
While the dairy safety policies implemented were revolutionary for the time, some argue that the increased government regulation and domination of the dairy industry has gotten out of hand. In these modern times, dairy farmers have access to mass refrigeration to keep their products at a constant cool temperature to avoid spoiling. Farmers strain the fresh milk and then cool it rapidly after extraction to avoid the formation of bacteria. Then is it stored in clean glass or stainless steel containers until it is consumed or sold. (The Prairie Homestead)
The Untold Benefits of Raw Milk
While the FDA denies claims that raw milk has positive effects on preventing allergies and asthma (FDA.gov), there are independent, longitudinal studies that have found a lifetime consumption of raw milk can in fact decrease your risk of these adult on-set chronic health issues, and even lower your risk of cancers and heart disease. (National Center for Biotechnology Information)
Raw milk from free range, grass-fed cows is an excellent source of
- Vitamin A
- Thiamine (B1)
- Conjugated linoleic acid (CLA)
Whole milk (full fat milk) was slandered during the 1970s because of its saturated fat content and higher calorie count, which was thought to cause heart disease and weight gain. But recent research has proved precisely the opposite (Healthline); whole milk is chock-full of Omega-3 fatty acids, which can
- Improve heart health
- Lower risk of cancer
- Fight age-related mental decline (Alzheimer’s Disease, dementia, etc.)
- Reduce risk of respiratory illness
All of this sugar, spice, and everything nice is linked to a myriad of health benefits, including but not limited to;
- Gastrointestinal health
- Lower risk of osteoporosis and bone fracture
- Preserved muscle strength
- Stronger immune system
Unsurprisingly, these benefits disappear from pasteurized milk. The natural enzymes and bacterias are killed when the milk is boiled, rapidly cooled, homogenized (changing the molecular structure to avoid cream separation) and finally prepared for a long shelf life in the grocery story by adding chemical preservatives. (Microbenotes.com)
The politics of… milk?
The dairy industry has become a corporate giant. The small, family-owned dairy farm is quickly becoming a thing of the past, and making way for massive farms with thousands of cows. Livestock on these farms are continuously bred and pumped full of hormones to keep them producing milk 7x as often as free-range cows. (Today) They are kept confined in barns, attached to utter-pumps for hours on end, without fresh green grass or sunshine. (HSUS) Despite what your food ideologies are, I’m sure we can all agree that if we want to purchase dairy products, they should come from happy, free-range animals who are not drugged and caged.
Pasteurization during the industrial revolution, where food had to be prepared, processed, and stored in a capacity never before seen in our country’s history, was a legitimate and life saving process; its implementation helped to eradicate the rampant cases of TB, infant diarrhea, and other digestive problems. But with the emergence of better storage techniques and technology, why is the pasteurization process still necessary? Cow’s milk, from healthy cows, is safer now than it was then; any harmful impurities that exist in raw milk would emerge from poor storage techniques and unhealthy livestock, which is entirely dependent on the facility and farmers producing and storing the milk. But modern USDA legislation does not reflect that.
Although the federal government prohibits the interstate sale or purchase of raw milk, the intrastate buying and selling of raw milk varies state by state (Farmtoconsumer.org); some states allow the sale of raw milk in retail stores, while others prohibit all public sales outside of herdshares or “an arrangement under which an individual owns part of a cow or herd and is entitled to the milk produced.” (CDC)
Raw milk is simple, healthy, and uncomplicated; given what we know now, and our access to modern technology, the public can consume raw milk from reliable, hard-working farmers and foster our local economies. Corporate dairy farms do not focus on the well-being of their animals or the quality of their products; dry their livestock out like old washcloths and stuff them in close quarters like sardines, just to maximize their bottom line. Family owned small farms care for their animals and can supervise quality control of their products on a more personal and intimate basis.