The much-anticipated Raw Milk Institute has gone live.
The brainchild of Mark McAfee, co-owner of Organic Pastures near Fresno, CA, the institute introduced its website — www.rawmilkinstitute.org — on Tuesday.
Simply put, the goal of the institute is to use science-based food-safety principles to shore up a strong foundation for the growing raw-milk movement.
Raw milk is milk that hasn’t been pasteurized to kill bacteria, some of which can make people sick or even kill them. These harmful organisms can be in milk from healthy animals as the result of contamination from fecal matter or unclean milking equipment.
“Raw milk isn’t going to go away even though the federal government would like it to,” said McAfee, who owns the largest raw-milk dairy in the nation.
He knows the strength of the raw-milk movement first hand. Demand for his dairy’s raw milk is so strong that he hasn’t been able to make any raw-milk butter or cheese — products that his customers often request. He thought he’d solve that problem by bringing 80 new cows into his herd, boosting the total number to 420, but demand keeps rising, so much so that he still doesn’t have enough milk to make butter or cheese.
A Holstein milk cow, the breed that McAfee has on his farm, typically produces from about 5 to 10 gallons each day, which means those 80 additional cows are giving McAfee a great deal more milk each day.
“I’d love to see another raw-milk producer in California,” he said. “There’s just not enough raw milk to meet demand.”
All across America, thousands of consumers are seeking out raw milk, in many cases because of perceived health benefits such as curing asthma or helping build strong immune systems. Others buy it because they remember drinking raw milk as a child and they see it as a good way to support local farmers. And just about all raw-milk drinkers say it tastes better than pasteurized milk.
Although precise data about how many people drink raw milk is not available, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that less than 1 percent of milk sold to consumers in the United States has not been pasteurized. But with the United States’s population at 311 million, according to 2011 figures, “less than 1 percent” hints of a large volume of raw milk being consumed.
The CDC warns against drinking raw milk from cows, goats, sheep or other ruminants, saying that there’s no evidence of any health benefits, and that the risk of being infected by a harmful or even deadly foodborne disease is too high, especially for infants and young children, pregnant women, the elderly, and those with weakened immune systems.
Yet the demand for raw milk keeps going up.