In a word, no.
If I didn’t have access to raw milk from cows or goats on pasture, I simply wouldn’t consume milk. Above, I photographed raw cow’s milk on the shelves in the walk-in refrigerator at The Abbey Farm, who is my chosen source here in Portland, Oregon.
Back to the question at hand: “Are there any substitutes you recommend for raw milk?” Let me be very explicit, as this is a frequently asked question we receive. From our perspective, there are no substitutes for raw milk. I wouldn’t consume organic, pasteurized milk, even if it was non-homogenized. I would not consume low temperature pasteurized milk, even if it was organic, and even if it was grass-fed. Nor would I consume any of the “milk” substitutes such as soy, rice, almond, oat, hemp, and the like. We have numerous concerns about soy, which contains plant estrogens and is very hard to digest. The rest of the non-diary alternatives have no nutritional value to speak of. Commercial brands are also usually loaded with sugar to make them palatable, and poor quality, hard-to-absorb calcium, Vitamin D2 and other synthetic supplements to give them a nutritional profile similar to that of dairy.
I would and do use coconut milk and coconut cream but, don’t consider either to be a substitute for raw milk based on their nutritional profiles. Raw milk – full-fat, unprocessed, unheated milk from pasture-fed cows – contains vital nutrients like fat-soluble vitamins A and D, calcium, vitamin B6, B12, and CLA. Conjugated linoleic acid, a fatty acid naturally occurring in grass-fed beef and milk, reduces body fat and protects against cancer. Real milk is a source of complete protein and is loaded with enzymes. Raw milk contains beneficial bacteria that protects against pathogens and contributes to a healthy flora in the intestines. Culturing milk greatly enhances its probiotic and enzyme content, making it a therapeutic food for our digestive system and overall health. Pasteurization seriously compromises many of the benefits of real milk.
As Lori Lipinski explains in her article on milk:
Pasteurization is a process of heat treating milk to kill bacteria. Although Louis Pasteur developed this technique for preserving beer and wine, he was not responsible for applying it to milk. That was done at the end of the 1800s as a temporary solution until filthy urban dairies could find a way to produce cleaner milk. But instead of cleaning up milk production, dairies used pasteurization as a way to cover up dirty milk. As milk became more mass produced, pasteurization became necessary for large dairies to increase their profits. So the public then had to be convinced that pasteurized milk was safer than raw milk. Soon raw milk consumption was blamed for all sorts of diseases and outbreaks until the public was finally convinced that pasteurized milk was superior to milk in its natural state.
Today if you mention raw milk, many people gasp and utter ridiculous statements like, “You can die from drinking raw milk!” But the truth is that there are far more risks from drinking pasteurized milk than unpasteurized milk. Raw milk naturally contains healthy bacteria that inhibit the growth of undesirable and dangerous organisms. Without these friendly bacteria, pasteurized milk is more susceptible to contamination. Furthermore, modern equipment, such as milking machines, stainless steel tanks and refrigerated trucks, make it entirely possible to bring clean, raw milk to the market anywhere in the US.
Not only does pasteurization kill the friendly bacteria, it also greatly diminishes the nutrient content of the milk. [The statement from the Center for Disease Control is that “All of the nutritional benefits of drinking milk are available from pasteurized milk without the risk of disease that comes with drinking raw milk.” This statement is factually incorrect. Many nutrients and immune-enhancing components are destroyed by exposure to high heat and the temperatures used during pasteurization. Vitamin A is degraded, proteins and enzymes are denatured, and immunoglobulins are destroyed.]
Pasteurized milk has up to a 66 percent loss of vitamins A, D and E. Vitamin C loss usually exceeds 50 percent. Heat affects water soluble vitamins and can make them 38 percent to 80 percent less effective. Vitamins B6 and B12 are completely destroyed during pasteurization. Pasteurization also destroys beneficial enzymes, antibodies and hormones. Pasteurization destroys lipase (an enzyme that breaks down fat), which impairs fat metabolism and the ability to properly absorb fat soluble vitamins A and D. The dairy industry is aware of the diminished vitamin D content in commercial milk, so they fortify it with a form of this vitamin.
We have all been led to believe that milk is a wonderful source of calcium, when in fact, pasteurization makes calcium and other minerals less available. Complete destruction of phosphatase is one method of testing to see if milk has been adequately pasteurized. Phosphatase is essential for the absorption of calcium.
As the dairy industry has become more concentrated, many processing plants have switched to ultra pasteurization, which involves higher temperatures and longer treatment times. [Ultra-pasteurization heats the milk to 280º for only a few seconds. The reason for using ultra-pasteurization is because it kills everything. Ultra pasteurization not only kills potentially harmful bacteria in the milk, but also damages all of the vitamins, minerals and other nutrients originally contained in the milk. This process also kills the healthy enzymes which help your body digest the milk, and drinking it without the enzymes can lead to lactose intolerance.] The industry says this is necessary because many microorganisms have become heat resistant and now survive ordinary pasteurization.
Another reason for ultrapasteurization is that it gives the milk a longer shelf life–up to four weeks. The grocers like this but many consumers complain of a burnt or dead taste. The milk is virtually sterile–is that what you want to drink?
Milk producers are not advertising the fact that they are ultrapasteurizing the milk–the word is written in very small letters and the milk is sold in the refrigerator section even though it can be kept unrefrigerated until opened. Horizon, the major organic brand, is ultrapasteurized, as are virtually all national brands. [This is the majority of our milk today; what you would typically find in a grocery store. I strongly recommend against the consumption of ultra pasteurized milk whether organic or not.]
Milk straight from the cow contains cream, which rises to the top. Homogenization is a process that breaks up the fat globules and evenly distributes them throughout the milk so that they do not rise. This process unnaturally increases the surface area of fat exposing it to air, in which oxidation occurs and increases the susceptibility to spoilage. Homogenization has been linked to heart disease and atherosclerosis.
What about low temperature pasteurized milk?
Organic Valley makes a certified organic, whole milk that is even exclusively 100% grass-fed from cows on pasture however, it has been pasteurized. It claims to be lightly pasteurized yet, I still wouldn’t drink it or recommend it. Low temperature pasteurized milk is only heated to 145º, which may keep some of the beneficial enzymes in tact, however proteins begin to denature at 118º. The milk proteins carry vitamins and minerals through the gut into the blood stream; they enhance the immune system and protect against disease. Your digestive enzymes cannot recognize denatured proteins. Their coiled chains unwind, changing or losing their three-dimensional shape and function, which can trigger an allergic response such as mucous, or illness such as asthma.
If you don’t have access to raw milk, we would recommend raw cheese, which is widely available.
Read other articles I’ve written on the topic of raw milk.
Read more about raw milk in these books recommended via our Amazon affiliation:
- The Raw Milk Revolution: Behind America’s Emerging Battle over Food Rights
- The Untold Story of Milk, Revised and Updated: The History, Politics and Science of Nature’s Perfect Food: Raw Milk from Pasture-Fed Cows.