The Dairy Dilemma

“The countries with the highest rates of osteoporosis are the ones where people drink the most milk and have the most calcium in their diets. The connection between calcium consumption and bone health is actually very weak, and the connection between dairy consumption and bone health is almost nonexistent.”

– Amy Lanou, nutrition director for the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine in Washington, D.C.


Cow’s milk and whether or not it is good for you is a question that I have been struggling to confidently answer for a long time now. I have done much research and it seems to go in circles. So although I have not yet come to a set conclusion, I will lay out the arguments and let you make an informed decision on the goodness of cow’s milk. I had eliminated cow’s milk from mine and my family’s diet, until I moved to Norway where almond and coconut milk is not readily available in the supermarkets. Knowing the negatives of pasteurized cow’s milk, we turned to a local dairy farmer who raises his cows on pasture and has a close relationship with all of his animals. So for the time being we are drinking raw cow’s milk, but I am still of two mind’s regarding cow’s milk in general.

We’ll start with pasteurization. The widespread practice of the pasteurization of cow’s milk (heated to very high temperatures, 71*C, in order to eliminate pathogens) began upon the industrialization of cities, when the length of transportation and storage of cow’s milk allowed for the increased growth of pathogens.

The issue with pasteurization is that it not only eliminates potential pathogens but also the healthy, beneficial enzymes, probiotics, vitamins and minerals naturally present in cow’s milk. The enzymes that are eliminated during pasteurization are also meant to help the body absorb the available calcium, so in pasteurized cow’s milk the readily available calcium is very low. Pasteurized cow’s milk is NOT an efficient source of calcium or vitamin D. Some companies add synthetic vitamins to milk, in which case it is the same as taking an over the counter vitamin.

the life of a corporate cow

the life of a corporate cow

“Raw milk” is unpasteurized cow’s milk, often available at small, local farms. People who are lactose intolerant are able to digest raw milk without a problem. Cows on these farms are often raised on pasture, rather than indefinitely held up in a crowded barn being fed grain, when cows have evolved to thrive on eating grass, and are given no or much less steroids and antibiotics. Pasture-raised cows are much healthier, live much longer, and are obviously much happier. It has been compulsory pasteurization laws that have put many small, family farms out of business, and handed the business of milk and meat to big corporations. The argument is that unpasteurized cow’s milk will cause illness, but there are more illnesses reported as a result of contaminated salads, fruit, and eggs than raw milk. Raw milk also does not sour or curdle.

naturally healthier cows. wouldn't you rather drink milk from these guys?

naturally healthier cows. wouldn’t you rather drink milk from these guys?

Is cow’s milk, in any form, good for us at all? Do humans even need to drink cow’s milk in order to be healthy? Humans have evolved to rely on human milk in infancy, when we have naturally occurring lactase enzymes to break down the lactose in milk. After age 3, the human digestive tract begins to deplete lactase as we no longer depend on our mother’s milk for nutrition. However many populations have mutated to have this enzyme throughout their lives. Humans are the only species on the planet that regularly consumes another species’ lactation, as well as the only species who consumes any type of milk beyond infancy. When explaining to my three year old that we were picking up milk from the farm and exactly where it comes from, his response was “but the baby cow’s need the milk from their mommy’s!” Good point, kid.

could this really be evolution?

could this really be evolution?


It was the documentary film Forks Over Knives that had convinced me that consuming meat and dairy products was unnecessary, and even damaging, to our health. One study that had been repeated dozens of times was the study of casein (animal protein) and how it was a powerful promoter of experimental cancer. Scientists can turn cancer growth on and off by changing the amount of dietary casein. Another main study that was illustrated in the film was the China Study, the largest comprehensive study of human nutrition ever conducted. It was launched via a partnership between Cornell University, Oxford University, and the Chinese Academy of Preventative Medicine. Essentially, people who ate the most animal-based foods got the most chronic disease and people who ate the most plant-based foods were the healthiest. This conclusion is based on very statistically significant findings of 8,000 associations between lifestyle, diet, and disease variables. The studies and information presented in this documentary, as well as other documentaries such as Food Matters and Healthy for Change, as well as my own reading and research, was enough to convince me that my family and I were better off not consuming, or consuming very little, animal products.

A part of the China Study

A part of the China Study

Until I came across this video, where a dentist Dr. Weston A. Price embarks on an adventure around the world to study indigenous people who are isolated from modern society. Price asked about their dietary habits, then examined and took photographs of their teeth. At the same time, he undertook similar studies and took similar photos of people from the same cultures who had become exposed to Western foods. The findings were alarming; people who were eating native diets were in fabulous health and had very few if any dental caries, and their counterparts on a Western/modern diet exhibited much tooth decay, dental malformations, and were not in good overall health. Price identified that tooth decay was caused by nutritional deficiencies, and that those deficiencies also promoted illness elsewhere in the body. The majority of these very healthy populations consumed raw cow’s milk, eggs, raw cheese, fish, as well as a lot of fruits, vegetables, legumes, and whole grains. When animals were eaten, it was not very often and the entire animal was consumed, including the organs.


Should we drink cow’s milk? If at all, drink raw cow’s milk. I have yet to conclude my thoughts on consuming cow’s milk, I will have to come back and update this post as I progress in my nutrition studies. Until then, what do YOU think?


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