Canadian Artisan Dairy Alliance Health Benefits of Raw Milk

Milk is Nature’s perfect food. When it is whole and unprocessed, it has almost equal parts fat, protein and carbohydrates, as well as a host of beneficial vitamins, minerals and enzymes. No wonder breast milk is baby’s first food!

Raw breast milk, but not raw cow’s milk?

Why do humans drink cow’s milk anyway? Isn’t that for baby cows? Actually, humans have been consuming raw dairy for over 6,000 years. Like breast milk, raw milk—whether from cows, sheep, goats, water buffalo or even camels—is a healthy and natural food that supports good health all through life.

Health Canada recommends exclusive breastfeeding from birth to 6 months, and breastfeeding with solid food for up to 2 or more years, and states:

Suckling calf enjoying nourishing raw milk.

“Breast milk has the perfect amount of protein, carbohydrates, fat, vitamins and minerals for a growing baby. It’s the easiest milk for your baby to digest…. Your breast milk contains antibodies and other immune factors that help protect your baby against infections and disease. This immunity protection can last a lifetime”.

Health Canada

However, Health Canada does not apply this logic to raw milk from dairy farm animals. In response to a 2016 petition to the Minister of Health, Health Canada wrote: “there is little evidence to suggest that raw milk has a higher nutritive value than pasteurized milk”. CADA disagrees!

There are many peer reviewed studies showing that unprocessed dairy has many health benefits including the enhanced absorption of micronutrients, support for a healthy biome populated with “good bacteria” and protection from inflammation, infections, allergies and asthma.

Nutritional Value of Raw Milk

When milk is pasteurized (heated to 72°C), it inactivates beneficial enzymes, damages fats, and destroys probiotics and other good bacteria. These alterations make it more difficult for our bodies to absorb essential minerals in the milk. It also makes the sugar (lactose), protein and fat more difficult to digest. The destruction of naturally-occurring digestive enzymes puts an unnecessary strain on the pancreas to produce digestive enzymes.

Pasteurization of milk also:

  • negatively affects the amino acids lysine and tyrosine.
  • promotes rancidity of unsaturated fatty acids.
  • destroys/reduces and makes more difficult to absorb, the many vitamins and minerals found in milk.

To restore the natural vitamin D found in abundance in the milk of pastured livestock, and destroyed/reduced through pasteurization, synthetic vitamin D is added to commercial milk. Synthetic vitamin D is more difficult for the body to absorb.

Nutrients & Immune FactorsRAW Human MilkRAW Cow MilkPasteurized Cow MilkPasteurized Almond MilkPasteurized Soy Milk
Beneficial EnzymesACTIVEACTIVEInactiveNoneNone
Diverse ProbioticsACTIVEACTIVEDestroyedNoneNone
Lactase-Producing BacteriaACTIVEACTIVEDestroyed NoneNone
Healthy FatsACTIVEACTIVEDamagedDamaged Damaged
AA, CLA, DHA, EPAACTIVEACTIVEDamaged NoneNone
ProteinsACTIVEACTIVEDamaged Damaged Damaged
Bioavailable VitaminsACTIVEACTIVEReducedAlteredAltered
Bioavailable CalciumACTIVEACTIVEInhibitedInhibitedInhibited
Bioavailable PhosphorusACTIVEACTIVEInhibitedAlteredAltered
IgA/IgG ImmunoglobinsACTIVEACTIVEDestroyed NoneNone
For the references and peer-reviewed studies, go to rawmilkinstitute.org/about-raw-milk

On its website, Health Canada makes a misleading statement about pasteurization: “It does not affect the quality of nutrients present in milk, such as calcium, protein, riboflavin, niacin, folic acid, vitamin B6, pantothenic acid and vitamin A.” This statement fails to acknowledge that pasteurization kills the enzymes which make it easy to fully absorb these nutrients. This is important for young children with still developing digestive systems, and adults with compromised digestive health.

Jersey cows on the pasture
Jersey cows on the pasture

Other Health Benefits

Besides being nutritionally superior to processed milk, raw milk provides other significant health benefits as demonstrated though various studies. Some findings are:

  • Raw milk consumption in childhood protects against developing asthma and allergic diseases.
  • Raw farm milk consumption protects against rhinitis, respiratory tract infection, ear infections and fever.
  • Boiled milk, not raw, sensitizes children to milk allergy.
  • Higher pulmonary function and fewer allergies in adulthood can be traced to drinking raw milk as a child.
  • People who are lactose intolerant can often consume raw dairy because the beneficial bacteria that aids in lactose digestion is killed by pasteurization.

It’s clear that milk the way Nature intended—full-fat from a healthy, grass-fed cow, goat, sheep, water buffalo, or camel —is an amazing food, with significant health benefits, that Canadian consumers should have the right to access safely.

Science Supporting Raw Milk Health Benefits