What is raw milk?
Raw milk is milk that comes directly from the cows producing it without being pasteurised, homogenised or altered in any way.
What is pasteurisation?
Pasteurisation is the process of heating milk to a high temperature for a sustained period to destroy any bacteria and microorganisms found in the milk. Any cells or nutrients that are killed or damaged during the pasteurisation process remain in the liquid milk as dead cells rather than living cells.
What is homogenisation?
Homogenisation is the process of emulsifying the fat globules found in milk so that the milk is a uniform consistency and does not seperate (i.e. with the cream rising to the top). To acheive this, the milk is forced through tiny holes under extreme pressure. This process changes the fat structure, breaking it down into small pieces that stay suspended throughout the milk.
Why raw milk?
There are many reasons a consumer might prefer raw milk over pasteurised, processed milk, and different people have different reasons depending on their value system, health conditions and priorities. The resolution to consume raw milk is a calculated decision made by each individual consumer. Some reasons may include:
Nutrition - Raw milk is a natural, whole, unprocessed, living food. It is unadulterated - nothing added or taken away. Because of this, it has many active nutritive components that are not damaged or destroyed during the pasteurisation process and are 100% metabolically available to the consumer. This includes many vitamins, enzymes, proteins, minerals, amino acids and benificial bacteria that boost the immune system, help the body to build healthy cells, enhance assimilation of nutrients and enrich the human body.
Health and Tolerance – Many consumers with some degree of lactose intolerance have no trouble digesting raw milk. Also, consumption of raw milk has been associated by many consumers with a decrease in asthma, sinus troubles and sensitisation to pollen and other allergens.
Flavour – Rich, creamy and satisfying, raw milk is significantly different to conventional milk. Some customers simply prefer raw milk because of its more robust flavour or becuase it is the milk they grew up with.
Sustainability and Environment– Raw milk produced directly for human consumption is largely produced by small, local farmers. Purchasing from small, sustainable farms helps consumers reconnect with their food supply, holds the farmers accountable for their products and supports the local economy. Raw milk production provides a unique farming opportunity where upon selling a high quality product directly to the consumer, the real value of the milk can be translated back to the farmer.
Ethics – Compasionate and caring consumers can be assured that cows are treated humanely and live happy, healthy lives on pasture.
Freedom of Choice - Some consumers may not drink raw milk themselves, but they wholeheartedly support the sale of raw milk due to their belief that informed consumers should have the right to choose what they eat and drink.
Is raw milk safe?
When produced responsibly, raw milk is a low risk food for contamination and illness. It is important to keep in mind that any food, including pasteurised dairy products, cannot be guaranteed to be 100% safe, it all depends on how they are produced, handled, stored and delivered. It is also important to realise that not all raw milk is created equal. Milk that is intended to be consumed raw should be produced to higher standards than milk destined for pasteurisation. This distinction — between raw milk that will be pasteurised and raw milk from a small, hygienic dairy that operates to higher standards precisely because the milk won’t be pasteurised — is a crucial one. At Crawford's Farm we have HAACP for our raw milk production and take a multi-faceted approach to making sure the risk of contamination of our raw milk is as low as possible to ensure the health and well-being of those who consume it.
Herd Health – Cows are ruminants and over millions of years they have evolved a digestive system designed to break down cellulose, a type of sugar found in the cell walls of grasses and other green plants. When cows are fed too much starchy grain, as they are in many conventional dairies, their rumen, which is usually neutral, becomes acidic. Pathogens such as E. coli have evolved to withstand this acidic environment, which is why they cannot then be killed off in the acidic gut of humans. On the other hand, the human digestive system better retains its ability to kill off any potential microbes that evolve in the neutral pH of a grass-fed cow’s rumen. Without consumption of fresh grass, cows also do not receive the minerals and nutrients needed to produce milk that is intrinsically more nutritional.
Cows raised organically don't receive antibiotics in the regular fashion of conventional dairy herds. This means they are better able to retain their natural digestive capabilities and are better at eliminating the presence of harmful pathogens in their faecal matter, further reducing the possibility of finding pathogenic bacteria on a farm under organic management.
Milk Health – Healthy cows produce healthy milk. In addition, there is some evidence to support that healthy raw milk contains probiotic bacteria and antimicrobial components absent in pasteurized milk, that help slow the growth of unwanted bacteria. Meaning healthy raw milk may be less susceptible to contamination than pasteurised milk.
Milking Hygiene – Hygienic milking, milking parlour cleanliness, dairy cleanliness, cow cleanliness and proper milking machine and milk tank cleaning and maintenance are of the utmost importance. Raw milk is filtered, cooled to below 3°C within 20min, and either kept in the bulk milk tank or sealed into delivery containers, and maintained at or below 3°C until it is delivered.
Testing – Testing in raw milk dairies takes place on both the cows and the milk to test both herd and milk health. The frequency of testing will likely depend on each individual farmers health and risk assessment and HACCP. At Crawford's Farm our cows are vaccinated for Leptospirosis and tested for TB and Brucellosis every 5 months during the 10-month production season. The milk is tested on farm once a month for Somatic Cell Count (SCC) and monthly by a lab for Total Cell Count, E. coli, Listeria, Staph aureus, Salmonella and Campylobacter. In addition, the Diary Hygiene Division of the Department of Agriculture test all our products multiple times a year.
How long will my raw milk last?
Healthy, clean raw milk never spoils - it just changes form. For fresh milk, it is best to consume within 4-6 days but if the cold chain is maintained well it can remaing fresh for up to 7-10 days. Raw milk will reach a point where it starts to thicken and sour – this is the natural evolution of raw milk. This can still be used as sour milk for use in smoothies or is great in baking. To keep your raw milk fresh for as long as possible be sure to keep it cold during transport and store in the coldest part of your refrigerator (2-4°C).
Why do you only milk for 10-months each year?
As the well known lyrics state, 'To everything there is a season.' With our very small herd of cows, it makes much more sense for both us and our customers if we can produce a more substantial amount of milk during a concentrated period rather than a limited supply over the entire year. To produce milk year-round we would need to stagger the calving of our 4 cows throughout the year. This would mean there would often only be 2 or 3 producing milk at any given time, and quantities available would not only be inconsistent but lower overall. Planning for spring calving and a 10-month production season also helps us to work better with nature. In seasonal pasture dairying this means we can: sync forage requirements with pasture growth (i.e. we aim to have our cows calve in late winter/early spring when nutritious new grass is starting to emerge); avoid a time when it is much harder to ensure the cleanliness of the cows; and, avoid milking during the winter months when production costs are most expensive for a micro-dairy. Also very importantly, it allows both the cows and us a much needed rest and rejuvination period and downtime to work on machinery, buildings and upgrades – an important aspect in the overall sustainability of a family dairy operation!
Do you ship milk?
We don't. We are striving for sustainability on our small farm and are acutely aware of how the decisions we make affect the environment. To ship milk would require for it to be packed in polysterene boxes to maintain the cold chain. Polysterene is a rather horridly producted material that can't be recycled easily and doesn't degrade. We know that we use our fair share of plastic, which is also not the best, but we can make this one decision to not add additional waste to the world!
Why is the price of raw milk higher than other milk?
To be able to sustainably provide safe, nutritious raw milk to consumers far into the future, all the production costs of raw milk must be considered along with consumer price concerns. Some of the aspects that contribute to the price of raw milk include:
Organic Herd Management and Feed Costs – Natural treatment options and costs within organics are often more costly than conventional or pharmecutical feeds and remedies.
Milk Safety – The cost of extensive milk testing and meticulous hygeine standards and practices mean that raw milk overheads are higher, but these are important aspects of ensuring the safest, highest quality products.
Smaller Herd and Lower Milk Production – We believe safe raw milk production is ideally done with small milking herds where attention can be paid to each cow on a daily basis. With a small herd and without the use of artificial hormones, our cows produce less than conventional herds yet we still have many of the same overhead costs. Allowing our cows to produce at their own level, and keeping a small herd ensures the health and safety of our animals and milk, but this smaller yeild makes production costs higher.
Delivery – The convienence of local delivery and delivery to retailers is an added expense.
Special Liability Insurance – Product insurance for raw dairy is substatantially higher than that for conventional dairy.
This information presented about raw milk is meant as information only and is not in any way meant to be taken as medical advice. Consumers are encouraged to educate themselves before making the conscious decision to consume raw milk.