Before the advent of pasteurization, all milk was raw milk. There were also a lot more food-related illnesses. Universal pasteurization was introduced in the U.S. around the same time of rapid urbanization as a way to help control bacterial diseases.
One might think this would be the end of the story, but there’s a very devoted group of people who believe that pasteurized milk is “dead milk” and are fighting to make it easier to buy the raw stuff (aka “real milk”).
In 1987 the FDA banned interstate shipping of raw milk and today its retail sale is only legal in dozen or so states. Raw milk has such a following that people form secret clubs or buy portions of a cow in order to circumvent state laws regulating its sale.
In March of 2010, Idaho made things just a bit easier for producers of raw milk. A small-herd exemption was passed that allowed farmers with 7 or fewer goats or sheep and 3 or fewer cows to produce raw milk or raw milk products for human consumption.
Critics argue that raw milk is linked to diseases and deaths from bacteria like E. Coli. Proponents argue that there are other ways, besides pasteurization, to test milk (The Idaho small-herd exemption requires tests for diseases like Tuberculosis and Brucellosis).
In this video, the folks at Bellevue Idaho’s Cottonwood Ranch milk their small herd and explain why they think that pasteurization “spoils the taste” and “changes the contents into stuff that you may or may not be able to use.” Or as 30-year-old Eric Barney explains, why “the bought milk” tastes like “cardboard cow”.
See also the photogallery on our visit to the Cottonwood Ranch.