There I was on the Washington Post’s health blog, reading about cereal, when I made the mistake of breaking rule #1 of life on the Internet: Never read the comments.
You’d think I would know better, right? But noooo, there I was, reading a dozen pompous comments about how boxed cereal is a tool of Satan and everybody who eats it is poisoning themselves blah blah blah.
I was getting eyerolly enough and then came the commenter who said she only ate steel-cut oats personally picked by Guatemalan peasants (okay, that part might only have been in my brain) and eaten with raw milk.
And that is when my brain exploded in a very messy fashion all over the living room. Because if you think I get strident when it comes to the wonders of vaccination, I know you’ve never suggested the drinking of raw milk in my presence. The words “raw milk” can cause a high-pitched shriek to come involuntarily out of my mouth.
What is raw milk? According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, raw milk is milk that has not been pasteurized to kill all the bacteria, viruses, and parasites that might have crept in during the process of milking and packaging the milk. Y’know, fun stuff like salmonella and E. coli and listeria and brucellosis and…
Because let’s face it: I don’t care how happy and healthy your cow is…it doesn’t live in a clean room, it tromps around in the mud and the bugs and its own feces. And ol’ Bessie isn’t taking a shower before she’s milked.
There is a lingering belief that raw milk is somehow healthier because it contains healthy bacteria (probiotics) or more nutritional value. Unfortunately, neither of those is true. If you’re looking for probiotics, check out many of the other products like yogurt that contain them. And the short heating process of pasteurization does not cause the loss of any significant amount of nutrition, but it does make the milk a million times safer to drink.
Pasteurized milk is one of the greatest public health inventions…right up there with my beloved vaccinations.
Of course, now that I’ve ranted about raw milk and been nearly as pompous as the original raw milk commenter, I have to admit something embarrassing. I wouldn’t feed my kids raw milk for anything…but not only do I lick the bowl when I’m making cakes or cookies, but I let my young kids do it too. (Um, if my husband is reading this, I’m doooooomed, because he hates when I do that.)
Yup, I sometimes let ’em get a taste of raw eggs. ::sigh:: Which, granted, is somewhat safer than raw milk, but still dangerous. (I really need to start buying pasteurized eggs, darn it.) So why do I do it? How do I justify this?
Such as it is, here’s my justification: There’s no advantage to raw milk, no benefit to be gained over drinking pasteurized milk, but I consider licking the bowl to be one of the greatest reasons to make cookies.
Yeah, it’s a sucky justification. You can go ahead and call me a hypocrite, but for me it’s all about balancing risks and benefits. There is a small risk to that taste of raw egg but I’m willing to take the risk. I see no reason to take the larger risk of raw milk for a nonexistent benefit.