Raw Milk Info and Frequently Asked Questions
Updated: February 25, 2012
Want to learn more about raw milk or about Organic Pastures Dairy’s standards and production processes? Great! We have posted raw milk information for helpful learning and frequently asked questions to help you with any questions you may have. Need more information? We are here to help get those questions answered! Simply email us or post a question to our Facebook wall and we will answer your questions.
Raw Milk and the Human Immune System
Every human immune system and digestive tract ecosystem is different when it comes to raw milk consumption. The human immune system protects the body by helping it to ward-off and recover from various threats. A healthy human body has multiple mechanisms to help recognize and neutralize pathogens. When consuming raw milk or any living food, it is very important to understand your immune system status. If your immunity is depressed, then you are possibly at a higher risk of illness from the bacteria that are normally found in raw milk. Even the good bacteria found in raw milk can cause some illness in persons with a highly depressed immune system. Beneficial bacteria found in raw milk tend to “colonize the GUT and take-over” causing a change of the internal ecosystem balance. This change, although it normally results in an improved immune status and strength, for some people can be a challenge during the period of acclimatization. We want you to know that if you are one of the following classes of consumers, you may have an increased chance of illness during this period of adjustment: newborns and infants, the elderly, pregnant women, those taking corticosteroids, antibiotics and antacids, and those having chronic illness or other conditions that weaken their immune system. Sadly, these are the very people that can benefit the most from the consumption of raw milk. So if you are one of these classes of consumers with a depressed immune system, take it slow, drink small amounts of raw milk over a longer period and let the adjustment take some time. This will lessen the magnitude of conflict between competing bacteria in the GUT and allow for an easier transition.
Is raw milk safe?
The consequences of drinking contaminated raw milk can be very serious, especially for some young children and those that have damaged, immature immune systems or certain medical conditions. Like all unprocessed and raw food, raw milk is never guaranteed to be perfectly safe and free of harmful bacteria. Raw milk is not a food that is an exception to any rules for food safety. In California, there are about 1.5 outbreak cluster investigations performed each week by the State of CA, which clearly shows that the foods we choose to eat can be contaminated and may cause illness. As a cautionary statement to those seeking the benefits of raw milk in their effort to strengthen a weakened immune system, we urge you to understand that some people may be more susceptible to these possible food contaminations and ultimately this can cause serious illness.
To gain further perspective on food safety, it is essential to appreciate that in America there are more than 95,000 cases of STEC E. Coli 0157H7 illness every year (a pathogen that can be carried in Raw Milk). Many of these result in HUS or Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome.
Very few of these illnesses are the result of the consumption of raw milk. On average about 30-40 people per year are sickened in the USA by raw milk from all bacterial causes (CDC Data).
We believe that OPDC raw milk is very safe. When compared to other whole unprocessed foods, the FDA data shows that raw milk does not rank on the most risky foods in America list. . However, consumers should be aware that while the probability of getting sick from contaminated raw milk may be low, the consequences can be severe, especially for young children and the immune-compromised.
About OPDC Raw Milk Food Safety Measures
With assistance from experts and professionals around the world, OPDC voluntarily developed and initiated an intensive food safety plan ( RAMP ) in 2007. These measures significantly reduce the potential for contamination and illness. What is RAMP? RAMP stands for Risk Analysis Management Program, which is a detailed system that OPDC follows routinely, every day. A copy of our RAMP Food Safety Program is located on our Lab Tests page, listed under About OP.
As part of the RAMP Food Safety Program, OPDC tests multiple times per week for the pathogen E. Coli 0157-H7. OPDC uses a third party lab for these tests and have results posted to the Lab Tests page. To date, OPDC has not found pathogens in their test results. Lab testing of raw milk can have limitations and does not catch every possible pathogen. For this reason, OPDC tests every single milk batch for Standard Plate Count (SPC) and Coliforms levels. By California Grade A Standards, our raw milk must have less than 15,000 SPC bacteria levels and less than 10 coliforms; this is the same level that pasteurized products must have, after pasteurization. SPC and Coliforms levels are indicators for cleanliness and sanitary conditions. It is OPDC’s mission to produce the safest and best tasting raw milk possible for all to consume and we work extremely hard to keep our consumers healthy and happy.
Raw Milk and Lactose Intolerance
Most people who are lactose intolerant drink raw milk with no problem at all, but there seems to be a very small number of people who either need more time to re-colonize their gut with lactase-producing bacteria, or have some other challenge and continue to struggle with lactose intolerance. This subcategory of people appears to be very small. Research is underway to discover why some people have such a hard time consuming even raw milk. Every race and people from every continent and background can drink raw milk with that very rare exception, as noted. In one study conducted in Michigan it was found that about 90% of people suffering from lactose intolerance with pasteurized milk or dairy products could drink raw milk with no problem at all. Studies at OPDC farmers markets confirm that research data.
Preparing your body for raw milk
If you are seeking raw milk because you have a weakened immune system and want to make it stronger, do not expect your immune system to be strong overnight. It may take time and every immune system reacts differently as you work to rebuilt it. As you take nutritional steps to repair your gut walls, you will rebuild immunity to bacteria, increase your gut biodiversity and enhance your enzyme production. Be patient and slowly introduce raw milk into your diet. As a suggested first step ( if you are a high risk consumer ) to drinking raw milk, try a fermented, easier to digest raw milk called Kefir. Raw milk Kefir is pre-digested and easier to digest and consume. Raw kefir can be effervescent and has been described as tasting sour or tangy. To neutralize the tangy taste, try making delicious smoothies.
For some very good gut rebuilding advice please read “GAPS” by Dr. Natasha Campbell McBride MD. She will guide you through the nutritional steps to get your gut working and digesting properly.
OPDC tests its products several times per week for pathogens, and in 12 years of testing they have never been found in our raw milk. This does not mean that good bugs found in raw milk, which may be very strange and new to your body, may not challenge your system and make your immune system do some push-ups. So take your time if you are new to raw milk and take baby steps. Your body will do much better if given time to adjust.
If you have a healthy, strong immune system with no digestion problems, but have never consumed a raw dairy product before, we recommend allowing an introduction period. This introduction of raw milk should be gradual and it will allow your body to digest and absorb all the new beneficial bacteria raw milk brings. We recommend allowing your body some time to adjust to all of the wonderful elements found in raw milk.
Immunity is earned
80% of the function of the healthy human immune system is the ecosystem of bacteria found in the gut. Modern Americans are subjected to strong antibiotics, sterilized foods, preservatives, GMOs, chemicals in our air, water, food, kitchens, harsh work environments, car pollution, computer and cell radiation, contaminated soils, and the list goes on: all of these things damage the bacteria in the gut and the immune system. Our natural immunity has been compromised, and it will take time and patience to rebuild it. A strong immune system means that your body has “earned" its own ability to do battle and protect itself.
Ideas for taking it slow
A baby step for you could be drinking very small amounts of raw milk (four ounces for an adult) every few hours to see how things go prior to going hog wild and drinking delicious full cups of raw milk. If your body reacts positively to raw milk, then try graduating to a cup of raw whole milk or kefir per day for a week. Remember that raw milk is a bio-diverse food containing many different wonderful bacteria, enzymes, and other living components. Remember that rebuilding your gut takes time, so take it easy as you take positive steps to heal your gut and reestablish the balance of your inner ecosystem. If you are new to raw dairy and experience any symptoms that you are unsure of, please call us immediately.
What diseases can be aided by consuming raw milk and raw dairy products?
OPDC may not make a medical claim or post cures for any disease process relative to any OPDC product. That is a crime under current FDA law. Want to share your testimonial? We recommend contacting CReMA, Raw Milk Institute, www.realmilk.com, and www.raw-milk-facts.com. These organizations are collecting and researching raw milk benefits. Eight years ago OPDC was fined $4000 dollars for posting a true “consumer testimonial” that a mother had sent about her child’s relief from a respiratory disease. A regulatory agency immediately contacted OPDC and mandated that the testimonial be taken down because it amounted to a medical claim that had not been approved by the FDA. Under current laws, this “commercial speech” is regulated. To find out what kinds of medical conditions are relieved by the consumption of raw milk and the repair of the digestive or immune challenges, please see www.mercola.com or www.rawmilkinstitute.org or www.realmilk.com or other blog or non-profit website.
How to prevent souring
Warm weather is here! Here is a word about keeping raw milk fresh tasting.
Raw milk is a living food, filled with active beneficial bacteria. The
bacteria activity is dependent on the temperature of the milk. In fact, the
amount of beneficial bacteria will double every 20 minutes at room
temperature. This "souring" process makes the raw milk a super probiotic
beverage. Many traditional diets intentionally sour their raw milk for this
reason. In order to enjoy your milk fresh and sweet tasting, it is very
important that you keep it chilled 36- 40 degrees F. As long as the milk is
cold, the bacteria will not grow (become soured). On the dairy, we chill
our milk immediately after milking. All of our delivery trucks are chilled
to keep the milk cold, and we rely on our stores to keep the milk chilled 40
degrees F or less to prevent early souring.
Here are a few tips for handling your delicious raw milk: Ask your store
manager what day they receive OPDC raw dairy products. Purchase your milk
as close as you can to the delivery date. Transport your milk in a cold ice
chest to your home. Immediately place your milk in the coldest place in
your refrigerator (usually top shelf in the back. The side doors is the
warmest place in the refrigerator). Verify that the temperature of your
refrigerator is 36-40 degrees. If your milk is kept cold at all times, from
our farm to your table, you should expect fresh tasting milk for 10 days.
What should you do if your milk sours? You can clabber the milk by leaving
it at room temperature in a dark place (70-85 degrees). There are several
how-to videos on utube to demonstrate this traditional process. You could
also bake with it; using it in place of milk or buttermilk.
Frequently Asked Questions
1) How are OPDC cows treated?
At OPDC, our animals are raised humanely, outdoors on pasture with continual access to fresh organic pastures for resting and grazing, and treated with organic herd management practices. Animals that are raised outdoors on open, outdoor pasture have been known to live longer, healthier lives. OPDC cows are free to graze, run, sunbath, frolic with the bulls and socialize with the other cows. This natural environment is what cows seem to want and enjoy most. At OPDC our cows are certified USDA organic and are never treated with antibiotics, hormones or other drugs. An average, our cows live 10-12 years, which is much longer than the industry average.
In comparison, the average conventional dairy cow lives on a manure covered dirt, concrete or dry-lot pen, is given hormones, antibiotics or other drugs, is treated with conventional herd management practices, and tends to have a much shorter length of life. The average lifespan of a conventional dairy cow is 42 months, compared with 10-12 years for a pastured cow. This is no fault of the hardworking dairymen and their families. This is a result of the commodity market system, University training that modern dairymen receive and the market requirement to produce as much milk as possible for as little cost as possible.
2. How are OPDC cows fed?
OPDC keeps their milking and dry cows on pastures all year long. For pastures to be green and available all year for grazing, OPDC rotates the herd around the 405-acre farm every few weeks. With proper grazing rotation the cows eat the grass at proper speed and do not damage the pastures with over grazing. The cow fertilizes the pastures with her manure, the perfect organic fertilizer. OPDC waters the pastures with flood irrigation. By flood irrigating the pastures, the cows manure is evenly distributed over the pastures and helps fertilize the soils.
The pastures are planted and reseeded every 4 years with certified organic pasture seed mix, including: 25% Lofa Festulolium, 19% Persister Brome, 14% Angus Tetrapoliod Perennial Rye Grass, 9% Alfalfa, 8% Strawberry Clover, 6% Trefoil, 3% Tivoli Perennial Rye Grass. This variety of grasses provides for a lush eating selection. Overtime, the pastures have evolved into a beautiful grazing land, and other life has chosen OPDC as their home including: migrating birds, coyotes, gophers, rabbits, pheasants, dove, billions of earth worms, beneficial insects, and an array of organisms that help create an organic ecosystem. This ecosystem and healthy diet transfers into the quality of the milk that the cows produce; thus, giving the raw milk they produce healthy fats! Pasture-fed cows make milk that is 2-4 times richer in heart healthy omega 3 fatty acids, higher in good unsaturated fats, 3 to 5 times higher in CLA content, and is over 400% more in vitamin A and E.
The average milking cow will eat about 2-2.5% of their body weight in dry matter, per day; for example, a 1000-pound cow can eat 167 lbs of grass, per day. Pasture grass is about 85% water. Because of this large demand of pasture grass needed to feed the OPDC milking cows, OPDC cows are supplemented fed organic feed in addition to their continual open access to green pastures. During the colder months of December through February the grass does not grow as rapidly as it does in warmer months, which limits the amount of pasture for the cows to graze. During this natural seasonal dormant period, the cows are supplemented more with baled organic alfalfa.
As an additional supplement feed, OPDC cows are given about 5 pounds per day of organic corn or oats. Milking cows need additional energy in order to produce milk and keep up their body condition healthy. Unlike beef cows that are pasture-fed in the foothills and mountains of CA all year long, milk cows that are provided just pasture during the winter months will weaken and become very thin if they are milked without good feed. Their milk production will drop to near zero and the milking herd will be stressed. OPDC adjusts the cow’s feeding needs during these low pasture-growing periods to prevent the cow from becoming weak and for proper dietary nutrition.
You will taste the difference in milk quality in our creamy raw milk because our cow’s diets truly reflect this nutritional difference.
3. How are OPDC cows milked?
Organic raw milk cows should always be as stress-free as possible, so each cow is milked twice a day (some dairies milk three or four times per day). OPDC gives the cows an udder wash before being milked as an additional cleaning step for milking cleanliness. This wash step also allows the cow’s milk to naturally “let down” pre-milking.
Before each milking, the milking barn is thoroughly cleaned and washed. Each milking machine, all tanks, piping and even workspaces between production batches are cleaned with automatically re-circulating 180-degree hot water and a organically approved detergent and cold water with acid cleaner. We believe in clean.
Once the OPDC cows are inside the milking barn, each cow’s teat (a cow’s nipple where the milk comes out of the udder) is pre-dipped by hand with a .5% iodine solution. The udder and teat is cleaned, stimulated (the process in which you begin milking the teat) and the milk is hand checked for any mastitis or abnormalities. If the cow’s milk is abnormal, then the cow is hand milked and the cow is closely monitored and balm is applied to the udder until the mastitis or cause for abnormality is cured. It is important to note that OPDC has an extraordinarily low percent of mastitis cows, as to be expected on a clean pasture environment. The cow’s udders are then wiped clean with a clean towel and prepared for the milking machine. Milking usually takes 5-7 minutes and will usually extract 2.5 gallons of raw milk (on average) per milking per cow (5 gallons per day average). After milking, each cow will be given a post-dip of 1% iodine solution for their teat to help protect them from infection.
4. Do OPDC cows get their tails cut?
No. Cows need their tails so she can protect herself from flies. Cow’s tails can get really long and can get in the way of the milking process. To prevent the tail from getting in the way of the milking and possibly putting dirt or mud on the clean milk machines, we trim all our cow tail hair (never their tail bone) to be just long enough for her to swat flies off her back, but short enough to stay out of the way of the milk machine.
5. What is OPDC’s Cow Health Management?
We use only organic and homeopathic remedies for treating our sick cows. Nothing works better than prevention, which is why we take every precaution to keep our cows healthy, safe and clean.
6. How does OPDC Breed their Cows?
Breeding cows is a main part of dairy husbandry. Cows give milk because they have given birth to a baby calf. In nature they would be feeding that calf with their milk. Cows go into heat once a month, starting one month after calving. Healthy cows usually get “bred back” within 60-90 days of calving. When the cow is 210 days pregnant, she gets “dried off” and sent to rest in the dry pen pasture. We call this “maternity leave” because she is not working and making milk, she is just grazing and relaxing all day. This 2-month “maternity leave” and dry period is critical to collection of her colostrum and calf development as well as a strong lactation to follow.
Most dairies use Artificial Insemination to breed their cows, but we use only natural bull breeding. At OPDC, bulls naturally do all the work, if you can call it work. It is less time consuming, very effective, inexpensive and the most natural.
7. How does OPDC raise their calves?
We raise all our own calves from birth to Springer heifer (when they are 14 months old and get bred for the first time, naturally). We raise them according to strict organic standards. The calves stay with the mother for 2 days on the pasture, where they drink colostrum for the first time. Then, they go to a secure calf raising location, where they get more colostrum. OPDC calves continue to receive raw milk for the next three months of their lives. While in the protected, calf-raising location they are kept safe from natural predators that live in the area surroundings, like coyotes. Calves also bond with their calf friends and get special treatment from our friendly calf feeder, twice a day.
At 3 months of age they are ready to transition to graze pastures and eat alfalfa. At 6 months they are fully weaned and they graze pastures exclusively. At about 14 months old the heifers are about 800 pounds and are mature enough to move to the maternity pasture where they will naturally breed with our bulls. They are bred in the next few heat cycles and 9 months later, they are now considered a mature “cow”. The pregnant cows then lives in the “maternity pen” during this time of transition with the other pregnant cows at OPDC.
After giving birth, they become part of the raw milk herd and make the wonderful milk you drink. It is there that they will be reunited with their birth mother and father bull. OPDC believes in keeping the cycle of life within the OPDC farm fences and not outsource calf raising or bull breeding to another business or ranch.
8. When does OPDC buy cows and why?
The California raw milk market has grown substantially over the years. Since the founding year in 1999, OPDC demand has skyrocketed and we have occasionally needed to buy more cows from other organic dairies to grow our herd to meet the demand. Our calves are raised to replace the cows leaving, however we do purchase more cows as required. OPDC’s Operations Manager, Aaron McAfee, has a great relationship with a pasture based, organic dairy in Oakdale CA and is able to hand select the new cows from to ensure that the cows are TB Free, pasture fed and healthy.
9. Why do you say, "Raw Milk is Alive"?
Natural organic raw milk has in it vitally important living things; these include the following: beneficial bacteria, enzymes (including lipase, protease, phosphatase etc…), lactase forming bacteria, and many enzymes based pathogen-killing systems. The common practice of pasteurization inactivates or dramatically reduces the effects of these important active (living) elements. As a result, you may be lactose intolerant when drinking pasteurized milk, but not lactose intolerant when you drink raw milk. This is because lactase enzymes are being formed when you digest raw milk. That is why we say, "Only Living Milk Brings Life."
10. Are “organic milk” and “raw milk” the same thing?
No. Organic milk does not mean it is raw milk. In fact, many people, when asked if they had consumed raw milk say, “Yes, I have had organic milk.” It is very important to understand the drastic difference between the two products.
The word “raw” means naturally occurring, unprocessed and an uncooked state of any food, in other words, it is not heated in any way.. Raw milk can be sold as organic or conventional. "Organic" is a set of environmentally sustainable growing and production practices that are now certified and regulated by the USDA. If organic milk is pasteurized, it is no longer raw and living, but rather, processed and denatured.
11. What happened that caused the recall in 2011?
In the late summer-fall of 2011, over a 10-week period of time, five children in CA (three of whom were hospitalized with HUS) were sickened by a genetically identical strain of E. Coli 0157-H7. After a month-long intensive investigation, state investigators and OPDC private testing linked the strains of bacteria to the OPDC calf raising area, where several samples of dirt and water revealed a pathogen that did match the sick kids. Hundreds of samples taken of OPDC fresh milk, cow’s manure, all OPDC products, environmental tests and the cultured milk products taken from one of the affected families (homemade kefir and pickles) , revealed no E. Coli 0157H7.
Calves have immature immune systems and commonly carry pathogens, including E. coli and Salmonella. In the recall of 2011, the five identical strains of E. Coli from the patients that tested positive matched the strains found in OPDC calf raising area. Specifically, the E. Coli was found in the water feeder and in some calf dirt manure mixture samples.
OPDC has since initiated a very intensive bio-security plan to assure that calf areas and all employees, equipment and even visitors that enter the calf areas follow strict protocols to assure separation between OPDC calves, products and creamery.
Changes and improvements made at OPDC since the recall:
Since November 16th 2011, OPDC has done the following things and much more to reduce the possibility of contamination:
- A new capper and filler was purchased and installed.
- A new creamery processing room was built that is twice the size of our old creamery, and this included new epoxy floors, lighting, new concrete floors with steeper slope for flow of water to drains.
- Cold storage was renovated with: new floors, walls and doors (including an insulated USDA approved roll up door and new insulated man door).
- New aluminum diamond plate decking was installed on the entries to the creamery and cheese plant.
- Air vents, AC ducting and all lighting was renovated.
- All doors now have self-closing systems.
- All employees where factory trained on the use and cleaning of our new facilities and new capper filler.
- All plastic product cases are washed and protected from contamination with plastic wrapping and pallet management. Cases are now brought into the creamery through a new door system that prevents dust from entering.
- A new cold storage trap door system and conveyor ramp system was installed to allow filled cases of milk to be moved into the cold storage from the creamery without opening of a man sized door.
- At the dairy, a new cow udder washing system was installed to assure even cleaner udders.
- Each week, dairy management reviews bacteria counts with all employees to assure feedback for lowest possible bacteria counts, Standard Plate Count, and Coliform levels.
- A bio-security plan has been initiated to assure separation of the calf raising operations from all other dairy processes and operations.
- New signage was installed to assure that employees and visitors all follow the sanitation rules, as written in our RAMP Food Safety Plan.
- All 4 batches of raw milk are tested for coliforms and Standard Plate Count each day. By California Grade A Standards, CA raw milk dairies must have less than 15,000 SPC and less than 10 coliforms per ml of raw milk as measured in the finished products. SPC and Coliforms levels are indicators of cleanliness.
12. Why do OPDC products carry a "government warning" that states that the consumer may be sickened by this raw dairy product?
Government regulations now require many living foods to carry a warning label, including meat, poultry, fish, and fresh juices. This came about because of the ever-weakening immune system of the average American citizen. More and more US consumers have severely weakened immune systems and can become ill by eating small amounts of foreign bacteria that their bodies are not familiar with. It has been estimated that about 70% of the strength of a healthy immune system is made up of the diversity of living bacteria found in the intestines.
Raw milk provides a perfect source for the "seeding and feeding" of these diverse populations of living bacteria. The average American diet is practically devoid of living bacteria (all highly processed foods and few bacterial sources). Our immune systems have suffered as a direct result. Consuming raw milk and dairy products can be an important step towards regaining immune strength and overall health. On occasion a new raw milk consumer may have some diarrhea from drinking raw milk for the first time. This is rare and but should be considered normal. It is possible, that pathogens may be transmitted in raw milk just as they may be transmitted in all other foods.
OPDC cannot predict the future and know what is yet to come; it is possible that someday a pathogen may be detected in OPDC raw milk.
13. What happens to bacteria in pasteurized milk after pasteurization?
After pasteurization, bacteria found naturally in milk are killed. During the high temperature heating process, cell bodies of these bacteria are ruptured and their contents are spilled, releasing intracellular proteins. This causes many milk drinkers to suffer histamine or allergic reactions. Almost all of these same consumers can drink raw milk and not have allergies. The high levels of bacteria permitted in milk intended for pasteurization are still found in pasteurized milk; they are just dead and not filtered or physically removed by this process.
14. What is homogenization?
Homogenization is the process of destroying the natural butter fat cells found in raw natural milk. This process uses extreme pressure to break apart the soft buoyant fat cells, which cause the remaining small fat pieces to blend into milk and no longer float to the top making the cream line. Some European countries have studies that show that this process is dangerous and may strongly contribute to heart disease and arterial plaguing. Homogenization is not a required step, but rather a step of convenience to deny the consumer the ability to see how much cream is actually in the milk they buy.
15. Why is milk pasteurized?
In the 1800s, many US dairies began commercially producing low quality raw milk in the inner cities of Boston and New York and others. These Brewery dairies would feed their cows very poor quality "brewer's mash" as feed. The resulting milk was very weak and nearly blue from lack of protein, mineral, and fat content. This occurred during the Jamaican rum embargo. During this same time period, the dairy industry did not use or have access to refrigeration, stainless steel, milking machines, rubber hoses, hot water, or sanitizers. TB and Brucellosis were rampant (not to mention horse manure on the streets, flies, and lack of public sanitation and sewage) and the cows were milked by hand without mechanical machines. The cows stood in manure and there was no access to pasture. The resulting unhealthy milk from these sources literally killed millions of people.
The heating of milk to high temperatures reduced this horrible blight. During this same time period, milk from the countryside taken from pasture grazed healthy and clean cows was the best medicine of the day. In fact, the Mayo Clinic used this high quality country raw milk as a basis for many disease-curing therapies. This was the untold story of raw milk. Because of pasteurization successes, commercial interests prevailed and all dairies (the good, bad, and the ugly) then began to pool their milk so that "nobody would die," even if milk quality was very poor. This was great news for milk mass marketing, and creameries created high profits. These pasteurization practices continue today with the chief benefit being extended shelf life and reduced concern for safety and liability.
These modern highly processed milk products now cause allergies and lactose intolerance to huge sectors of the population. Current (PMO) Federal standards for pasteurized milk permit 100,000 bacteria per ml for milk going to be pasteurized with as many as 20,000 injured or living bacteria to be alive after pasteurization, and this may include pathogens (this is arguably the reason why milk is pasteurized). California standards for human consumption raw milk require that milk sold for raw consumption have fewer than 10 coliforms and fewer than 15,000 live bacteria per ml and no pathogens. OPDC averages about 1500 beneficial living bacteria per ml and no test has ever detected a human pathogen in our “raw milk samples.”
16. What are pathogens?
Pathogens are disease causing bacteria and organisms. The four human pathogens that are tested (state mandated) at OPDC include Listeria Monocytogenes, Salmonella, Campylobacter and E. Coli 0157-H7. To date, not one of these pathogens have ever been detected by any agency in our “raw milk”.
17. What are enzymes?
Enzymes are specialized proteins that assist in the breaking down (hydrolyzing) and digestion of foods into useful elements that can be utilized, absorbed, or stored by the body. Enzymes are identified by the use of the ending "ase" associated with their name. For instance Lipase helps digest lipids (fats). Lactase helps digest lactose sugar (milk sugar). If your body does not produce and have available specific enzymes, then you may not be able to utilize certain food sources, or absorb certain minerals, etc. Phosphatase, which is key to the absorption of calcium, is inactivated by pasteurization. In fact, the test for effective pasteurization is called the "negative Phosphatase test."
Is it no wonder that Americans are suffering from osteoporosis at a rate higher than ever? It is now considered a US health crisis. A little trick that is not commonly known is that if you drink plenty of raw milk, lactose intolerant people can then tolerate limited amounts of pasteurized milk products, including ice cream. There is a sharing of required missing enzymes (lactase) and bacteria that are required in the gut, making a person not intolerant of lactose containing products.
18. What are Immunoglobulins?
Immunoglobulins (antibodies) are immune system boosting elements found in the blood stream. They include IgA, IgD, IgE, IgG, and IgM, which among other things neutralize toxins and counter microbial attack. They are collected during pregnancy (in the breasts and udders of mammals) and are transferred to the newborn via colostrum (first milk) after being born. These essential protective proteins form a big part of the immune system and respond to disease and infection. Bovine colostrum contains high levels of these antibodies.
19. Is making Kefir or other cultured milk products at home safe?
Kefir is a fermented milk product that was cultured at warm temperatures over 24-48 hours with a living or freeze dried kefir grain culture. Kefir can be made at home by using store bought starters or buy using real, living kefir grains. You can also buy already made Kefir from a store. There are many different kinds of Kefir products available to make or buy.
If you choose to make Kefir at home, you need to be aware of important food safety procedures you should follow to make a safe and non-contaminated product. For a step-by-step instruction on how to safely and properly make Kefir at home using OPDC raw milk and OPDC living, real Kefir grains, please visit our Recipe page.
You can also watch a “How To” video at here>
OPDC only recommends making homemade kefir with OPDC raw milk and real active living grains.
It is imperative that when making kefir with raw milk, that the Kefir starter is healthy and very active. Tests show that elevated levels of coliform bacteria are reduced to near zero when proper pH and acid levels are reached (the lacto fermentation process). A reduction of coliforms after fermentation is one good indication of proper fermentation. This is natures natural cleansing system for food safety. However, certain pathogens are somewhat acid resistant and can resist the lower pH of fermented raw milk. All starter cultures used to initiate homemade Kefir must be strong and effective. We recommend using actual Kefir grains that are alive and growing colonies. Keep them strong and well maintained. A failure of a starter culture can be a serious issue because “who knows what is actually growing”. We know that a strong Kefir grain starter creates very potent organic acid bacteria growth creating a pH of about 4.2-4.5 and is essential to the safety of a raw Kefir.
Important Safety Note: During the investigation of the 2011 OPDC recall, it was discovered that two of the most ill children were from the same home and family. This family drank homemade Kefir, and not fresh raw milk. The culture starters were freeze dried and bought from an Internet source and not actually living, real Kefir grains. This family also ate homemade fermented vegetables, made using whey separated from raw milk. Consumers who make cultured vegetables at home should take the same amount of care, as they would in making kefir, to ensure that appropriate food safety measures are followed.
20. Can I cook with OPDC products and will the heat affect the raw nature of the products?
Yes, you can cook with OPDC products, but any heat over about 110 degrees starts to denature proteins, enzymes and kill bacteria. This is okay, but just remember the benefits of raw and make sure you eat plenty of raw (not heated above 110 degrees) in your diet for a strong immune system, good digestion, and absorption of minerals. The GABRIELA study in Europe discovered that when the raw whey protein was heated, that the anti inflammatory qualities of raw milk were lost. Raw whey proteins found in raw milk, stabilize the MAST cell and helps reduce asthma,histamines and general inflammation in the body.
21. What can I do with warm or soured raw milk?
Soured raw milk is a vitally nutritious product and should be cultured for optimal flavor and taste. The resulting food is wonderful, delicious, digestible, and highly nutritious. In most countries this is how people drink their milk. Our great grandparents called it Clabbered milk.
22. Does freezing damage raw dairy products?
Freezing puts raw milk products to sleep and has little effect on the important health benefits that raw dairy products provide. Enzymes and bacteria are fully active when they awake after thawing. Some vitamins are reduced by trace amounts after being frozen. The flavor is sometimes slightly affected by this and is not always apparent. All OPDC products may be frozen. Placing the frozen product in warm water to cause thawing. Milk should be shaken to mix up the butterfat after thawing. Warming the product to room temperature just prior to drinking will also make the fat blend in better with the milk (if it has clumped or separated during freezing). Some consumers report that rapid thawing of frozen raw milk makes for better taste. To do this place frozen milk container into warm water for an hour and then place back into refrigerator when thawed and drink it in the next two days for best flavor.
23. Can I get OPDC products fresh and not frozen?
OPDC will ship all raw products fresh and/or frozen to California consumers. All shipments are placed into an insulated box with ice packs to keep the product fresh. Warm raw dairy products lose none of their nutritional value, but they begin the process of natural souring and clabbering, which starts to change flavors (rapid increase beneficial bacteria). This is not a concern for food safety, but it does make the product into a naturally cultured dairy product- much like Kefir.
Please call 1-877-RAW-MILK if your shipment has been delayed in transit and arrived unsatisfactory.
24. I do not live in California.
May I get your milk shipped to me?
Federal law mandates that raw milk in final package form intended for human consumption cannot be transported across state lines. To do so would constitute a violation of federal law CFR 1240.61.
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