The Rise (and Fall) of Pasteurized Milk

by Sarah Activism, Healthy LivingComments: 41

When most people think about the rise of pasteurized milk in America, they tend to think of people getting sick and dying from raw milk in such numbers that a rapid transition to the “safety” of processed milk occurred out of the sheer necessity of preserving the public health.

This is simply not so.

As you can see in the picture above of an old time ice cream wagon taken by my friend Cynthia at the Florida State Fair last week, there was a time in American history when raw milk and pasteurized milk coexisted in peace.

If people wanted raw milk, they could easily obtain it.  If they preferred pasteurized, that was available too.

This period was from about 1890 – 1940, a full fifty years of a raw milk/pasteurized milk truce!

There was no rapid and desperate movement to pasteurize except in the major cities where filthy, confinement dairies with sick cows fed distillery waste were producing a tainted, bluish milk that was making children very ill.

Pasteurization as a whole in America was a very slow process that gradually gained momentum beginning in about 1910.  Led by businessman Nathan Strauss who, along with his powerful ally Abraham Jacobi MD, President of the American Medical Association, convinced states and municipalities across America and even Europe to adopt regulations requiring pasteurization of all milk that wasn’t “certified” raw milk to preserve the health of those living in the crowded cities where quality raw milk was not easily obtained.

As described by Dr. Ron Schmid, author of The Untold Story of Milk:

For Straus and those officials who backed him, pasteurization was a matter of economics and practicality. Most recognized that certified raw milk was safe and healthy, but it was expensive to produce and sold for two to four times the cost of ordinary milk. As a practical matter, the enforcement of strict rules of hygiene on the 40,000 independent dairy farms that supplied milk to New York City was impossible. Pasteurization was seen as a quick, technological fix that would make New York’s [dirty confinement] milk safe to drink.

By 1940, the uneasy truce that had existed between certified raw milk and pasteurized milk had ended. All out war on raw milk had been declared.

The powerful voices that had begun to call for compulsory pasteurization of all milk in 1912 had finally succeeded in their mission. Access to even certified raw milk began to disappear and by the 1950’s, most people could no longer obtain it not because certified raw milk wasn’t safe, but because it was the path of least resistance for government regulators and the most profitable step for an emerging and powerful corporate Dairy Industry.

With the Dairy Industry celebrating 100 years of pasteurization this year, it is important to note that raw milk consumption in America is once again on a rapid upswing after decades of repression with over 3% of the population in 2007 regularly consuming it.   The health benefits of raw milk from cows grazing on green grass has caught on with people from all income levels and walks of life with a glass of raw milk a powerful symbol representing the fundamental right to choose the nutrient dense, unprocessed, local foods of one’s choice.

Stay tuned.  The “raw” ice cream man may yet again be seen in neighborhoods across North America!


Sarah, The Healthy Home Economist

Source:  The Untold Story of Milk, Dr. Ron Schmid

Comments (41)

  • Pam


    February 24th, 2013 3:17 pm Reply
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  • Tracy

    You can go to rawmilk website to find where to buy it. Been drinking it for several months and moluscum went away and allergies decreased in kids. Tastes the same as regular milk. I

    October 5th, 2012 1:00 pm Reply
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  • barb

    wondering what anyones thoughts on this article/study are.

    I drink and give raw milk to my kids based on its health benefits and things I have read around these circuits, yet I am also one of the people who got really sick from the family cow milk here in PA. Now im not so sure what to think and looking for reassurance.

    February 22nd, 2012 2:37 pm Reply
    • David

      Barb, that article was produced by the CDC which means it’s total propaganda. Look at the person who posted all over the comments section – Bill Marler. He’s the unethical lawyer who made a lot of money going after a local dairy farmer. I know for a fact that it WAS spinach that caused the e. coli outbreak because I used to work at the very Sprout’s Market where his client said he got the raw milk. About 10% of our customers drink raw milk, as well as the owners and several of the employees, and NO ONE THERE got sick from it. Meanwhile the spinach e. coli outbreak was so wide-spread that Taco Bell got sued over it.

      July 28th, 2012 5:12 pm Reply
  • Shellie

    I found raw milk! I was so excited, I just had to post somewhere on a raw milk post :) It tastes very good :) I have never had it before and was told you can’t buy it in this state. Not true. Woo Hoo! Oh, and it’s less than 20 minutes from my house!

    February 21st, 2012 2:07 pm Reply
  • Renée Girard Groening via Facebook

    Question: what about making homemade yogurt from raw milk? Can I safely make yogurt using a standard recipe?
    My goal is to make whole milk yogurt for hubby. We can’t find it anymore in the regular grocery store – all of the yogurts are lowfat or nonfat, most of them the latter.
    Hubby likes Lactaid milk – he seems to digest it more easily – but thinking it’s not ideal for making yogurt.
    What are your thoughts on this?
    Also, should we avoid lowfat and nonfat yogurt?

    February 20th, 2012 4:25 pm Reply
    • Meagan

      Renée you are definitely able to still make yoghurt from raw milk. After you purchase your starter culture, you must boil the raw milk first, then add the starter. Once you have a “clean” starter (the reason you boil the milk for the starter is the culture needs less competition from other bacteria to thrive and be a strong inoculant) you can add a few TBS of if to your raw milk and voila! I know that these are the steps for a yoghurt that you can simply ferment on your kitchen counter, I’m not sure about the heated yoghurts like Greek yoghurt. Sarah has a video on making yoghurt and you can go to this site for more information:

      If you have any questions they’re very quick to respond too. Extremely helpful group of people with their own DIY videos as well.

      February 22nd, 2012 4:32 am Reply
  • Rebecca

    I used to drink raw milk all the time when I lived in PA. Now I’m in GA and the idiots say it’s not safe to drink and it’s outlawed. DUMB, DUMB, DUMB ! My son was born with the strongest little body and pretty round head anyone ever saw so he obviously benefited from my drinking raw milk.

    The lawmakers are living in the “dark ages” when milk DID carry germs but this is NOW… WAKE UP PEOPLE … it’s healthier for you.


    February 20th, 2012 8:47 am Reply
    • Magda

      I’m in GA as well. You can still get raw milk – it just has to be labeled ‘for pets’. Silly, I know…

      February 20th, 2012 1:11 pm Reply
  • Rhonda Kappenman via Facebook

    Milk is denatured by homogenization. Homogenized cow’s milk transforms healthy butterfat into microscopic spheres of fat containing oxidase (XO) which is one of the most poweful digestive enzymes there is. The spheres are small enough to pass intact right through the stomach and intestine walls without first being digested. Thus this extremely powerful protein knife, XO, floats throughout the body in the blood and lymph systems. When XO breaks free of its fat envelope, it attacks whatever vessel it is in. This creates a wound. The wound triggers the arrival of patching plaster to seal off that wound. The patching plaster is cholesterol. Hardening the arteries, heart disease, chest pain, heart attack is the result. Excerpt from the Journal Atherosclerosis / Healing With Whole Foods Third Edition Paul Pritchford pg 19. This makes me think twice about consuming Ultra Pasturized Dairy. No Thanks !!!

    February 20th, 2012 2:01 am Reply
  • Carole Gray

    i am very fortunate to be living in the country, were Raw milk is still available. I do not take that for granted, as I know someday I may not be able to obtain the best milk nature has to offer, if the Gov . has anything to say about it. sooo very sad! Until then I will make my trips to the dairy, feeling very Blessed, and Thankful. Supporting my local Dairy as much as possible! Idrive 30Mi. one way, and would go even farther!)

    February 19th, 2012 7:48 pm Reply
  • John Delmolino via Facebook

    Very True! Read more in Dr. Ron Schmid’s book : The Untold Story of Milk. He describes it all in history. History is a great teacher if we just ‘listen’ (or read it).

    February 19th, 2012 7:27 pm Reply
  • Jeff Udy via Facebook

    My friend bought a cow for milk, and cannot sell it to me for fear of breaking the law. So he has to give it to me for my dog. ( my dog gets none) lame way to regulate your country. Raw milk is way better for you. We need bugs in our body’s to be healthy. Gives our system something to do, if not your body will fight its self to death for some thing to do. Think about it.

    February 19th, 2012 4:57 pm Reply
    • carly

      love those last few sentences :)

      February 27th, 2012 2:17 pm Reply
      • Alexis

        Haha I agree that was very well put! May have to use that one day!

        May 28th, 2012 2:41 pm Reply
  • Jenny Skinner via Facebook

    It’s such a strange battle – who cares what kind of milk someone else drinks anyway? I’ll never understand it.

    February 19th, 2012 4:54 pm Reply
  • Anja Corcoran via Facebook

    And Australia too :-(

    February 19th, 2012 4:00 pm Reply
  • Christine Marie via Facebook

    many things exist peacefully until the government or FDA gets involved…its a shame

    February 19th, 2012 1:59 pm Reply
  • Amita Durgaprasad via Facebook

    Yep and raw milk also STILL co-exists peacefully in MANY other countries in the world, where the maximum profit of Big Industry is NOT paramount and is controlling & monopolizing (and trying to completely strangle) the competition!

    In countries like Italy and others, farm-fresh raw milk is even SAFELY sold in VENDING MACHINES!

    LOVE this post! Totally sharing!!!! :)

    February 19th, 2012 1:55 pm Reply
  • Uta Harrison via Facebook

    While I grew up in Germany over 50 years ago we always got our raw milk [straight from the cow into the milk can provided by my mom] from our neighbours. Best milk EVER!!! my grandma made butter or as a rare summer treat REAL Vanilla Ice Creme from the creme. Nothing better in the whole wide world!!! Then the ‘government’ got involved, trying to ‘protect us’ = no more raw milk sale allowed and we had to switch to ultra pasturized [tetra packs], shelf stable milk. Was not the same anymore!! Same thing happened to our WATER. We had a clear mountain spring with the best water behind the house, coming down the hill, municpality put water pipes in and we HAD TO BUY THEIR WATER, ours was only allowed to water the gardens. Oh well, there ‘went the WELL’. WHO wants to trade in fresh, icey cold water, straight from the hill with chlorinated tap water you have to PAY for??? CRAZY & STUPID!!!

    February 19th, 2012 12:44 pm Reply
  • T.

    I feel so blessed to live in Portland, Oregon where obtaining raw milk is as easy as it was in the early 1900’s! I get Raw Goat milk from the co-op, thanks to farmers.

    February 19th, 2012 3:35 am Reply
    • Sarah, TheHealthyHomeEconomist

      You are indeed fortunate. Count your blessings. Access to quality, nutrient dense food is more valuable than millions in the bank. Health is the FIRST wealth.

      February 19th, 2012 6:10 pm Reply
  • Beth Stowers

    I first learned about the benefits of raw milk when I was living in New Mexico and another lady in the La Leche League I was in wholly practiced WAPF-style cooking (and eating). She taught us a nutrition class one night and I was amazed.

    She told us that she was able to get raw milk in our area, but that it would be hard to buy it, because the farmers were nervous about getting in trouble for selling it. There were a few Mennonite farmers/ranchers in the area and I think she got some from them.

    When we moved to Monterey, CA., I was so excited that we could buy raw milk at Whole Foods. One day, I went to buy some and saw that the shelves were empty and there was a notice that it wouldn’t be sold until it was proven to be safe. I think that’s when things really seemed to kick up in CA with Raw Milk Politics. Anyhow, federal agents were continually harassing Organic Pastures at that time and another company (which may have gone out of business?) Federal agents are still harassing them.

    I think it’s a shame that raw milk has been so vilified and criminalized (and that there are so many raids on farms and coops). But I am so excited to see that many more people are drinking it! :) It’s so good for the body!

    February 18th, 2012 7:13 pm Reply
  • Nicole, The Non-Toxic Nurse

    How interesting that raw and pasteurized were sold alongside each other for so many years. I had no idea that they had popularly co-existed for that long of a period. Growing up, I had no idea that there was such controversy about raw milk. My family drank pasteurized, but farming families in my town drank raw. No one seemed to think anything of the farm families drinking raw milk. I guess I always just assumed milk from the supermarket was pasteurized so it would keep longer and that the farmers drank raw because they could get to it when it was fresh. I am thankful for the WAPF having taught me the true differences between the two!

    February 18th, 2012 3:09 pm Reply
  • Nicole

    Speaking of raw ice cream, any good recipes you may have to share?

    February 18th, 2012 2:20 pm Reply
    • Nicole

      Nevermind, found the link after clicking on your peanut butter ice cream recipe – 😉

      February 18th, 2012 2:24 pm Reply
      • Sarah, TheHealthyHomeEconomist

        Oh good you found my video on it :) We make homemade raw ice cream all the time. Milkshakes are a big afterschool snack at our home. Provides great concentration for homework, wink wink.

        February 18th, 2012 5:43 pm Reply
  • Jeff

    I love Raw Jersey Cow Milk and Raw Goat’s Milk. Goat’s milk is naturally homogenized. I find Jersey Cow Milk creamier than Holstein Cow Milk. I also believe that it is healthier. So if you can find it, try to buy the Jersey Cow Milk first.

    February 18th, 2012 2:07 pm Reply
  • Tara

    Wondering if you happened to catch the Raw Milk Debate held at Harvard this past Thursday between DR. HEIDI KASSENBORG (Director, Dairy & Food Inspection Division, Minnesota Dept. of Agriculture) & SALLY FALLON MORELL (President, Weston A. Price Foundation) and DAVID GUMPERT (Author, The Raw Milk Revolution)?
    I had hoped to do myself but realized too late that I did not have the right software installed to listen in! I bet it was a great conversation and will listen to the archives this weekend.

    The video is archived at:
    For more information:


    February 18th, 2012 1:53 pm Reply
  • Kathryn

    I’m a big proponent of healthy raw milk. I’m blessed that it is available in CA, tho i pay a hefty price for it. (The brand i prefer is over $4.50/qt – close to $20/gallon.)

    My dad’s doctorate is in nutrition – both animal and human. He spent many years working to increase dairy production. He also is a big believer in pasteurization. When i think of how many gallons of wonderful Jersey milk we ruined by pasteurizing it when i was a child, i’m a little ill. When it comes to the pasteurization issue we had to “agree to disagree.” He speaks of having “the summer scourge” when he was a child, evidently a result of higher bacteria count in their unpasteurized milk. But none of his family died! He grew up with 6 brothers and a sister, they didn’t even eat all that healthy, and all of the children lived to productive and healthy adulthood. (My mother’s family had 11 children, and they all lived as well. These families didn’t have the large amount of deaths in infancy and early childhood that are often reported during that time.)

    I will say that pasteurization was probably necessary in some of the milk 60 to 80 years ago. There were many dairies that didn’t do a good job of keeping their animals clean and tuberculosis was spread by animals with that disease. But it seems to me that we have the technology to screen for those kinds of things now days. I am all for health freedom and the ability to buy raw milk. I just wish it wasn’t so pricey.

    February 18th, 2012 1:27 pm Reply
  • Kelli

    Its so sad how big corporations have managed to suppress and spread propaganda about such a nutritious food.

    February 18th, 2012 1:26 pm Reply
  • Susan

    @ Renee-
    Hope this helps!!

    February 18th, 2012 12:49 pm Reply
  • Renee

    Where can we purchase raw milk in Tampa Bay area? I’m actually in Pasco County / greater New Port Richey area.

    February 18th, 2012 12:37 pm Reply
    • Sarah, TheHealthyHomeEconomist

      I don’t post this information on my blog for the privacy of our farmers.

      February 18th, 2012 12:47 pm Reply
    • Craig

      Renee, any luck finding a source for raw organic milk in Tampa, I live in Pasco as well.

      October 29th, 2013 5:26 pm Reply

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