There is a debate raging all across the country; that debate is whether or not to allow the sale of raw milk for human consumption. Those opposed to this type of transaction claim that raw milk contains all sorts of bad things that will lead to a multitude of sick people and possibly their deaths. The proponents of legalizing the sale of raw milk argue that fresh, raw milk is healthier than pasteurized milk and the bacteria that is naturally present in that milk is actually good for people’s digestive systems and would result in a healthier population. Honestly, I don’t know which side is correct, but what I do know is…
I was raised on fresh, raw, cow’s milk; as soon as I was weaned from my mother, I drank milk straight out of a Jersey cow at least three times per day until I left for college at age 18-and I loved it (OK, it was strained, filtered, and refrigerated first). In my mind, there wasn’t anything better than a cold glass of milk with those silken threads of Jersey cream running throughout the mixture. In the Crownover home, cornbread and milk was the closest thing to a delicacy that we could afford. About the only time I didn’t particularly care for it was in the early spring, when the wild onions were sprouting in the pastures and the dairy cows would lap up those first sprigs as if they were cow candy. During those times, the milk tasted like an oddly seasoned mixture that had just been pureed with onion.
I carried my lunch for the first few years attending the one-room schoolhouse, but I always had a pint jar, and later an insulated thermos, containing fresh milk. The school eventually obtained a refrigerator and had half-pints of pasteurized milk delivered weekly at a nominal cost of three cents per carton, but the only way I could stand to drink it was if it was chocolate flavored. I just couldn’t stand the taste of pasteurized white milk because I thought it tasted ‘funny.’ I kept that attitude until I left for college.
Eating at the college cafeteria three times per day, I finally adapted to the ‘city taste’ of white milk. I even evolved to the point that pasteurized milk became the ‘normal’ taste and my more infrequent visits home (especially during the onion months of spring) found me thinking that Mom’s raw milk was now the variety that tasted a little “funny”.
As I started my own family, without a milk cow, I never really thought about the raw milk controversy. At home, we would go through about two gallons of pasteurized milk every week. When we would visit Mom and Dad at their farm, I could detect that my wife and sons were surprised when they tasted that first drink of fresh milk, but after explanation, they enjoyed it. And, as far as I know, no one in our family ever became ill because of drinking fresh, raw milk.
I know there are strong and powerful feelings on both sides of this issue. Don’t expect me to take sides. I did notice, however, on a recent trip to Ireland, that consumers there have the choice of selecting either raw milk or pasteurized milk from the same dairy cooler. Of course, in a country that has one pub for every 300 citizens, any bacteria you might find in raw milk wouldn’t stand a chance of living very long in your stomach anyway
Recently, I was invited to be the after-dinner speaker at a meeting of dairy producers. I had already given what I thought was an educational, motivational, and humorous talk when the debate erupted about which side the dairymen would take regarding the issue of raw milk sales. One of the individuals who was strongly opposed to the sale of raw milk, asked if anyone there had been raised with raw milk as their only source of liquid milk. Sheepishly, I raised my hand and I was surprised to see that I was the only one. “There,” the speaker emphasized, “is all the proof you need. Not only is it unhealthy, but one could even surmise that it leads to improper brain development.”
Jerry Crownover farms in Lawrence County. He is a former professor of Agriculture Education at Missouri State University, and is an author and professional speaker. To contact Jerry, go to and click on ‘Contact Us.’


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