Milk – good or bad?

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We are all very big milk drinkers in our house (4 – 5 gallons a week)…and to be honest I don’t think we could live without it! The good news is after switching to a more optimal milk source and type of milk we certainly do not have to give it up. I used to buy the standard store-brand skim (for the adults) and 2% (for the kids) from our local supermarket. I even switched to the organic variety earlier this year. Organic is certainly better than conventional, but I felt there were still some additional factors that continued to be overlooked.

My biggest concern about the milk we were drinking was if it came from cows that were being fed grass. I did a post awhile back entitled “You are what you eat eats too,” and this couldn’t be more true when it comes to milk. Cows are actually designed by evolution to eat grass, and a large majority of factory-farmed cows are instead taught to survive on corn (a super cheap grain). In some instances the corn makes the animals sick, which is part of the reason why they have to be administered so many antibiotics.

Now if you are buying organic milk you obviously know that the cows have not been given any antibiotics, but being organic doesn’t necessarily mean they have been fed grass (or anything green for that matter). For all I know they’ve just been fed organic corn. But, the point is that I really didn’t know what the cows were eating when I would pick up a jug from the supermarket. Even as I proofread this article now I have to admit it sounds a little over the top to care so much about what the cows eat before I would even drink their milk, but it really is important. The health of the cow greatly affects the health of their milk (as well as their meat products), and I am obviously on a mission to provide the absolute best for my family.

So going back to a time when I didn’t know where our milk came from brings me to why I stopped buying our milk from the grocery store all together. I recently switched to a delivery service ( that provides milk from cows that are located not too far away in South Carolina. Not only can I call and ask them questions anytime (and you know I do!), but I could even go visit the farm myself if I thought it was necessary to do so. There is certainly a slight up-charge compared to a half-gallon of organic milk from the supermarket ($3.84 vs. $3.49), but they say their milk is two days from the cow. And it tastes so fresh I absolutely believe it. I think my children even noticed the difference because once we switched to the new milk I was having trouble keeping up with their consumption…it was like a broken record around here “more milk please!”

One other thing I learned more recently is that skim milk may not be the best choice for my husband and me (our girls drink 2%). This came as quite a shock, because I drink a lot of milk myself and have chosen skim for as long as I can remember. According to our milk delivery service, skim milk is everything leftover after the cream has been removed in a separator. And apparently the cream is what contains enzymes and fat-soluble vitamins. So just like the process that white flour goes through (since removing the bran and germ also removes all the good stuff from the flour) the milk is fortified with vitamins in an attempt to add back what has been lost. So once again I think the better choice is to just consume the good stuff the way nature has provided it to us and not opt for something that just emulates the good stuff.

We are joining our daughters and have switched to 2% in order to give us a good balance between the healthy cream and fat consumption. Michael Pollan even goes as far to say

To make dairy products low fat, it’s not enough to remove the fat. You then have to go to great lengths to preserve the body or creamy texture by working in all kinds of food additives. In the case of low-fat or skim milk, that usually means adding powdered milk. But powdered milk contains oxidized cholesterol, which scientists believe is much worse for your arteries than ordinary cholesterol, so food makers sometimes compensate by adding antioxidants, further complicating what had been a simple one-ingredient whole food.

This once again reminds me how happy I am to be buying our milk from a reliable and knowledgeable source, which allows me to continue our theme here of knowing exactly where our food comes from!

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171 comments to Milk – good or bad?

  • Wendi

    We are big raw milk fans. We’ve done a ton of research to come to this conclusion but it’s often hard to convince others of our findings.

    I agree with Jill. Milk was originally pasteurized because the government thought that the milk we were drinking was making us sick (although they had no proof to back this up). Pasteurization actually kills the bad bacteria AND the good bacteria that our bodies need for proper digestion. If anyone knows anything about antibiotics, you have to follow them up with a strong dose of Acidophilus to replenish the good bacteria in our stomachs. Otherwise, we suffer from hoards of allergies and other crazy stuff. So, pasteurized milk has none of the good bacteria that we need.

    Also, homoganization was also another *bad* idea. Homoganization creates a more uniform looking milk (no cream on top) that is more appetizing and more *convenient*. What it actually does is make the fat molecules so small that our bodies can ingest them in larger doses, in essence, we get a “fat infusion” in our blood stream every time we drink it. NOT a good idea.

    One other thing…..cow’s milk is known to be harder for the human stomach to digest. It is also a terrible source for Calcium. Studies have shown that the amount of calcium the body can pull from milk is negligible. There are other forms of milk that the human body can digest easier and that higher vitamin and calcium content.

  • Hello! Was wondering, do you know how to find raw milk delivery in my area (SoCal)?

  • Erin

    I find your comment “cows are designed by evolution to eat grass” quite hilarious actually. While I do believe that cows are designed to eat grass, it is the GREAT DESIGNER, GOD, who made them that way!

    The whole theory of evolution, by its nature, depends on random selection and chance. The theory does not depend on any form of design, as design implies a designer, not random mutations.

  • kristen

    You mentioned you switched to 2% milk, but then you quote Michael Pollan as saying that “low-fat” and “skim” milk have powdered milk added back into them. So if you are drinking 2%, you are really no better off nutritionally than drinking skim. If you are trying to drink milk in it’s most pure form, why don’t you drink whole milk?

  • Haley

    I would recommend looking into how processes like pasteurization and homogenization change the nutritional value of your milk.

    I was shocked today when I went to the grocery store and saw that all the organic (supposed to be good for you) milk was also ultra-pasteurized. Which is ultra bad. Just a thought if you are really serious about cutting out processed foods. Raw or low temperature pasteurized, grass Fed is, in my opinion, the way to go.

    • Hi Haley,
      Milk is often ultra-pasteurized because it has a longer shelf life. If your grocery store doesn’t sell a lot of organic items, it may be that they need something with a longer shelf life so they can supply you and a few others with organic milk! You should ask them if they can find a supplier that doesn’t ultra-pasteurize their milk. Even better, see if you can find (or have them get) low-temperature pasteurized milk. Low-temp milk is pasteurized at 145F for 30 minutes, High-temperature/Short time milk is pasteurized at 161F for 16 seconds, and UP milk is pasteurized at 280F for 2 seconds.

      Or you could always get yourself a goat… but if you get one you have to get two…

  • [...] products like milk, unsweetened yogurt, eggs, and [...]

  • [...] products like milk, unsweetened yogurt, eggs, and [...]

  • Brandi

    I’ve been on the paleo diet for a while now and I am kind of confused as to how milk is considered not processed? Or cheese? Both are processed which is why they are not on the paleo list. The paleo is basically the “caveman diet” which sounds exactly like what this is, other than there are still items on your list that are processed.

  • Assistant to 100 Days (Amy)

    Hi Brandi. Humans have been consuming milk and milk products for thousands of years with minimal processing. As you read, the Leakes buy products as close to the farm as possible and consider milk and dairy to be a wholesome part their diet. Clearly, there are those (myself and my son due to allergy) who dairy does not work for and that is okay. It is certainly not a requirement. I think the beauty of this blog is that all different philosophies on food can find a home here. ~Amy

  • [...] products like milk, unsweetened yogurt, eggs, and [...]

  • [...] products like milk, unsweetened yogurt, eggs, and [...]

  • [...] products like milk, unsweetened yogurt, eggs, and [...]

  • [...] products like milk, unsweetened yogurt, eggs, and [...]

  • Stephan

    I just signed up for a local milk delivery, Royal Crest Dairy! We have been buying organic but i’ve been wanting to look into delivery and i’m glad i finally did it. :)

  • [...] fed grass, no other grain. My eyes were opened to this after reading 100 Days of Real Food posts Milk – good or bad? and Milk101: Whole, Raw, Organic, Low-Fat, Etc. In fact, you can read Milk101 to find out why I now [...]

  • Joni

    Since when did evolution ever design anything?

  • Matt

    Are you a baby cow? No? Then quit drinking it. Milk is meant for babies, human babies drink breast milk and as they get older they eat food. This theory isn’t perfect though because of a little thing called cheese. But I figure cutting out drinking milk and using it cereal will help a lot.

  • Ashley

    What are your thoughts on almond milk?

  • Janet Thompson

    Good article, Lisa. Just one comment I hopes helps your decision to drink clean milk. Milk is one of the most concentrated foods a cow produces, and comes from the fat in a cow. All impurities/antibiotics/pesticides are stored in the fat. So, the milk from the grocery store contains all of this. Glad you found a clean source, and I agree with the drinking of 2%. Our nerves need fat to operate properly, and a low-fat diet has not been found to help with heart-healthy living. I even read a study the other day that stated that now it has been found that saturated fat does not raise cholesterol as much as was once believed. So, all things in moderation, drink you good milk!

  • Sharla

    Buy a goat or find a reliable source to purchase goat’s milk. The benefits are greater than cow milk. Easier digested.

  • Lisa

    I can’t seem to find someone that delivers milk near my home, what brands in the store would you recommend? Would any milk in the store from a local creamery have the same benefits?

  • Brianna

    Do you buy homogenized or non-homogenized? Is there a difference as far as healthiness is concerned? Thanks! Just starting to learn about “real food” and hoping to start the challenge soon!

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