To Pasteurize or Not To Pasteurize

100_3960 smThis is the question, when you have your own milk-producing livestock. Pasteurization is the process of heating the milk to reduce the number of pathogens and increase the milk’s shelf-life. There are many different techniques for doing this, but they all involve raising the milk to a certain temperature and holding it there for a specific length of time (the higher the temperature, the shorter the time).

I have a number of friends and acquaintances who produce their own milk—some pasteurize, some don’t. There are certainly some strong opinions out there on both sides of the question:

“People have been drinking unpasteurized milk for thousands of years.”

“Yes, but people have been dying of diseases in unpasteurized milk for just as long. Raw milk is the perfect growth medium for all sorts of diseases.”

“It ruins the flavour of the milk.”

“I can’t taste the difference.”

“Cheese from unpasteurized milk is better.”

“I enjoy cheese from pasteurized milk just as much.”

“Unpasteurized milk is more easily digested.”

“I have no problem digesting pasteurized milk.”

“Pasteurization kills all the good bacteria and destroys nutrients in the milk.”

“It also allows milk to be kept for longer, and kills bad bacteria, too.”

The arguments go on and on.

So, what’s the truth?

Truth is that both sides have some valid points, and some points on which they grossly exaggerate or mislead. Yes, you can drink unpasteurized milk your whole life and never get sick. You can also drink pasteurized milk your whole life and never get sick.

I pasteurize.


Because I know exactly how clean I’m able to keep my milk while I’m milking. I know, from what’s left on my filter afterwards, that a few hairs, a little dirt, some dried skin flakes, the odd bug falls into the milk while I’m milking. Would bacteria from those things make us sick? Probably not. Does the idea of that stuff in my milk make me sick? Yep. Does the idea of drinking something that is the modified sweat of an animal that doesn’t even groom itself make me a little queasy? Yep.

So I pasteurize. For my peace of mind. For my sense of cleanliness.

But I gladly accept some of my non-pasteurizing neighbour’s milk when she has excess, and if for some reason I’m not able to pasteurize, I still use the milk. I don’t fret about it. Life is far too short to worry about whether your milk is pasteurized or not.

Relax and enjoy the cheese!

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