Raw Milk Safety

Episode 130
For the Love of Goats

Raw Milk Safety featured image

Have you ever wanted to try raw milk, lauded for its health benefits, but were concerned about the safety? Like all raw foods from lettuce to oysters, there is a risk of contamination, but there’s a lot we can do to be sure that all of our raw food, including milk, is as safe as possible.

We are talking to Mark McAfee, the chairman of the Raw Milk Institute, which was founded in 2011 to help meet the growing demand for safe raw milk and to educate consumers on raw milk safety. He is also the founder of Raw Farm, the largest producer of raw milk in the world.

Raw milk has been a controversial topic for some time. The debate rages between those who praise its health benefits and the regulators who insist that consuming raw milk holds far more risk than benefit. So, what is the truth? And if we choose to consume raw milk, how can we be certain that it has been handled properly – from the milk stand to cold storage – and is safe to drink?

In this episode, Mark discusses common pathogens present in raw milk, the basics of what makes raw milk more beneficial than pasteurized, the historical reasoning behind the pasteurization of milk, and how we can ensure that the raw milk we drink is clean and safe. He also touches on the process behind commercial dairy-to-store pasteurized milk.

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If you’ve ever thought about starting a business with your dairy goats, check out this episode.

Transcript – Raw Milk Safety

Introduction 0:03
For the love of goats. We are talking about everything goat. Whether you’re a goat owner, a breeder, or just a fan of these wonderful creatures, we’ve got you covered. And now, here’s Deborah Niemann.

Deborah Niemann 0:17
Hello, everyone, and welcome to today’s episode. This is an episode I have been wanting to do for a long time and I’ve had a lot of requests for this. And I finally found just the right person to interview on this topic. And that is the topic of raw milk safety. Today we are talking to Mark McAfee, the chairman of the Raw Milk Institute, which was founded in 2011. And he also is the founder of Raw Farm in Fresno, California, which was started in 1999, and today is the largest raw milk producer in the world, producing 4.1 million gallons of raw milk a year. Welcome to the show today, Mark.

Mark McAfee 1:01
Thank you for having me, Deborah. This is wonderful.

Deborah Niemann 1:04
I am so excited because- I’m really excited about dispelling a lot of raw milk myths. Everything from, you know, sometimes I get asked like, “Oh, well, I read that as long as your goat’s healthy, it’s milk can’t make you sick.” Which is not true because it’s not just a disease the goat has that can make you sick. All the way to, you know, like, “Oh, we don’t need to do anything. Just go out there, milk the goat and it’s good.” Or people thinking that like, “Oh, well, you’re immune to all the germs on your farm, so you don’t need to worry. The germs on your farm can’t make you sick.” Things like that. So anyway, I got the idea to do this show with you when I was talking to someone who went through your training. I want to thank Tammy Gallagher for bringing this topic to my attention. She thought that her milking parlor was absolutely pristine. And she’s in Texas where she can sell raw milk. And she was shocked the first time she did a test. In fact, she thought there was something wrong with the test because she said she looked at the Petri dish and it was solid purple. And she thought: This is absolutely impossible. There is no way that my milk is that contaminated. But then after going through your training, she said now the Petri dish often has nothing in it. If anything, it has like one little tiny purple speck. So that’s what we’re going to be talking about today is basically, like, how people can make sure that their raw milk is safe for people to drink.

Mark McAfee 2:33
Yep. Well, I think I would invite people to go to the RawMilkInstitute.org and there is a 4.5 hour video training offering for free that you can watch. And they’re broken into 15 to 20 minute segments. So there’s like 15 of them or so. And so you don’t have to take it like drinking out of a fire hose, you can take it gradually. But the thing that Tammy was missing down in Texas was the rapid chilling and the biofilms and maintenance of equipment. Things that were maybe not so front of mind when we’re thinking, “Oh, the conditions are fantastic and the goats are-” But how you handle that milk and how it actually ends up in the bottle is super important in terms of quality for the consumer. And flavor. And shelf life. And risk. And all those things all go together. So it’s really a grass-to-glass. The entire food chain is impacted by when you get trained to do raw milk. So, that gradient from grass-to-glass is really important to understand the whole thing, not just the first part, but the entire thing.

Deborah Niemann 3:34
Right. Yeah. And the idea that like, ‘Oh, if your goat is healthy, then your milk is fine’ is not necessarily true. And I know that was something I even fell prey to in the early years. It did not help that we actually had a goat with listeriosis, like, within the first three years. And I thought, ‘Oh, this is ridiculous. Why would-‘ like you can’t even milk this goat she’s so sick. Not realizing like, ‘Oh, well, she could have been shedding that in her milk before she had symptoms.’ But then that’s not all. Like, I know somebody who made himself sick because he didn’t wash his hands before milking the goats. And so he brought in germs into the milking parlor from somewhere else, which was Campylobacter, which is not a fun disease to have.

Mark McAfee 4:16
Every one of these pathogens–Campylobacter, Listeria monocytogenes, Salmonella, E. coli– each one of those pathogens have a story. They have a story. They have a history. And we tell those stories in our training program and explain why they are what they are, why they are in conflict with our current microbiome in our body, and why we have a conflict with them. Some are antibiotic resistant. Other ones used to be common. Like Campylobacter, prior to 1972, was a common pathogen that you got once had diarrhea and never again. You had immunity for life. But in 1972, enough people had moved off the farm, and away from the chickens and stuff, that it was no longer considered a common thing. Although before ‘72 it was considered more common and people just got immunity from it. You had diarrhea once. You’re good to go. Listeria, interesting to note that it can make you really sick. It can even cause a miscarriage in a pregnant woman. However, in Europe, their standards allow up to 100 colonies of Listeria per milliliter of milk, and that’s legal raw milk to be sold. 100 per milliliter. In the United States, zero is the tolerance. So it is true. It is true that when a farmer milks his animal on the farm and does it every day, their immune systems are going to be quite different. And it’s very uncommon for the farmer to get sick from his own raw milk. Although it can happen, but it’s fairly rare, because he or she is exposed to those pathogens on a low level frequent basis. And their bodies are just different. Their immune systems, their antibody titers, their gut microbiomes are just completely different because the exposure to dust, the pollens, the dirt, the manure, everything.

Mark McAfee 5:50
You got to remember the milk maidens 250 years ago/200 years ago, didn’t get smallpox because they were exposed to cowpox from the cows. The milk maidens were immune. So there’s a tremendous crossover between animals that are domesticated near us, including dogs and cats, and humans in terms of our shared microbiome. And it’s even more appreciated now that we understand the Human Genome Project that was discovered back in 2002. So it’s only 22 years old now to really understand the role of genomics and their DNA and where it comes from and the fact that bacteria carry so much of that genome with them that contribute to making us whole. And so the cleaner we get, the more endangered we become, the more autoimmune compromised we become, the more fewer probiotics we have, the fewer antibodies we have. So we’re really, really discovering the backside of antibiotics and antibiotics are wonderful. They’re an incredibly powerful tool, but they’re also very, very deleterious. They can cause lots of problems if we abuse them or overuse them or fail to recover from them and stop recovering our gut, making sure we don’t have the probiotic diversity we need so we don’t get sick again. Remember, 80% of our immune systems is the probiotic diversity of bacteria in our gut. That diversity of bacteria shares the genomic bandwidth, the DNA with our bodies, our human cells, and other immune cells and antibodies and all those factors in our gut, to actually create a protection against viruses, against bacteria, against pathogenic bacteria, because all the space is occupied by good stuff. And you have a protection against the bad stuff most of the time, not all the time. We’re not claiming perfect here, but that’s how the body works. That’s how mammals work. And the Human Genome Project really tells us that story.

Mark McAfee 7:36
But now we have a lot of work to do. Yeah, we don’t want to get rid of antibiotics. We need them to save our lives once in a while. What we need to do is concentrate 95% of the time on the probiotic diversity and the bioactives found in raw milk–like raw whey proteins and lactoperoxidase and alkaline phosphatase–all these things that are heat sensitive, they’re destroyed in pasteurization. They’re very anti-inflammatory and extremely healing in our gut, and restorative in terms of the gut microbiome. Those bioactives are, I mean, there’s 2500 proteins, and there’s enzymes for those proteins, there’s peptidases, unbelievable, in raw milk. And there’s 700 different kinds of bacteria. And, you know, there’s hundreds of different kinds of enzymes. And it just boggles the mind. But if you could just kind of step back and really think of this, Deborah, for a second–what is raw milk? It’s the first food of life for mammals. What does a baby do? He gets born through the birth canal and immediately goes to the breast, or the udder, or whatever mammal is suckling, and gets colostrum and then gets raw milk. And those are–the colostrum areserum antibodies, and things like that, from the blood system, not the lacteal glands. That happens for the first few hours or day or two. And then after that, it stimulates oxytocin, stimulates the release of lactation, which is milk. And then you’ve got milk flushing through the udder or the breast. It’s feeding that baby to nourish what it got in the colostrum and it got in the birth canal and everything else.

Mark McAfee 9:00
So these are critical parts of our immune system building. So when we think of raw milk, think of the generation by generation pressures to have the optimal food of life or you died. The weakest time of life is at birth. So if you are nourished properly with a healthy colostrum and then healthy raw milk, those are protective things. Raw milk does three things: it nourishes, it directs, and it protects. Three things. Direction comes from mRNA of all things. Scientists aren’t that smart. They found mRNA in milk. mRNA directs cellular functions and there’s all kinds of other things. Stem cells. There’s just a brilliant diversity of things that only Mother Nature, God himself figured out over, pick your number, 50,000 or 500,000 years of evolution that puts us where we are today with optimal food for the survival of the next generation, which is raw milk for humans as well as other mammals. What gets really politically touchy is when- everybody agrees breastfeeding is fantastic. Nobody says anything bad about that. It’s fantastic. But when you change to another species: a goat, a cow, a buffalo, a camel, a reindeer, a horse, everybody freaks out. Everybody in power freaks out, I should say. The power of the processor, the big medical industries, they freak out and they start accusing and saying all these terrible things. Part of what they’re saying is true. Most of it is not. Some of it’s true from the late 1800s, in 1850s, 60s, 70s, 80s, there was something called the milk problem. It came from a subset of dairies in downtown areas like Philadelphia, New York, Boston, even Moscow, Leningrad, even in England, in Great Britain, the same thing happened where the cows are being brought into the city and there was no fresh water. And the water was filthy and there was no flushing toilets and there was no way to chill the milk. And there was typhoid fever going all over the place and salmonella was rampant, tuberculosis. It was disgusting. And the milk was killing a lot of people. I’m the first to say it. It’s true, absolutely. Babies would die left and right from it.

Mark McAfee 10:57
But in 1893, a guy by the name of Dr. Henry Coit established the American Association of Medical Milk Commissions and as a board of physicians certified thousands of dairies around the world produced safe raw milk that was taken to places like the Mayo Clinic to heal people. And that milk was coming from farms with pastures and sunshine and clean water and the cows were healthy and that milk was healing people. So in 1893, another thing happened, too. That was the first parboiler, which Strauss brought in from France. Louis Pasteur did not pasteurize any milk ever. He was pasteurizing wines and beers and things like that for distilleries. He was using the technology, the parboiler was brought here by Strauss and that was used. And overnight, 40% fewer people died. They still had water quality problems and that was terrible. But it was considering the big savior of the 1800s and the big technological innovation. Well, what it was, was saying OK to filth. That’s what it was. It was saying that filth was OK instead of saying “It’s better to have clean raw milk with all of its fantastic bioactive elements” like Dr. Henry Coit was doing with the certified raw milk. So you can see that Dr. Bruce German, the International Milk Genomics Consortium PhD, he said, “Pasteurization is an 18th century solution to an 18th century problem. We can do a whole lot better.” And that’s what we believe we can do for farmers and consumers. And that’s what we’re all about. So that’s a long winded answer, but that kind of covers the basis of yes, raw milk can be dangerous. But when done properly, phenomenally low risk and very, very, very supportive of the immune system and building the immune system. And when you think about all these terrible things going on now with flu virus and coronavirus and SARS and God knows everything, every year it’s a different virus. We need to have a resilient and adaptive immune system and that’s what raw milk gives you.

Deborah Niemann 12:49
It was interesting what you said about pasteurization gives you the opportunity to not be so clean with your process, which that really- I’ve heard that before. I know there was actually a vet who said once that the reason that goat milk from the store doesn’t taste very good is because they don’t do a good job of cleaning the udder in the commercial goat dairies and that goaty flavor is actually bacteria. It’s a harmless skin bacteria, but it’s bacteria. And then interestingly enough, my daughter wound up getting her PhD in biological chemistry. And while she was at Colorado State, her lab was hired by a dairy in Africa to try to get rid of the disgusting flavor in their cow milk because they were bringing in milk from all over the countryside. It was being brought in by farmers. They do not have cooling tanks at all. So they’re like milking their cows and bringing it to the dairy on a bicycle or a horse or other pack animal that they have. And the milk tasted horrendous because of the bacteria levels in there. And I asked my daughter, I’m like, well, “Do they pasteurize it?” And she said, I’ll never forget her answer because I felt like it was such a silly question. She’s like, “Well, yeah, but dead bacteria doesn’t taste any better than live bacteria.”

Mark McAfee 14:13
In fact, it tastes worse. You know, bacteria impart flavor at low levels. You know, the best cheeses have good bacteria, right? Cultured products have some of the best flavors we taste. But you’re absolutely right. There are some areas in the world that are highly challenged by producing raw milk as we know it today. But let’s give a little credit to the Maasai in Kenya. The Maasai in Kenya, it’s interesting. They don’t pasteurize their milk at all. And they don’t have lactose intolerance. But I had a friend of mine, one of the Maasai warriors came to Stanford. In fact, he graduated with Chelsea Clinton years back when she was going to Stanford. And he got sick on all the milks we had in America, although he was raised on raw milk. If you think about the way you would go out to a cow in Africa, you would go out to her with a gourd. That gourd had some milk residue from last week’s milking, and it was warm. So they would milk that cow into that gourd. And immediately within a few hours, you didn’t have milk anymore. You had kefir. You had a clabbered milk. You had a fermented yogurt-ish like product that’s acidic. And that is literally the third world nation milk that was around. It’s very rarely raw milk because it clabbered so quickly and acidified. And so that is the ultimate gut microbiome recovery food. It really, really is the ultimate local probiotic. And the Kenyans did it. Maasai did it for God knows how many thousands of years or I don’t know what the number is, a long, long time. And so did the Chinese in Mongolia with their horses. And both the Kenyans and the Chinese have a lot of lactose intolerance, but not in the areas where they drink their raw kefir or their raw milk. Because those bacteria provide for the lactose producing enzymes.

Mark McAfee 16:01
So you have a lactase being produced by the lactobacillus and other coliforms. They’re found naturally in their kefir. So it’s interesting that this whole idea that you’ve got something wrong with you because you’ve got lactose intolerance, you’re not Northern European enough with lactase persistence genes is a pile of crap. It’s not the way our genome works. In fact, that was pretty much admitted last year by Dr. Danielle LeMay at the International Milk Genomics Consortium in Cork, Ireland, where she said, “You know, this whole lactose persistence thing doesn’t really count because people don’t have lactose intolerance with yogurt.” It’s pasteurized, but it’s got the bacteria that creates the lactase for you. So it’s interesting that, ‘hey, wait a minute, it’s a problem with the product, not your body.’ And so it’s pasteurization intolerance. In fact, I went to the microphone and I called her out and said, “Danielle LeMay, I know you very well from California. In California, we call it pasteurization intolerance.” And she chuckled and basically said, “Yeah, sit down now.” The entire room knew that, in fact, when you kill off all the beneficial bacteria and the bad bacteria all together, all you have is dead bacteria and you don’t have the probiotic life to actually assemble the necessary enzymes to digest the lactose sugar. That’s a known scientific fact. But the industry for many, many years was pushing the fact that you’ve got something wrong with you. You’re not white enough. You’re not Northern European enough. When I detest that, it’s almost food racism in terms of that. And raw milk is a food for everybody everywhere because it’s a whole food. It has its own enzymes and bacteria that helps digest itself. Breastfeeding is done internationally all around the world from every baby. Every baby in the world gets breastfed or has the ability to be breastfed. The same goes for mammals and the ability to digest that raw milk as well.

Deborah Niemann 17:44
So what I would love to talk about next is how people can make raw milk safer. Because one of the things when people talk about like, well, ‘Is raw milk really safe?’ I’m like, you know, if you’re not careful, there is no raw food that is safe. You know, if you’re growing lettuce and green onions in your garden and a cat goes in there and that cat has toxoplasmosis and she poops, you know, by your lettuce and your green onions and you go eat them raw, you could get toxoplasmosis. So any- like we have to be careful with all of our raw foods. I hate it when my cats go into the garden. So anyway- and you know, the same thing when you’re talking about, like, sushi, and raw oysters, and all of these things, steak tartar, all of those are raw foods. And if they’re not handled properly, people can definitely get sick from them because raw foods are a great growing medium for bacteria.

Mark McAfee 18:39
Yep, they are.

Deborah Niemann 18:40
So if somebody wants to consume raw milk, they do need to be mindful of that fact, that milk is great for growing babies and, you know, bodies and bacteria. So what are some of the most important things that people need to do to make sure that their raw milk is safe?

Mark McAfee 18:58
I think people need to take an intellectual moment. Just take a moment. Just pause, say, ‘What is my immune system status? Where did I grow up? Was I breastfed? How many rounds of antibiotics have I had in my life? Have I been on chemotherapy? Do I eat a bunch of junk food with preservatives and sugar? What is my immune status? What’s my poop like? What’s my bowel movement like? What’s my tummy like?’ When you take that pause, and it’s going to be kind of a come to Jesus moment, right? You’ve got to be honest because your body does not play games with you. It will kick your butt if you don’t be honest with yourself, right? Literally. So if you grew up on a farm, eating whole food nutrition and very few antibiotics in your life, and you seldom get the flu every year, you never get the flu. Your immune system status is probably pretty strong if you eat a lot of whole foods. That’s a rare story in America today. A rare story. Even the Amish, some of their nutrition really is not so great if you look at what the Amish truly eat. Although they did very, very well on the asthma studies that were done on the children that drank raw milk. But take a pause to really take accounting of what your immune status is.

Mark McAfee 20:07
Now, if you want to have a really, really strong immune system, you can’t do it overnight. It takes a while to march back to the ability to have a diversity of bacteria in your gut, be able to fight off pathogens and have a virus resistance and all that kind of stuff. It took you a while to get where you’re at. It’s going to take a long time to get- six months, a year, two years, maybe never, back to something that’s more healthy. I would suggest that everybody has an opportunity to get better. Not sure where you’re going to end up in the spectrum. But that’s where our consumers or many of our consumers are resting their minds, is ‘I want to have a stronger immune system.’ So the next bad bacteria that comes along, the next virus that comes along, I’m not part of the 25,000 people a year that died from the flu. 25,000 people a year in America, that’s crazy. But yet that’s part of the common thing, a side effect of being American. Not necessarily. If you have a strong immune system, you have the ability to have a viral enzyme inflammatory components that are found in raw milk and you have all these wonderful things playing in the gut with diversity, you can be stronger. So what are some of the things you can do to reduce raw milk risk after taking that pause about where you are in the immune system scale? Well, let’s start from the grass to glass. The water you use around your animals. Make sure that water is pathogen free, coliform free. And test your water to make sure your water is consumable as a human. It’s not going to make you sick. Clean water, clean water. And that that clean water is secured. It’s not clean today and dirty tomorrow. OK, so clean water is super important, not only for your goats and your animals, but also for washing everything when you’re doing your cleaning.

Mark McAfee 21:38
The nutrition for your animals. Make sure it’s a natural condition with enough energy and micro elements and micronutrition and the minerals to make sure that they have the capacity to be resilient themselves. And that they’re healthy themselves and that they have enough natural energy to produce milk, which is beyond their own energy requirements, but actually additional energy requirements for them. So nutrition conditions, where do they lay down? In the wintertime when it gets muddy, are they in a dry, clean place? Are they filled with mud themselves? So their conditions, where they are, super important. Now let’s go into the milk barn. You bring them into the milk barn. It’s a stress free environment where you have good lighting, clean washable walls, good air ventilation. The flies are kept out for the most part with the screens and ventilation. That you can wash the floors down and clean things out so that you don’t have manure in there and causing a mess in their own right. That the udders are prepared very cleanly, whether you use water or prep in some way. You pay attention to udder prep. That in fact the udders are very clean, not sterile, but very clean. Remember, there’s bacteria that reside in the teat that are supposed to be there. But you want to clean off the extra bacteria from the environment and make sure you just have the surface bacteria that are there. So then you squirt out the milk out of the teat by hand a couple of times to make sure the teat canal is clean. So you’re only getting milk from up inside of the udder.

Mark McAfee 22:55
Then the machine that you have that you’re going to put on the udder has to be well maintained. It can’t have a crack in the liner so that you have a biofilm behind that you can’t get to it. That it’s the correct pressure vacuum. And that when you put the machine on, you’re not sucking hair and things from around. You put the machine only on the teat that’s been well prepared for the actual milking itself. Then that milk needs to go down a milk line that is clean. Milk lines can become very easily contaminated with biofilms. So you need to make sure that milk line is well maintained and very, very clean. Then when the milk hits the tank, how rapidly does it get chilled? How do you chill your milk? You need to chill that milk as fast as possible. The slowest standard is about 40 degrees in 40 minutes. You don’t want to ever go longer than that. I know here at Raw Farm, our milk is chilled to 37 degrees/36 degrees in two minutes. But we also get a 20 day shelf life because the bacteria that is there is controlled in its growth. So you have low levels of bacteria that grow slowly because it’s in cold milk. Then after you’ve done all that and your packaging- make sure your packaging is protected, your caps aren’t getting cats playing all over them, and that the packaging itself is well maintained to secure from biohazards, that that milk is kept cold until a customer picks it up and takes it and consumes it. And they keep it cold as well. You do all those things and you change the risk profile from moderate to high to very, very low.

Mark McAfee 24:18
Now, let’s look at pasteurized milk. You co-mingle milk from many different dairies on a common milk truck, and those dairies are paid very little money for their milk, so they can’t invest in its cleanliness. It doesn’t matter whether you’re going to have a little bit of manure in the milk because it’s going to get cooked. That milk goes to a big creamery with 100,000 gallon huge silo tank or larger. Who knows how big it is? 20,000, 50,000. All that milk is put together and the bacteria counts are astronomical in that milk, including pathogenic bacteria. Listeria, Salmonella, E. coli, Campylobacter is common. In fact, the pasteurized milk ordinance doesn’t even address pathogens. They just say make sure it goes through a five-log kill to reduce those pathogens to a level where no one will get sick. So you have filthy milk, and that’s OK. It’s excusing the 1880s again. And now what we’re seeing is farmers are losing their livelihoods because the filth is not being tolerated by consumers. Consumers are saying, I’m not going to dollar vote for that. I’m not going to buy that. It doesn’t taste very good. I get gastric upset with it. It’s inflammatory. It causes allergies. It’s hard to digest. It doesn’t taste very good. There’s nothing there. It’s dead. And it’s got all those dead bacteria in it. They are now pieces of dead bacteria because pasteurization doesn’t take the bacteria out. It breaks the cell walls by lysing. And now you’ve got pieces of dead bacteria all through the milk. That doesn’t taste very good. So clean, fresh, raw milk from a single dairy versus really filthy raw milk from many, many dairies.

Mark McAfee 25:45
And I picked a fight once with a guy accidentally. I was presenting to a dairyman. I said, ‘look at this filthy milk’. He said, ‘my milk is super clean.’ I said, ‘your milk might be very, very clean. But why would you make it so clean if it’s going to be commingled with everybody else’s filthy milk? It’s got to be pasteurized. You’re paying money to make clean milk when it’s not- you’re not being paid for, not compensated for clean milk. Why would you do that?’ Because your milk’s being commingled together, it’s being put in one big common bag. And he had to take a pause and say, ‘you’re right. I’m not getting paid premium. I’m getting paid more for my protein level and my fat level, but not my bacteria counts.’ So the system we have under the FDA and in the states that have pasteurized milk ordinances excuses filth. And that is what their paradigm is. And they render it harmless by cooking. Unfortunately, there’s not enough intellectual elasticity in this whole paradigm of pasteurization to allow for experimentation with new pasteurization technologies like HPP, which is high pressure, or UV, which is light. There are other parts of the world are doing that and trying to find some other way to do it versus heat, because other pasteurization technologies actually have a different effect on milk. And to a lesser extent, maybe enzymes aren’t destroyed or whatever. So there’s just no capacity for processors to think outside of their box, which is pasteurization only. If you have a problem, turn up the heat even higher.

Mark McAfee 27:09
So that allows what we’re doing at Raw Milk Institute, and individual farmers, to have tremendous opportunities with customers because what we’re doing is clean from a single source. And we understand if you’re well trained anyway. And now we have this whole new technology of being able to do Petri dish testing to see how sanitary your milk is. Like your friend Tammy was saying, ‘Wow, I was astonished. What I didn’t see was affecting me.’ And now she’s doing it and she’s getting a long shelf life, delicious flavor, and having confidence that her milk is very low risk. Now there’s a whole new generation of testing now that’s becoming available, and will be becoming available even more next year or two, for pathogen testing on farm. So you’re not just testing for sanitation, but you’re testing for pathogens like campylobacter, E. coli, salmonella, things like that, listeria. And those tests will be available for the farmer to perform on the farm. So it’s not common to have a pathogen coming from inside of a clean udder, but it’s possible and it can happen. So what we’re doing is working towards a paradigm in training where you’re not only sanitary, but you’re also pathogen-free at extremely high levels of confidence all the time. So that’s kind of the story about pasteurized milk and raw milk and their competing standards, which are just in conflict like you can’t believe.

Deborah Niemann 28:23
Yeah, that totally makes sense. I mean, the first time I heard that vet say that like, ‘Well, the people who work at dairies are not highly motivated to clean the udder because they know the milk is going to be pasteurized.’

Mark McAfee 28:35

Deborah Niemann 28:36
So I was just like, ‘Whoa’ that was such a light bulb moment for me, but it totally made sense.

Mark McAfee 28:42
Why would they? Five dairies every day. Five dairies every day being lost in America. We’ve had 10 dairies in the last year, year and a half around us go out of business and we’re thriving. Of course, we set our own milk price and it’s sustainable, but they can’t set their price. They take the price from the processor. Right now. It’s about $16 a hundredweight. They need 24 to break even. They just can’t make it. So we’re seeing the birth of 50,000 cow dairies, 25,000 cow dairies that have very exclusive contracts with processors and extremely low costs to produce that milk, which is putting other people out of business. So it’s a race to the bottom right now. It’s really tough. But raw milk is broken from that crowd completely with our customers, influencers that support us entirely differently because it’s such a bioactive food that’s fantastic for our immune systems.

Deborah Niemann 29:28
So one of the things I wanted you to talk about a little bit, and this is one of the things Tammy said made a huge difference for her, because I used to see these goat milking timelines where they would say, wash your hands, wipe off the goat’s udder, dip the goat’s teat into teat dip, and then put some squirts into a strip cup. And I was always like, ‘why are you dipping the teat before you milk them? Because you’re going to just rinse all that out before you milk the goat.’ Because I was only thinking about the goat’s health and like, ‘oh, you’re dipping the teats at the end to kill bacteria and prevent mastitis in the doe.’ But that teat dip at the beginning is actually so that you are creating safer milk. So can you talk a little bit about that?

Mark McAfee 30:15
Well, the udder prep is a very important protocol that we ask farmers to develop for themselves. We give them a proposed concept of how to go about doing it and show them how to do it. But they would say, but you know what, we want you to develop your own protocols based on this simple standard. So we don’t- we’re not the raw milk police. We don’t go tell people what they have to do, but we identify what’s high risk practices and say, ‘don’t go there. Try to stay away from that.’ And then every farmer will have their own set of conditions because obviously people in Maine or Canada is going to be different than Southern Arizona in terms of feed and the weather conditions and snow and rain and sleet and flooding and God knows all this stuff, rain, pasture, sunshine, heat, cold. So you wanna have a farm plan, which actually is made up for your set of conditions. Now, pre-dip is a prep to milking. In other words, you would pre-dip after you clean the udder, you pre-dip, saturate the entire teat, let it sit for 20 to 30 seconds and wipe it off. So you’ve actually sanitized the teat to a certain extent. You haven’t sterilized it, but you’ve taken a further step to make sure that teat is clean and that there’s nothing that’s gonna get into the milk because the outside of that teat is touching your milk, your inflation and your milk machine.

Mark McAfee 31:24
Then when you put the inflation on, what’s coming out of the teat after you’ve squirted out the teat, obviously you’ve taken some squirts out, the teat canal milk can often oftentimes have a lot of bacteria in it because that’s from the outside of the goat to the inside of the goat, there’s an inch or so of place where bacteria can reside as kind of a protective shield for the goat itself. So you wanna get rid of that. So you’re just getting clean milk from up inside of the udder. That said, when you’re done milking, you do a post-dip and the post-dip is generally thicker. It’s a half percent iodine or so with glycerins and other wonderful emollients that keep the skin soft. And it also does something very, very important. It blocks the teat end so that when the teat end is open for 30 minutes or so after milking, the teat end stays open. Bacteria don’t go up inside of the udder to make the doe sick or create some infection of mastitis. So it’s protective. The post-dip is protective for the goat. The pre-dip is protected for the consumer and the human that’s gonna enjoy the raw milk. So that’s the reason we do the pre-dip and the post-dip.

Deborah Niemann 32:25
Okay, that is great. Thank you for explaining that. And then, so you mentioned a little bit about the difference between the pre-dip and the post-dip. And I was just thinking iodine for both of those. So what’s the difference between the two?

Mark McAfee 32:37
You can use iodine for both. And normally the iodine would be a quarter percent, not half percent on the pre-dip. And then you use the thicker one for the post-dip because it does a better job of kind of hanging on to- gripping onto the teat and not falling off. It’s a thicker kind of dip. But you could use an iodine. There’s also some hydrogen peroxide-based udder solutions. The dairy pre-dips that are found in the conventional dairy systems are actually pretty good. The dairyman, even on the conventional side, does not want a cow with mastitis. It’s the last thing they wanna have. I totally agree with them. The systems are very similar. The pre-dip, some use pre-dip, some don’t use pre-dip, would be something hydrogen peroxide-based that basically does a pretty good job of cleaning off the teat. So the different brands of approved teat dips that the American Mastitis Association has certified, and all those should be fine.

Deborah Niemann 33:27
Okay, all right. But if somebody just wants something simple and organic, the iodine works.

Mark McAfee 33:33
Yeah, iodine with glycerin is fantastic, yep.

Deborah Niemann 33:36
Okay, great. So is there anything else? So I know you mentioned the free online course that you have for raw milk producers. Before we go, is there anything else that people need to know if they wanna produce raw milk?

Mark McAfee 33:52
Yeah, this is something that’s very seldom spoken about, but super important. It takes a different social contract between the farmer and consumer versus a farmer and a processor. When you serve a processor, you can be anti-social, you can put no trespassing signs up, you can yell at people, you can be mean, you can do all kinds of ugly stuff, you don’t have to paint your barn, you don’t have to welcome people. But when you sell raw milk for people, you gotta be friendly, kind, considerate, knowledgeable, educated, you gotta have clean facilities, you have to welcome people, you have to be loving and kind and considerate, and you have to have some humanity in your heart. And I would think that those things are really important because I’m not gonna say sad bad things about dairymen, but if you haven’t done that kind of thing in several generations, you’d be shocked the impact of being kind and considerate and having humanity has on your marketplace if you intend on selling raw milk to people. It’s a very important thing. We learned this firsthand when 89 dairies were cut off their contracts from Danone, the yogurt people, the Horizon people back a couple of years ago in the Northeastern United States. And we reached out to several of the dairymen. They said, ‘no, we aren’t gonna go raw, we’re just gonna go out of business because we don’t wanna deal with people.’ And that shocked me when I heard that. There were three producers that said, ‘oh, we were already selling raw milk and we’re just gonna go all raw milk, no problem.’ And they were all about people, but you’ve gotta have people in your heart if you wanna do raw milk well.

Deborah Niemann 35:23
Yeah, that totally makes sense. I know I used to not understand like, why would somebody wanna take their beans to the elevator and get pennies a pound when they could take them to the farmer’s market and get like $10 a pound. And then after getting to know enough farmers, I realized that that was the difference. Some people really, really, like they just love farming. They do not wanna deal with people. And so much that they are content taking their beans to the elevator to just sell them for a tiny fraction of what they could get for them if they sold them directly to the-

Mark McAfee 35:57
I will say though, that the humanity side is contagious. If you take a young farmer and you well educate them and you expose them to the virtues and values and principles of connecting to people and you exercise those social skills, I think there’s a contagion there. I think there’s an excitement. There’s an enthusiasm. There’s a purpose that happens there. It’s far beyond their dirt and their soil and their families, it’s humanity. And so you kind of catch that and you kind of see a bigger purpose and excitement about the marketplace, appreciating you and trusting you and wanting to know you. And if you’re not a particularly friendly person, fine. Find somebody on your team that is. Or get somebody on your team that does and wants to be. Because that is a social ingredient that’s part of your product. People need to trust you, love you, appreciate you, respect you. You need to be an educator. You need to know what you’re doing. And those are not things that are principled in the pasteurized milk community.

Deborah Niemann 36:56
Yeah, I love that. I think that is a fantastic note to end on. Thank you so much for joining us today.

Mark McAfee 37:01
You’re very welcome.

Deborah Niemann 37:03
And that’s it for today’s show. If you haven’t already done so, be sure to hit the subscribe button so that you don’t miss any episodes. To see show notes, you can always visit ForTheLoveofGoats.com and you can follow us on Facebook at Facebook.com/LoveGoatsPodcast. See you again next time. Bye for now!

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4 thoughts on “Raw Milk Safety”

  1. I have a question about post dip. I haven’t been doing it because my doe’s babies are going to nurse her as soon as I let her down off the stand. I just don’t do anything post milking. Is that ok?

    • It is a personal choice. The point of post dip is to protect the opening during the time that the canal is dilated after milking. If the kids go straight to the doe, it seems a bit pointless, but if there is a gap in time before the kids latch, it could be beneficial.
      When I have kids on a dam that I am milking, I use only iodine for post dip and I make sure to just cover the very tip of the teat instead of dipping the entire teat.

  2. that was very interesting, thank you so much! could you please find more information about raw milk cheese production?


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