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Why Milk Pasteurization?

| 9/10/2013 11:36:00 AM

milk machineI have been milking cows and working to protect and promote traditional family dairy farms for most of my life. After almost 50 years in the business, I have come to believe that the commercial model for producing milk in this country — with a dairy industry that continues to consolidate and dairy farms that continue to expand and move to parts of the country where land, labor and feed are cheapest— is, simply, broken. And at the rate we’re going, I am not confident it can be fixed.

What we need is a new economic model that focuses on the local production of safe and delicious farm fresh milk. Personally, I believe that the micro-dairy model is the very fix we need—a new model for milk production.

Like many of my fellow dairy farmers, I believe that raw milk is the best and most nutritious form of milk if it is clean and comes from healthy cows. Unfortunately, not everyone agrees with me. The raw milk regulations in this country can vary wildly from state to state, with some states prohibiting the sale of raw milk altogether. In addition to these regulatory issues, not all people are comfortable with raw milk. I thought that if Micro Dairies could offer farm-fresh pasteurized milk as well as raw milk, that they could expand the total demand for safe and delicious farm fresh milk.

With this in mind, I set out to develop a small and inexpensive High Temperature-Short Time (HTST) pasteurizer—the Bob-White Systems Low Input-Low Impact (LiLi) pasteurizer — that could be used on micro dairies. Yes, any pasteurization at all is a compromise, but it’s not a huge one if the milk is produced and purchased locally instead of being shipped all over creation.

What I found in the seven years I have devoted to developing the LiLi is that HTST pasteurization, when properly done, does not ruin milk. Far from it. The process actually makes milk better for cheese making. I also found that much of the confusion regarding pasteurization stems from the fact that HTST pasteurization is one of the many components in a dairy processing facility, which includes homogenization, separation and standardization. I agree that the totality of this process does a great deal of damage to the milk. Plus, most commercial milk processing plants pasteurize at excessive heat levels to extend shelf life of the product. That said, the sole act of running milk through a low pressure, low speed pasteurizer at proper heat levels has minimal impact on milk.

My goal with the LiLi was to expand the opportunity for micro dairy farmers to produce and sell fresh milk and other farm fresh dairy products locally. I believed and still believe that the minimal damage done to milk by properly-done HTST pasteurization is a worthwhile compromise if it also expands the availability of locally produced farm fresh milk.

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