The International Milk Genomics Consortium doesn’t mention raw milk on its web site or its conference promotional materials. But for Mark McAfee, owner of Organic Pastures Dairy and chairman of the Raw Milk Institute, a regular at its annual conferences, its research reflects importantly on the nutritional value of unpasteurized milk. In this article, he explains why.

by Mark McAfee

As a raw dairy farmer I have always championed learning and teaching. Raw milk is not sold…it is taught. One of the best ways to learn is to hang out and listen to people that are so smart it physically stretches your brain .

Raw dairy farmer Mark McAfee at a recent IMGC conference.

I began attending the IMGC (International Milk Genomics Consortium) conferences in 2012 and in the ten years since, the conferences have taken me all over the world. Twice to Aarhus Denmark, Melbourne and Sidney, Australia, Quebec Canada and several times , including last month, to UC Davis near Sacramento, California. Most of the time, I am the only farmer in attendance. Most attendees are PhD milk researchers, PhD students or milk processing scientists. Every year, reports are shared about the most recent discoveries in mammalian lactation, breast feeding, baby formulas, cow, goat, camel, horse, reindeer and even kangaroo milk and of course, the immune system, milk proteins, fats, bioactive compounds, genetics, and a plethora of biologic minutiae only found in deep research.

This year was the first year back in person, at UC Davis, after covid made everything go virtual for two years. It was great to see friends I’ve made via IMGC from around the world. This year there were about 125 in attendance with another 250 attending virtually via ZOOM  links.

At past conferences, at least one farmer or two showed up representing a processor, but not this year. The Raw Milk Institute (RAWMI), has been an official sponsor of IMGC for the last four years. This close association has allowed very close friendships and scientific alliances to be built and nurtured.

As the RAWMI guy and farmer, I ask all sorts of thought inspiring and sometimes disruptive questions after each of the presentations. Some of those questions cannot be asked by other attendees because of the financial grant system that drives research. There is no way a PHD who has received a grant from a processor would ever ask directly about raw milk. Processors’ interests are all about processed milks and products. Many of my questions are in the minds of everyone in the room, but no one dares ask them—questions about beneficial bacteria in raw milk, the impact of dairy on immune systems, how processing can deplete milk of its essential energy, and so on.  One of my PhD friends told me this: “A hungry mouth cannot freely speak”. In other words….say the wrong thing and you lose your grant funding or your job. As a result, I am the guy that gets to ask the really cool questions and has conversations with scientists from all over the world about the pseudo-forbidden subject of raw milk. They all want to know but are paid to not look or ask (at least not directly).  The conference is packed with scientists who love breast milk but if that subject is changed to another mammal’s raw milk, cautious silence and careful words are used.

Here are my biggest take aways after three days of being deeply immersed into milk science with the brightest milk scientists in the world, based on conclusions shared by PhD researchers at the conference:

  1. Dr. Bruce German said: “Data is the currency of science”. This reminds me that RAWMI has collected thousands of milk bacteria test results and can now prove safety by analysis of the data! We have the currency and peer-reviewed articles like this one are already showing this to be true. Data drives good decisions, solid evidence and  proof.
  2. The gut is the most important and largest immune organ in the body!
  3. Chronic inflammation drives chronic disease and illness.
  4. Raw milk is the most powerful anti-inflammatory food in existence.
  5. Raw milk is a nutrient system, a protective system and it signals and directs.
  6. Raw milk and its bioactive elements include mRNA. This mother-to-baby raw-milk-carried genetic coding directs cellular activity and immune responses  in the baby. Micro RNA is reduced and or destroyed by processing and especially high temp processing.,
  7. Mothers who have Covid should nurse their babies even if actively sick. The baby is protected by the antibodies shared through the breast milk!
  8. Mothers who have been vaccinated have active  antibodies that are shared in their breast milk that provide active protection for their babies.
  9. The highest covid anti body levels are found in the breast milk of vaccinated mothers who have also had covid themselves.
  10. Bioactive extra cellular vesicles found in raw milk are protective in healing and preventing arthritis and reducing joint inflammation. 
  11. Extra cellular vesicles include lactoferrin, alkaline phosphatase, and other bioactive proteins and enzymes. At least 60% are carried by the milk fat globule.
  12. Baby formulas classically do not have fat and are made from highly processed and spray dried skim milk. This completely denies the baby of the bioactive elements critical to gut development, brain and nervous development and immune function. The raw fat carries the critical good stuff. It is missing in infant formulas.
  13. Infant formula fed children have higher obesity rates and higher inflammation markers.
  14. Extra cellular vesicles ( EVs )  are critical to intestinal microbiota development, gut mucosal system, immune development, metabolic health, cognitive development and brand health.
  15. Companies are trying to develop technologies to extract EVs from Whey proteins and make a special product from them, when it is already in raw milk!
  16.  Breast milk EVs and bovine cows’ milk EVs are very similar.
  17. Raw Milk EVs survive the digestive process and are active in the gut.
  18. Cow colostrum contains high levels of Immunoglobulins IgG. Human breast milk has high levels of IgA.  Cows’ colostrum can provide passive immunity to human consumers.
  19. Raw Cow’s milk has a regulatory effect on both the innate and adaptive immune response in humans!!
  20.  EVs help build the critically important intestinal mucosal layer.
  21.  There are 1400 mRNAs found in human breast milk! Breast milk is a very powerful biologic director to signal proper activity in the baby. When it is missing, physiologic disruption and chaos can occur in the baby.
  22.  Raw milk lactoferrin blocks covid 19 activity and growth in laboratory studies.
  23.  Staph Aureus has been effectively treated with live bacterial treatment. It is being brought to market now.
  24.  Cow gut methane is used in the rumen to stimulate microbial fermentation to grow milk production.
  25. In the cow rumen, increased production is associated with less gut microbial biodiversity. Less milk production is associated with more biodiversity.
  26. There is an entero-mammary link and pathway. This pathway allows antibodies, and bioactive elements to be shared between the mother’s gut and her breast milk.
  27. Mothers are antibody factories for their babies via their breast immune tissue and their own raw milk.
  28. The first 90 days after birth is critical for innoculating the infant gut with beneficial bacteria, including bifido infantis. During this time the infant gut cells are naive and able to adapt with the gene influence provided by these good bacteria.
  29.  Obesity later in childhood and life  is associated with infant formula ( that contains corn sugars and no fat ) fed babies.
  30. There are prebiotics, probiotics, postbiotics (metabolites). Prebiotics are the foods that feed bacteria. Probiotics are the bacteria themselves. Post biotics are the metabolites of the metabolic activity of bacteria. These metabolites are elements critical to healthy conditions. They are not just waste, they are biologically essential to health.

It seems as if every presenter has a favorite milk EV that they research and want to protect. Yet….not one presenter has examined the whole picture of protecting the whole. Not one presenter has spoken about making raw milk safe by testing or healthy cows or better conditions. Instead the presenters talk about different kinds of processing and technologies to extract the EVs from raw milk to make a patented pill or potion out of it, presumably for eventual sale at maximum profit.

My big take away: raw milk safety and testing is on the right track and on the right side of history!  RAWMI is right!! Good for the farmer and great for the consumer. One of the IMGC executive directors told me this: you are a brave pioneer. You are leading and doing things we can only dream about because of the way the system works.

A cartoon comes to mind. A researcher with his head buried deep in the crack of the  bark of a huge tree….proclaiming, “I can not see any trees and there is no forest!”

Researchers are being paid to extract little pieces of good stuff from raw milk and ignore the whole. It is all very reductionist. As a raw milk dairy farmer, this seems to be a vote of scientific confidence. Every scientist I speak with loves what we are doing at RAWMI! They just can not speak of it for fear of the loss of their jobs or grant funds.  Our raw milk has all the good stuff, whole, undamaged, low risk and active. We have already achieved what world class scientists are trying to do. We use the whole and make it safe! This is contrarian and totally the reverse concept of currently allowed pathways of thought. That makes us true pioneers!

Although many of these beliefs have been well known by those of us in the raw milk community for many years, some of these statements have never been made by the scientific community until now.

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