Raw milk yogurt is a fermented food made with unpasteurized, unhomogenized milk, usually from a cow or goat. During the yogurt-making process, raw milk yogurt is heated to no more than 110 degrees Fahrenheit (43 degrees Celsius) to avoid killing beneficial enzymes and maintain vitamin levels. This differs from pasteurized milk yogurt, which has been heated to high temperatures during the pasteurization process to kill unwanted bacteria. The production and consumption of raw milk yogurt is especially popular with those involved with the raw food movement, who believe that food is best consumed in its uncooked, “living” form. Yogurt made from raw milk is also consumed in traditional cultures around the world.
Proponents of raw milk yogurt claim that raw milk has more beneficial bacteria than pasteurized milk and contains more vitamins and active enzymes. Pasteurization involves heating milk to a high temperature and holding it for a specified length of time to kill harmful microorganisms, then rapidly cooling it. Raw milk has more bacteria, enzymes, and vitamins than pasteurized milk. Proponents of raw milk also cite the benefit of supporting small farmers over large factory farms.
Yogurt-making involves introducing a probiotic starter culture to the raw milk and allowing it to ferment for several hours to days. The resulting product is believed by some to have all the vitamins, enzymes, and helpful bacteria of raw milk plus the probiotic properties of the fermentation process. Raw milk yogurt tends to be runnier than pasteurized milk yogurt, so sometimes powdered milk is added as a thickener. As powdered milk is even more highly processed than pasteurized milk, this optional addition can counteract some of the health benefits of making raw milk yogurt.
Some health experts believe that eating raw milk yogurt may be more dangerous than drinking raw milk. While most raw milk does not contain enough bacteria to cause harm, there is some risk of becoming ill from consuming it. As raw milk has more bacteria to begin with, warming it during the yogurt-making process may allow harmful bacteria to multiply along with the helpful ones. This could make raw milk yogurt riskier to consume than drinking raw milk. As the yogurt is usually made in a home environment, there is some risk of contamination if sanitary practices are not strictly observed.
Regardless of whether it is made with raw milk or pasteurized milk, yogurt is highly regarded for its beneficial probiotic content. The decision to consume raw milk yogurt does have some health benefits. Yet this decision should not be made without carefully considering the risks.