One of the justifications used by raw foodies is, "I know where it came from. I know the farmer. I know it's safe." But knowing your local cow by name doesn't mean that Daisy Bell is more hygienic than any other cow. This is how the Seattle Times describes the life of a cow:
Cows create a lot of waste. They do it in the barn and in the fields. They do it while they’re being milked. It’s liquid and it splatters. It’s on their legs and tails and udders. Preventing waste from getting in the milk is all-important.
And here's how the same article describes a raw milk producer:
[The farmer] doesn’t exactly study the udders to make sure he’s cleaned every last inch. And it’s messy. On a recent visit, one cow, who was sore, fussed as Brown started the milking device. She pooped, splattering Brown’s face, but he didn’t seem to notice. She fussed so much that the device fell to the floor, and the cow stepped on it. When [the farmer] finally got her off it, he sprayed it with a hose. Then he put it on the next cow.
Simply put, it doesn't matter how careful the farmer is. Cows are fundamentally disgusting, and there is an incredibly good chance that E. coli or some other pathogen will end up in the milk. That's why we pasteurize dairy products. And it's also why we cook our meat.
Trichinellosis: A Benefit of Raw Pork
Depending on the type of animal, raw meat can contain a variety of harmful microorganisms. Raw or undercooked pork can contain Trichinella, a parasitic worm. Like cows, pigs are disgusting animals. They have their noses constantly in the mud, and they eat just about anything. It's not a surprise, therefore, that pigs carry potentially dangerous infections. Raising the pig yourself and naming it Oinker doesn't mean the pig will be more hygienic than any other pig.
The CDC reports that several people in California found this out the hard way after consuming a traditional Laotian raw pork dish. The pork came from a wild boar that was raised on a family farm. Later on, 12 people came down with vomiting and diarrhea. Nine of the patients were septic and had to be hospitalized (two of whom were placed in the intensive care unit), seven had kidney damage, and six had heart damage.
Totally worth it.
The Trouble with Traditions
Unlike the raw milk story we reported earlier, this story has a happier ending. The farmer who raised and slaughtered the boar said he would never serve raw pork again, and many of the patients swore off raw meat. But, according to the CDC, "one patient reported he would continue to eat raw meat from animals that he hunts, believing that raw meat confers strength." Tradition dies hard, it seems.
But, there's a thing about tradition you should always remember:
Source: Heaton D, Huang S, Shiau R, et al. "Trichinellosis Outbreak Linked to Consumption of Privately Raised Raw Boar Meat — California, 2017." MMWR 67 (8): 247-249. Published: 2-Mar-2018. DOI: 10.15585/mmwr.mm6708a3.