"You see the same kinds of miscommunications now as when it was first introduced," says Dr. Tong. "'Pasteurization kills all of milk’s nutrients,' 'it ruins the milk,' 'it’s just a way for dairy processors to make money.' None of these objections are true," says Dr. Tong, but these arguments pop up throughout the history of modern milk, most recently from raw milk enthusiasts who prefer to drink their milk entirely unpasteurized, despite health risks and, in some states, its illegality.
Since they're getting their raw milk from small farms and cows that appear healthy, raw milk advocates assume there isn't the same health risk as milk that's from a "factory farm." But that’s not a safe bet, says Mess, who has also blogged under the pseudonym Dairy Carrie for the past six years. "A cow can be shedding listeria for up to a week before you’d see any symptoms." She also suspects the tasty "secret" to raw milk’s appeal might actually be its extra fat content, as milk straight from the farm has more fat in it even than store-bought whole milk. Though Mess often hears from readers who worry about what’s in their milk, their fears don’t seem to extend to the rest of the dairy aisle. Unlike milk, whose per capita consumption has dropped from a glass per day in 1970 to about half that in 2013, cheese and yogurt sales are booming.
Luckily for the US dairy industry, milk sales aren’t solely dependent on American milk drinkers. For years now, "America has been trying to export [its] attitudes about milk around the globe," says Mendelson. "They’ve had great success in places like China, [where] people started gobbling the stuff down in spite of many millennia of people thinking milk was horrible [for you]."
Meanwhile, back in the US, a new trend has some very small dairy producers not only rejecting a progressive process like UHT, but also the continuous flow pasteurization systems that were once essential to the US milk boom. They have reverted to old-fashioned small-batch pasteurization, where the milk is pasteurized at a much lower temperature and held in vats over a period of time, for richer-tasting milk that's meant to be distributed hyper-locally. A niche market for sure, but one that's more than happy to revel in the ouroboros of America's appetite for an unadulterated glass of cold milk.