Microbes and Microbiota: Benefits and Risks

Conversations of Upstate NY SRA members with licensed raw milk dairy farmer

Are you fascinated by the astounding advances in knowledge of the microbiota as our partners in health?

I invite you to read on, whether or not you already appreciate the ‘Microbiome Revolution’ that is shifting old paradigms about bacteria as germs and germophobia! Scientists and non-scientists alike learned a great deal from last year’s SRA webinar series about the microbiota of milks, the the dense, diverse microbes in fresh unprocessed (raw) milks from human and cows.


I have had the pleasure of visiting three of the nearly 50 dairies licensed by NY state to sell raw milk from their farm stores, most recently Churchtown Dairy in Hudson NY. Thank you to Kam Bellamy and Abby Rockefeller for the opportunity to introduce my colleague Mark McAfee of Organic Pastures Dairy in Fresno, CA, and the Raw Milk Institute or RAWMI. Congrats to Churchtown Dairy for being the first NY state dairy to meet the requirements for a RAWMI listing.

Upstate NY Society for Risk Analysis (SRA) members joined me in visiting another of the dairies licensed to sell raw milk in NY state last summer (see blog with Part 1 video of the farm visit here). In Part 2 of the video, you’ll hear conversations after we sat down in the farm store to discuss benefits and risks of raw milk complete with its microbiota, clinically demonstrated to improve health and reduce risk of infectious and inflammatory or non-infectious diseases.

We discuss highlights of the first three webinars on the human superorganism (by Cornell professor Rodney Dietert), the breastmilk microbiota (by Washington State University Professor Michelle McGuire), and the bovine (cow) milk microbiota (by University of Idaho Professor Mark McGuire). The fourth webinar in the series, Preparing to Deliberate Evidence on Benefits and Risks Posed by the Microbiota of Milks (by SRA Past-President Warner North and Upstate NY SRA President Peg Coleman, slide set available here), was held after the video was completed. Click here for abstracts and biographical information on the webinar series speakers.

NY state is one of 17 US states where consumers can obtain raw milk on dairy farms, as in the dairy farm store where the conversations on the video below were recorded. We also discussed evidence of benefits and risks of raw and pasteurized dairy products, sources of bias against raw milk, and barriers to retail sale of raw milk in NY state, as permitted in 10 US states in 2018. The interactive map for 2018 is included here, an update from that shown in the 2017 video.


The conversations span incredible books on the microbiota (Rodney Dietert’s The Human Superorganism; Ed Yong’s I Contain Multitudes), colonization resistance (innate protection against pathogens), and some diseases (mastitis, anthrax, listeriosis) where high doses of bacteria can cause illness. Learn what is puzzling about listeriosis regulation (presence/absence vs 100 bacteria/mL allowable limit), as well as about listeriosis outbreaks in raw and pasteurized dairy products.

View the video of these conversations below.

Many thanks to Al Pagan for his work on the videography, to Upstate NY SRA members, and to the nearly 50 dairies licensed in 2018 to sell raw milk to NY consumers who seek the superfood that is rich in microbes beneficial to healthy superorganisms, particularly for our gastrointestinal and immune systems.

As always, comments and questions are welcome!