We just purchased a second Jersey. My husband met the previous owner at the vet, where he had testing done, and where he was able to ask a lot of questions.
One particularly big concern in buying a dairy cow is Johne’s Disease (pronounced Yo-nees). It’s a disease that is identical to the human disease Crohn’s. Just like a human with Crohn’s, a cow that has Johne’s Disease will have a lot of diarrhea and will not absorb minerals properly. Johne’s Disease comes from the bacteria Mycobacterium avium subspecies paratuberculosis, which is abbreviated as MAP. It is, according to our vet, tuberculosis in the gut. Johne’s Disease in a cow and Crohn’s Disease in a human looks the same under a microscope.
According to our vet, Johne’s Disease is rampant in the commercial dairy industry.
“A national study of US dairies, Dairy NAHMS 96, found that approximately 22 percent of US dairy farms have at least 10% of the herd infected with Johne’s disease.” –USDA Johne’s Disease Information
This study only includes the farms that admitted to having Johne’s disease within their herd. Johne’s is compared to AIDS in the dairy industry–it’s something you just don’t talk about. In fact, it is talked about so infrequently that many of the farmers are totally unaware of how dangerous the disease is.
MAP (Johne’s Disease, AKA Crohn’s) is in the milk
Most studies done on MAP in milk have been done on raw milk. These studies might be used as a scare tactic by the dairy industry, in an argument that humans shouldn’t be consuming raw milk. Some studies contain statements like this:
“Paratuberculosis was detected at a high frequency in cow and goat milk, which suggests that raw milk ingestion represents a potential risk of Map infection.” –Mycobacterium avium subsp. paratuberculosis detection in individual and bulk tank milk samples from bovine herds and caprine flocks
This statement implies that MAP was only found in raw milk, and therefore pasteurized milk would be a safe option. That is simply not the case.
“Viable MAP is found in human and cow milk, and is not reliably killed by standard pasteurisation.” –Is Crohn’s disease caused by a mycobacterium? Comparisons with leprosy, tuberculosis, and Johne’s disease
“A double-blind study involving two laboratories was undertaken to evaluate retail pasteurized whole milk in the United States…..Of the 22 brands of retail milk tested, 12 (55%) yielded at least one sample positive for viable MAP.” –Detection of viable Mycobacterium avium subs. paratuberculosis in retail pasteurized whole milk by two culture methods and PCR
You definitely wouldn’t want to drink raw milk from a cow that has Johne’s Disease. That would be a dangerous choice. However, the chance of a small dairy having problems with Johne’s disease is very slim. Johne’s disease is rampant in large dairy operations because it’s hard to control with a large number of cows, it spreads easily, and is almost impossible to get rid of once you’ve got it on your farm. I find it interesting that Johne’s is the “gut” version of Tuberculosis. In his travels in the 1930′s, Weston A. Price studied many people groups who had extremely low incidences of Tuberculosis. All of these people were eating nutritionally dense foods (like raw milk and other animal products). The people who had higher incidences of TB were eating refined sugar, white flour and canned preserves (with sugar). Dairy cows from commercial operations are fed a lot of grain (which is nutritionally equivalent to a high sugar, white flour diet for humans), and are more susceptible to all kinds of diseases, including Johne’s. Dairy cows that are fed primarily grass (and only a little grain) do not have the same instance of disease.
What about organic milk?
Organic milk is ultra-pasteurized. I do not recommend that people drink ultra-pasteurized, organic, store-bought milk. Many of the commercial, organic dairies are feeding their cows a high-grain diet, just like the “regular” dairies. Dangerous diseases like Salmonella, E.coli and Campylobacter are typically due to high grain-consumption in a cow (these diseases are not usually found on a farm that primarily feeds their cows grass). Most dairies use antibiotics to deal with these diseases. Organic dairies are not using antibiotics–so to deal with the diseases (that resulted from improper and unhealthy feeding practices), the organic dairies will ultra-pasteurize their milk. It’s not healthier. It’s just more dead, has a longer shelf life, and brings in a higher profit. Still, one study showed that ultra-pasteurized milk has a slightly lower risk of containing MAP. You can decide if a slightly lower risk is good enough for you.
Pretty much ALL grocery store ground beef is from culled dairy cows that very likely have MAP
The vet told my husband that pretty much all ground beef in the grocery store is from culled dairy cows that likely had Johne’s Disease. When I heard this, I immediately started researching.
“MAP can be detected and cultured from muscle of MAP-infected cattle destined for human consumption and suggest a possible risk of exposure of humans to MAP via contaminated meat.” –Isolation of Mycobacterium avium subs. paratuberculosis from muscle tissue of naturally infected cattle
Since dairy cows are not ideal for steak, their meat is ground.
“Given the prevalence of MAP in U.S. cattle herds, ground beef may be a potential source of MAP.” –Assessment of food as a source of exposure to Mycobacterium avium subspecies paratuberculosis (MAP)
The chance of eating MAP is not 100%, every time w bite into a burger. Still,
”Currently available data suggests that the likelihood of dairy and meat products being contaminated with MAP on retail sale should not be ignored.” –Contamination of food products with Micobacterium avium paratuberculosis: a systematic review
“…the processing of cows with paratuberculosis in abattoirs without any precautions (restrictions) and the usage of meat for human consumption should be rethought.” –Correlation of Mycobacterium avium subs. paratuberculosis counts in gastrointestinal tract, muscles of the diaphragm and the masseter of dairy cattle and potential risk for consumers
Not only are these cows infected with MAP, but they are unhealthy, nutritionally deprived cows. Johne’s Disease causes malaborption. That means, these cows are sick…And they’re processing sick cows and feeding them to humans, on a regular basis.
So it’s in milk and ground beef–does that mean that humans are getting Chron’s Disease from it?
If you ask your doctor about the connection between Johne’s Disease and Chron’s, you will likely be told that the connection is “unestablished,” or that there needs to be further research done. Yet, there are many studies that show a definite connection.
“Mycobacterium avium subsp. paratuberculosis is a candidate pathogen in the causation of a proportion of cases of irritable bowel syndrome as well as in Crohn’s disease.” –Mycobacterium avium subspecies paratuberculosis infection in cases of irritable bowel syndrome and comparison with Chron’s disease and Johne’s disease: common neural and immune pathogenics
Any doctor who claims that there is no connection ought to read the following study:
“The search for risk factors in Crohn’s disease has been frustrating. However, epidemiologists have gathered enough information that points to an association between M. avium subsp.paratuberculosis and Crohn’s disease.” –Epidemiological evidence for Mycobacterium avium subspecies paratuberculosis as a cause of Chron’s disease
The incidence of Crohn’s Disease is significantly greater if a person eats meat. Don’t y’all go and become vegetarians on me now–that’s not what I’m saying. Eat the right kind of meat (pastured, from farmers who won’t be feeding you sick animals) and you’ll be fine.
“Meat intake (per kg/month: OR = 1.40, 95% CI: 1.17, 1.67) was associated with a significantly increased risk of Crohn’s disease…” –A case-control study of drinking water and dairy products in Chron’s Disease-furthre investigation of the possible role of Mycobacterium avium paratuberculosis
Sufferers of Chron’s Disease and Ulcerative Colitis tend to relapse between the months of August and January.
“The timing of ulcerative colitis relapse showed a clear seasonal pattern with 26 patients relapsing from August to January and only nine from January to July (p less than 0.001).” –Why do patients with ulcerative colitis relapse?
Studies have shown that pasteurized milk has higher levels of MAP between July and September.
“More MAP-positive samples were identified during the third quarter of the year (July through September).” –Detection of viable Mycobacterium avium subs. paratuberculosis in retail pasteurized whole milk by two culture methods and PCR
A coincidence? Maybe, but not likely.
I am not a doctor or a scientist, but I am a researcher. All I had to do was search medical studies, and I found plenty of evidence to connect Johne’s Disease in dairy cows and Crohn’s Disease in humans. Please read the studies for yourself and make an informed decision.
What do you think? Are you willing to consume milk or ground beef from the grocery store?
photo credits: Danielle Scott and Muffet