Animals,  Farms,  Food & Diseases,  GAPS Diet & Nutrition

Want Crohn’s? Buy milk and beef from the grocery store.


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




  • Acoha

    The dairy industry talks about it so infrequently? All producers who I have come in contact with know about Johnes! I am sure one quick perusal of some monthly Dairy publication would find articles on this subject. The catastrophic loss in production and detriment to their herd is such that producers are active in knowing about Johnes! I took one upper level Dairy class at a leading university 14 years ago and it, of course, was part of the corse materials. Perhaps some of the way older crowd with smaller dairies give the industry a bad name on this subject? (Not
    debating any other dairy practices here!) I have been involved with the beef and lamb industries in the past and have found a few bad apples, but they are usually the ones put out of business eventually.

    • Brenda

      Acoha, in the studies I read (recent studies, from 2012, 2009, etc.), I read over and over that the many of the farmers are uneducated about Johne’s because nobody is talking about it. I’ll site references in the post above so that there isn’t future confusion about this. I’m glad that you are educated. Thank you for sharing your experience.

  • Ellen Stark

    Very good article, alot of ‘food for thought’. Interesting that cow’s who ate mostly a grain fed diet were the ones getting sick. Most likely the cow’s were fed corn. Since most of the corn in this country is from GMO corn, I really believe there is a correlation between sick people and cow’s who are eating GMO food. Crones is a gut disease. When an insect eat’s a plant like corn that is a GMO corn, the corn is designed to explode the stomach of the insect, which kills the insect and protects the corn. Supposedly by the time the GMO food get’s to us it’s ‘suppose’ to not have that same affect on us, and yet if you look at the statics from the time gmo’s were introduce in the US diet, digestion issues have sky rocketed. I don’t think this a coincidence. Example, what doctor’s call the “leaky gut syndrome”, people are getting holes in their intestines, hmm. Sounds like that pesticide is still alive when people are consuming it and if farmers are feeding gmo corn to their cattle, sounds like it’s doing the same thing to them. There are doctors who have been finally linking GMO food to their patients illnesses, are taking their patients who are sick with these digestive issues and finding that when they completely take them off all foods that contain GMO’s in them, their patients are getting better. Those diets like in your TB are high in dense whole foods, instead of the refined, processed foods that have loads of GMO’s in them. about 90% of all refined process foods have corn in them, like high fructose corn syrup. Since all the animal products we consume pretty much all have GMO corn fed to them, all the meat products, dairy and eggs are tainted as well. We are grass fed beef and occasionally raw milk from grass fed cows as well.

    Maybe GMO’s in the grain are not even an issue, but I would really like to see statistics on cows who were fed GMO corn and grain vs cows who were just grass fed in comparison. Do any of the studies and findings talk about what the animals diet was at the time of the testing? But if you are giving an animal corn, like cows which is not even what they should be eating, the health of the animal will suffer and it will most likely be more susceptible to illnesses like that. Thanks for the article, being informed is important.

  • rara

    Looking for the broken link here
    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?

  • JRS

    Organic milk is not necessarily ultra-pasteurized. I buy plain ol’ pasteurized milk all the time from Organic Valley (who has three kinds of milk – non-homogenized pasteurized grass milk, pasteurized milk, and ultra-pasteurized) and Strauss. I’ve also seen a few dairies sell deliberately low temperature pasteurized milk. Raw milk is too expensive to use exclusively out here, so we buy non-homogenized pasteurized organic milk on a weekly basis for things like cooking and adding to boiling hot beverages, and we never buy ultra-pasteurized milk.

  • Josie

    Very interesting post. People should be made aware of things like this but i can understand why its not talked about too much

  • Anonymous

    As someone that has had Chron’s for over 15 years, I think the title is a bit offensive. You could have titled it with something about the link between Chron’s and Johne’s. While this is definitely an interesting theory, I’m not sure it is ‘THE’ cause of Chron’s. People that grew up vegan have Chron’s and Chron’s is found in places where the livestock does not have Johne’s.

    Additionally, while I see you are trying to make a case for buying milk from a local farmer, you didn’t mention a few important things:

    1. Less than 3% of the milk samples had MAP.

    2. There are larger dairies that regularly test for Johne’s. You need to contact them individually to find out.

    Again, I appreciate the info but maybe presented with a little less bias 🙂

  • Jessica

    Several years ago I bought 3 goats, a mother and 2-week-old babies. They were de-wormed, and kept in a clean environment. Two or three months after I got them, the mother’s milk dried up, the mother and 1 of the babies rapidly lost condition, got weak, started having diarrhea, then died within a few days of showing symptoms. The third goat stayed perfectly healthy… It seemed like parasites but the vet said it might be Johne’s disease. When I called the lady that I bought the goats from and told her what the vet said, she scoffed at the idea that it could be Johne’s.

  • Michael

    I was diagnosed with Crohn’s and my wife was diagnosed with UC within three years of making the switch to organic milk. I have suspected organic milk is the cause of our illness. Apparently Europeans are aware of MAP infecting the milk and have been screening milk for MAP for years now. Yet here in the USA there is no dialogue.

    Thank you for posting this.

  • Charlie

    Organic milk isn’t ‘ultra pasteurised’. Dairy cows that are organic can still be given and are given antibiotics to treat them the same as a non organic dairy cow as the cows health it put before the organic status.

    • Brenda

      Charlie, there are a few brands that offer organic milk that is not ultra-pasteurized, but the majority of the organic milk in the grocery stores IS ultra-pasteurized.

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