Raw Nerves Over Raw Milk

By Miryam Ehrlich Williamson

The big guys in the dairy industry, The International Dairy Foods Association (IDFA) and the National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF), have their long knives out for rural dairy farmers who sell raw milk locally. We needn’t be surprised. We’re seeing the convergence of two social trends: a growing concern among people who can afford to be concerned about the quality and composition of the food they eat; and a growing awareness of the threat of global warming and, again among those who can afford it, a desire to spend less fossil fuel to get food to their tables.

Big food producers, addicted to the chemical way of feeding their animals and crops, to hormones and antibiotics and steroids and pesticides that make farming easier even as they make their products less palatable, are feeling the pinch. If you don’t eat processed foods, even a trace of chemicals comes through loud and clear on your tastebuds when you pick up a handful of chips at a party. If you eat only grass-fed beef, a bite of commercial feed-lot hamburger will shout Hormones! Antibiotics! on your tongue.

I imagine that raw milk tastes odd to someone accustomed to pasteurized milk . I have to imagine, because I’ve never tasted raw milk. I’m not much of a milk drinker and, although I could go a mile and pick up a half gallon of raw milk at Chase Hill Farm, I’m just not that curious. But I know enough about real foods to know that I’d be drinking raw milk if I were drinking milk at all.

But lack of direct knowledge of the taste of raw milk doesn’t keep me from observing what a ridiculous situation the US Food and Drug Administration has got itself, and those who produce and value raw milk, into. This isn’t the first time the FDA has kissed up to big industry and is making itself look ridiculous and, I suppose, it won’t be the last. But it’s a doozie.

Thanks to the FDA and Big Milk, it’s illegal to ship raw milk from one state to another. Because some states all of the time, and all states some of the time, are blindly devoted to what the Fed says is right, in some states it’s illegal for dairy farmers to sell raw milk to anyone. In other states it’s allowed to sell raw milk at the dairy but not at a farm stand or store. In still others, it’s okay to sell raw milk in a store but not at the dairy itself.

And all this nonsense is because the FDA, pushed from behind by Guess Who, says raw milk is dangerous, that it makes people sick. As if alfalfa sprouts and spinach and eggs and hamburger meat – all of which the FDA allows to be shipped between states and sold anywhere – never make people sick.

So here’s the FDA, trying to get people afraid of raw milk because the guys with all the cows want them to. So in Novewmber 2009, at exactly the time Big Cow was writing to the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP, for crying out loud. Did they choose those particular and barely related items to oversee so they could get that acronym for their committee?) urging them to tighten FDA oversight over raw milk producers, FDA was coming up with a 72-slide Power Point presentation that is so full of errors and half truths that the Weston A. Price Foundation put up a scathing slide-by-slide refutation of the FDA’s assertions.

Writing about rural politics in the March/April 2010 issue of “Countryside and Small Stock Journal” reporter Jerri Cook points out the lengths to which some officials will go to catch farmers who produce and sell raw milk, even at the expense of taking resources away from catching those who produce and sell methamphetamine, the drug that is tearing apart rural families and communities.

In Laclede County, Missouri, the problem is so severe that the Missouri Attorney General, Chris Koster, set up a sting operation to catch the perpetrator. They watched the suspects for weeks, sending in two undercover inspectors to make the buys. Both times, they were successful. The perpetrators, the children of A. and T.B. [full names omitted for privacy reasons; these folks are not public figures like the AG is], were caught red-handed selling the white stuff. Not meth, raw milk. Here’s the kicker – it’s legal to sell raw milk in Missouri, and the Bs have a license to do so.

The problem was that the AG wants the Bs to deliver the milk to the customers’ homes or have them come to the farm. No farmstand pickup point, he says. So in November 2009 (are we starting to see a pattern here?) the AG filed suit against the Bs, who are refusing to sign a consent decree saying they won’t use pickup points to distribute their milk. Mr. B says the family is going to fight. “It’s about our freedom and consumers’ freedom,” Cook quotes him.

I wish you could read the whole article. You’d be as irked as I am. But it’s not online, so you either have to buy the whole issue, which “Countryside” will be glad to sell you, or see if your library can find you a copy.

And, by the way, why not call it something different? “Raw” sounds bloody, like it hurts. Do the Karl Rove thing and rename it. The Weston A Price Foundation calls it “real milk.” I like “natural milk.”

Here’s more about this ridiculous war against milk that hasn’t been pasteurized.

A summary of state laws concerning raw milk. (28 allow it, 22 do not.)

A comparison of certification requirements for raw and pasteurized milk in Los Angeles County, California.

The Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund wins the first round in a suit against the FDA.

FDA’s 72-slide Power Point presentation on the dangers of raw milk and Weston A Price Foundation’s point-by-point refutation

Health benefits of unpasteurized milk

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2 Responses to “Raw Nerves Over Raw Milk”

  1. Again, Missouri’s exception clearly permits producer-to-final consumer direct sales of raw milk, and the location of that sale is not restricted.  It does not prohibit buying clubs if the delivery person is an agent of the buyers and not a reseller–even if the delivery person collects a fee.  The only thing the Missouri exception does not permit are resellers (wholesalers or distributors; i.e. the sale must be direct producer to consumer).

  2. [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Clay Wisner, Clay Wisner and Anne Marie Breiling, Anne Marie Breiling. Anne Marie Breiling said: here's hoping "Big Milk" :) wakes up more natural foodies to the blessings of limited gov't: http://bit.ly/doqCej h/t @CathyAtTheFund [...]

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