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Raw Milk – A Consumer’s View

Michael Schmidt

Michael Schmidt talking to a raw milk supporter

I’ve said some of this before, but in the wake of recent raw milk legal events in Canada I wanted to post about it again. Yesterday, Michael Schmidt was found guilty of a number of charges brought against him for selling raw milk from his farm. Up until now the legality of raw milk hasn’t really affected me but this may change very soon. This summer I have been hearing from a lot of farmers that depending on the outcome of this ruling they may decide not to distribute their raw milk anymore.

Here’s a summary of my thoughts on the topic (hint, I think it’s ridiculous we can’t buy raw milk):

  1. Milk is the only food we cannot buy raw. Why?

    There are so many things you can do with raw milk, like making your own cheeses and sour cream. I once left jars of raw cream out on the counter and they went sour. I turned some into a delicious butter and the rest was thick tangy sour cream. You can’t do that with pasteurized milk. Leave it out on the counter and it goes bad pretty fast with mold or clumps of rotting mess. So why shouldn’t I have the right to buy a raw ingredient I want to make other things with? I also use my raw milk for yogurt and kefir, and prefer starting from the raw ingredient.

  2. We’re not asking for it to be sold in stores, just allow farmers to sell it.

    Drinking raw milk is not illegal, just selling and distributing it is. Why? Farmers can produce it and drink it themselves, but unless you live on that farm you can’t have any. Something doesn’t seem right.

  3. Plenty of dairy farmers drink their milk raw.

    Every dairy farmer I’ve talked to has no worries about drinking raw milk. Even dairy farmers who then sell their milk as pasteurized. They aren’t getting sick on this stuff.

  4. Pasteurized milk is not necessarily safe.

    Believing pasteurization removes any risk from food boorne illness is incorrect. Even if pasteurization killed all bacteria, the bottling and handling stages of milk processing can still cause contamination. Ultra High Temperature (UHT) pasteurization is supposed to kill even more pathogens. Many people have noticed however that this dead milk can’t be used for making yogurt or kefir properly. I don’t think any of us want to be eating a food that can’t support life. UHT pasteurized milk is about on the same level as margarine for health.

  5. Pasteurized milk makes me sick.

    It does, I’ve tried it more than once. I get the snotty-nosed reaction first, bloating and sometimes stomach cramps. Anyone who thinks milk is a ‘mucous-producing food’ probably haven’t tried raw milk or ferments made from raw milk.

  6. Plenty of other foods can make you sick.

    Spinach, tomatoes, cold cuts, ground beef, peanut butter, cookie dough and pretty much any packaged food are probably more recognized by the general public as being dangerous foods than milk.

  7. Why don’t we have the freedom to choose what we eat?

    IT’s JUST FOOD! I’d rather our government be spending money on actual crimes and not harassing farmers who are selling a food that people want and should have every right to buy.

  8. The raw milk law discriminates against non-farmers

    It’s legal to drink raw milk in Canada. It’s not legal to sell or distribute it. This means that unless you live on a farm you cannot drink raw milk. So really, only farmers can drink raw milk legally in Canada.

The best place I’ve found to keep up to date on all raw milk news is http://thebovine.wordpress.com

There’s an interesting article with a poll on it (as of Setp 29, 2011) at http://www.cbc.ca/news/yourcommunity/2011/09/should-raw-milk-be-sold-in-canada.html which may be a little biased getting lots of support from raw milk drinkers. However, it does go to show that the raw milk issue among non-supporters is really not that important.

Kat

I have been following the Specific Carbohydrate Diet since January 2008 to recover from Celiac disease. As part of the diet, I don't eat grains, sugar or potatoes and prepare all my meals from scratch.

11 Comments

  1. If you have an office job, it is impractical to keep a cow or goat on your own property. You should at least be able to board your cow in the country, have it cared for by a farmhand, and be able to pick up your own milk from your own cow. That is what was happening with Schmidt. This is legal now, but the appeals court misinterpreted the word “distribute” in sell or distribute. The proper interpretation of a distributor is one that positions product for subsequent sale–typically between producer and retailer. The appeals court applied the general definition of physical distribution, meaning any transportation of any item.

    The easiest thing to do is to legalize the sale of raw milk, but we also should affirm the legality, under current law, to obtain the milk of your own cow, including boarding and transport of milk that is never in commerce. Further, these herdshare arrangements do not fall under the jurisdiction of public health and safety organizations–although those organizations may promote a voluntary program.

  2. This law is outrageously disgraceful! How wrong, can wrong get, honestly? I am disgusted with our Canadian powers that be! What a sad state of affairs…I can only hope things change…there should be a huge lobby against pasteurized milk…it make me sick too!

  3. Note: This account is from America, the State of Georgia in specific, but I suspect a similar process existed in Canada as well.

    When I was a child, raw milk was legal for sale everywhere. My dad got a cow specifically so my mother could make formula for me (Breast milk was not good enough in the mid forties).

    You can find many medical books from that time which recommended raw milk as a cure for many illnesses. Then you read about dairy people in New York and elsewhere putting all sorts of contaminants in the milk. The reason was simple, the cream was much more valuable than the milk itself, but when you skim the cream, the milk took on an unnatural blue color and had the wrong mouth feel. Companies needed something they could put in the milk to correct this problem. Many of the things used were very unsanitary and disgusting. In addition, the cows were raised in unsanitary conditions and fed swill from the breweries. This made the cows more subject to infection and many infected cows were milked. (Not unlike commercial dairies today) These two things alone killed many people before the milk from these commercial dairies was pasteurized.

    Doctors formed a group to produce “Certified Milk” which came from clean dairies with grass fed cows and the milk was handled properly. They needed the milk as they were still feeding children formula made using this milk. This displeased the people in the milk industry which were now homogenizing the milk and adding adulterants to the milk to hide the fact they were stealing the cream. Milk processors developed an alternate plan to keep people from getting sick. They heat treated the milk they were producing.

    They called it pasteurization and used a process originally developed to keep beer stable so it could be shipped. This new pasteurization process required large factories which cost a lot of money to build so they needed a large group of people to purchase this highly processed product.

    The people were not dumb. Processing cost money so the processed milk cost more than the milk consumers were buying from their local farmers. The milk was white not cream colored (Yes, that is where the name of that color originated.) and it tasted burnt and flat sort of like boiled water tastes flat. For those reasons, not many people purchased this processed stuff. Mother brought a quart home when the cow went dry. She eventually poured it out as no one would drink it. Instead we purchased raw milk (We just called it milk) at the dairy a few miles down the road.

    To solve this problem of no customers, the processors developed a two prong program. First they collected every published incident of people being harmed by drinking their unprocessed milk and made sure the newspapers printed it around the country. Next they took these papers to the legislatures and asked for bans on the sale of this dangerous product, which at that time, was killing adults and children alike. They also made the argument to the local departments of agriculture that if someone got sick drinking raw milk it would harm the entire milk industry and reduce the tax flow to the state. This resulted in many laws banning the sale of raw milk.

    About this same time doctors “discovered” that breast milk was in most cases much better for the children than formula so they stopped supporting the “Certified Milk” Program and in fact one doctor made such a case before the Supreme Court that the courts demanded the FDA ban the sale of raw milk across state lines. The FDA actually delayed implementing the order for many years, apparently the lobbyist eventually reached the right person and the ban was implemented.

    This is where we are today. Raw milk sales are banned in many states, the transportation across state line is banned, and the milk lobby knows full well that if the “misinformed” people like us that want to go back to the old days and purchase milk directly from the cow actually get their way, many people will once again discover that the processed milk is not good for you, that the raw milk from a local farmer is safe and is good for you. If that happens on a large scale, these processors will be out of business. They will no longer be able to make money selling an inferior product at excessive prices.

    If you were one of these milk processors, what would you do? I would lobby very hard to get the government at all levels to enforce the laws and stop these “misinformed” people before they damage the public health. So you see, while there is no lobby against pasteurized milk, there is in fact a huge well funded lobby against raw milk. Reversing this trend will not be easy because of the immense amount of money available and the future of an entire industry is at stake. Never mind it is and has been harming the health of children for decades.

  4. This post is a desperate plea from a mother with a son suffering from many of your same complaints. Can you please email me privately so we can discuss it…. his rash (on his bottom) looks like the one on your neck, 12 food allergies, reflux,…. I pray I hear from you soon!

  5. If raw milk producers can produce a product that is as pathogen free as pasteurized milk producers, they should be free to sell their product.

    If they can’t they shouldn’t

    Any other argument is politics

  6. @Doug “as pathogen free as” isn’t a clear-cut definition. Raw milk can be as safe as pasteurized especially if care is taken during the milking and bottling process which is where most contamination occurs. Testing raw milk for any/all bacteria is not testing if it’s safe since there are tons of beneficial bacteria in it. It only becomes a problem if bad bacteria get into it, which as we have seen with so many massive food recalls, can occur with any food product.

  7. Hey Kat!

    Not long after you and An came to visit I switched to raw milk. I drive about 40 minutes one way to pick it up (although have recently found a car pool). This makes me very sad to see that the US is actually ahead of Canada in terms of allowing raw milk sales by local farms. And here I thought Canada was on the up and up! Ridiculous. Just absurd. 8 people died of cantaloupe in the US this year…yet they’ll never ban that.

  8. @Jennifer Kozak I guess you’re enjoying it if you’re going out of your way to get it! I really can’t believe that Canada is the worst place to get raw milk. We’ll see how things go in the next few months with Michael’s case.

  9. Nice meeting you at the conference and I’m glad you got to visit Central Texas as well. I agree with all the points on your list. I hadn’t thought about the laws discriminating against non-farmers by effectively allowing only farmers and not all citizens to drink raw milk – so I learned a new point too.

    Another important point is that all laws against raw milk have been started and pushed primarily by big dairy groups to stifle competition from small dairies by effectively forcing them to join cooperatives to process their milk. Pasteurization was and still is a poor excuse to justify the sale of low quality filthy factory farm milk that truly was causing people to get sick in the past before it was pasteurized. It’s much cheaper to pasteurize factory farm milk than to provide a healthy diet to the cows and maintain clean facilities. Unfortunately they were very effective in using a fear campaign and the result was to force all dairies into large dairy cooperatives that completely control the commercial milk market like a monopoly. The fear campaign was also picked up and promoted by well meaning but misled medical groups as well, under the false premise that pasteurized/homogenized commercial milk is just as healthy as raw milk that people have been drinking for thousands of years. If raw milk was truly such a terrible vector for disease, it never would have become so popular over those thousands of years and those who drank it would have all died off by now. It is the factory farming practices that have made milk unhealthy and pasteurizing, homogenizing, and processing it makes it even less healthy.

    When we recently tried to get legislation passed here in Texas to allow farmers to sell clean healthy raw milk at farmers markets, the primary opposition was the state dairy organization and their partner in crime, the American Medical Association. Because of their considerable political pressure, they were able to prevent the proposed legislation from even getting out of committee. Big dairy does not want to lose market share and they are a very formidable political force, especially when allied with medical interest groups that seem to care more about maximizing profits from treating symptoms rather than actually helping people to become healthy.

  10. @Bryan – oz4caster Thanks for sharing that Bryan, very clearly explained. I can’t help but feel like lately things have changed a bit. Maybe it’s that more people are asking for it, more people are demanding local food and more people are starting to questions the big guys. Either way I hope we continue to fight for our food!

    And yes Texas was wonderful. I will be back!

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