Saturday, April 24, 2010

Poisonous milk

So here we go again - the brown shirts from the federal government are doing dawn raids on dairy farmers - treating them like the most loathsome of drug runners - because they're selling (pause while I gasp in horror)....raw milk.


Look, I just wrote an article on pasteurization for Backwoods Home Magazine. Prior to writing that, I never really paid attention to the debate between raw and pasteurized milk. I mean sure, I drink raw milk from our own cows - been doing that for eleven years now - and we're all healthy as horses. But with minimal research on the internet I discovered the various health issues behind pasteurized milk that has made thousands of people passionate about drinking milk in its natural state.

And here's the thing the Feds won't admit: IT SHOULD BE OUR CHOICE WHAT KIND OF MILK WE WANT TO DRINK!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

This is one of the most classic examples of free-market capitalism in existence - if the government would keep out of it, that is. If someone gets sick from drinking raw milk, he won't buy the farmer's raw milk any more. Word will spread, and boom - he's out of business. Make sense?

But the fact is, people are NOT getting sick from drinking raw milk. People WANT raw milk. Why is this concept so difficult to grasp?

In this country we've gotten to where we have a damnably skewed opinion about the benefits of pasteurization. As I point out in my article, the benefits of pasteurization are indisputable...but that doesn't mean properly-handled raw milk is some sort of poisonous brew that will make drinkers drop like stones the moment it touches their lips.

The ironic thing is this particular raid happened on an Amish farm. Putting aside the fact that I have great admiration for the Amish, I should point out that, assuming this Amish dairy is following the strictures of their faith by not using electricity, then they're milking their cows by hand. When you hand-milk your cows, folks, you know those cows. Intimately. (Trust me on this.) Every wheeze, every cough, every beginning incidence of mastitis, every injury to a teat, every damage to a hoof, everything. Your crouch next to an animal for fifteen or twenty minutes, your head pressed against a flank, and you can hear every digestive rumble from within. You observe (feel, actually) their behavior. Stare at their udder and hooves. You even observe the quality of their waste products. Believe me, if a cow is sick - YOU KNOW IT. So don't give me this bullshit excuse that raw milk is poisonous just because it's raw.

Contrast this with your average commercial dairy. While I have great respect for commercial dairies, let's face it - there are a lot of cows living in less-than-ideal conditions. By definition a commercial cow is a number, nothing more. They are milked by machines. They live in mud and manure, cheek by jowl with hundreds of other animals. They are not - cannot - be treated as individuals by farmers who love them.

The feds are conducting Gestapo-style raids on dairy farms which - I'll just bet - are squeaky clean from top to bottom. These farmers are giving the customers what they want. How's that for a concept????? They're not forcing people to drink (gasp) raw milk - they're giving them WHAT THEY WANT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


Okay, I'll calm down now.


  1. We love our raw milk, and can't sell it in spite of being asked about it frequently. We sometimes have had to skim 6 or 8 gallons of milk to make butter of the cream, feed what we can to the pig and the puppies, and then dump the rest on the grass. It's a shame. I don't make cheese (baby, toddler and homeschooling 4 others keeps me too busy), but I know people who would pay good money for the milk. Grrrrrr, indeed!

  2. While I'm not a fan of milk, the liquid kind that is, These thugs need a dose reality. We really need their full names to post on the web as the oath breakers that they are. Let the light od day shine them along with the scorn of the public calling them out by name. Let the change their conduct.

    Ken Lowder,

  3. Well, I for one enjoy milk to the max allowed by the food police. Is there anything better than a really cold glass of milk, raw or otherwise with your favorite snack? If you enjoy water then that is fine. Just have a good time and leave the rest of us alone while you are feeling superior.

  4. As a so-called "commercial" dairy farmer with 200 milk cows in our herd, I would like to respectfully point out a couple of things.
    First, just because a cow is one of two hundred doesn't mean she's any less important to a farmer than a cow who is one out of 10. Each one of our cows has a name and we know them all. Our cows are kept in clean, dry stalls that are sand bedded for optimal comfort. They see a hoof trimmer every six week. The vet is here for preventative care and reproduction checks every other week. When our cows are past their productive lives and need to go to market, my husband and I have been known to cry. When one of our animals is sick, we lay hands on her and pray. We've also been know to send out prayer requests for our animals. We are picky about the quality of feed our animals receive. We are extrememly picky about the sires (bulls) we use in our herd, carefully examining the proofs before making a breeding decision. I do not wish to be pitted against smaller farmers, as there is room in this country for all of us. However, I would like to point out that in most cases, it is not economically viable for a new generation to take over a dairy of less than 100 cows. A smaller herd won't generate enough income to pay back the massive amount of debt necessary to begin farming profitably. And farming without making a profit is gardening.
    Also, when you say that if a person gets sick from the raw milk they purchase from a farmer, word will spread and that farmer will eventually go out of business. That statement is the main reason that my husband and I oppose the sale of raw milk. Let me explain why. Milk comes from cows. Cows aren't the cleanest creatures. Not only is there naturally occurring bacteria that lives on and in their udders (such as e.coli and campylobacter), but cows sometimes like to lay in their own waste, which is an ideal environment to grow more bacteria in. Even with the strictest of milking protocols and sanitation procedures, bacteria is going to end up in the milk. If/when people drink that milk and get sick, they will automatically blame the farmer, even though it isn't necessarily his fault, as I pointed out that bacteria is naturally occurring. People do get sick from the bacteria present in raw milk and some people even die as a result. There is no legal protection for the farmer in these instances, even if the farmer wasn't at fault. Also, what if the raw milk isn't handled correctly once it leaves the farm? People will still blame the farmer that sold them the milk. These cases then give the entire dairy industry a black eye. Look at what happened to the pork industry with the H1N1 outbreak. Domestic consumption plummeted and exports all but completely dried up...and pigs weren't even responsible for the spread of it!

    1. I would like to respectfully disagree with you... four years later as this is when I am reading the post.
      If you have 200 cows, you do NOT know your animals intimately. Even if you worked 20 hour days you could only spend 6 minutes with each cow per day. Or ten hour days if you and your husband each "know" half of your cows. If you have employees then you really don't know all your cows. I would guess that you have a few favorites that you might know.
      All the talk about bacteria growing and such while the cows lay in their own poop? Your cows are kept in "clean" sandy stalls. I am prepared to bet that given a choice between open pasture and a stall full of poop (they are only clean after they are cleaned and not for long), the cows would lay in it much less often. Therefore, in a commercial dairy, stall kept cows would have LOTS more bacteria to contend with than cows who live in a pasture that encourages good health with fresh grass, space for exercise, and where the open air and ground contain natural enemies to bacteria (not to mention more room for poop).
      Just because an animal has a name does not mean you know it. Just because an animal is important to a farmer because it is profitable does not mean they love it.

  5. We love our raw milk and the fact that we can truly sour it. It does not go bad like the poison they sell at the stores. Yes, cows are slobs and they lay in their own crap more than once in a while! My cow's pen is always completely clean, yet she insists on pooping on it and then lying on the poop! I clean her up thoroughly before I milk her. We are a sickly society because we are too worried about germs. Yes, we need to be clean and careful but not obsessive.
    It is a lot of work keeping and milking a family cow, but it is worth it to have REAL MILK.

  6. Hi Camille:

    I’m glad to hear from a commercial dairywoman! I’m especially glad to hear of the individual care you give your animals. I felt the same way out the dairy from which we got Matilda, our Jersey. The woman who ran that farm also took superb care of her critters.

    So I mean no disrespect to dairy farmers. In fact, of all the agricultural branches out there, it’s the dairy farmers with whom I most identify. I just plain love cows.

    Your point about cows being dirty is true. I deal with that everyday. I cannot argue with anything you have in your post – with one exception – that raw milk should not be available.

    The original article on which this blog posting was based deals with a Gestapo-like dawn raid on an Amish dairy farmer. Do you honestly think this was a good thing? Is this what our country has lowered itself to – Nazi-like thuggery? Why should our government FORCE someone to drink pasteurized milk when, for whatever his reasons, he wants to drink raw milk? Do you believe people are wrong for wanting to drink raw milk?

    I’ve drunk pasteurized milk my whole life, until we got our first cow in 1999. I like pasteurized milk. I also like unpasteurized milk. Frankly I don’t really have a strong opinion about the issue one way or the other.

    What I feel passionately about is CHOICE. People should be FREE to choose their own kind of milk. Some people feel very strongly that they want raw milk. And that’s where I think the government should get out of the way and let a dairy farmer provide it for them.

    My quarrel is not with commercial dairies – far from it. My quarrel is with thug-like government brownshirts who mandate what we can and cannot drink.

    1. I completely agree, I grew up drinking raw milk, hand milked by my father, your description of milking a cow, with an ear pressed up to the cow, brought back so many memories of seeing him milking our cow. He was always very careful about what happened, I remember him cleaning the cow before each and every milking, then when the milking was done we would go to the old house and strain the milk, we drank this milk on a daily basis and never got sick from it. I strongly believe that with cream, whole milk is the best possible food source out there and you could live off it for a long time with nothing else available.

  7. I'm lactose intolerant...I can drink raw milk, but not the pasteurized crap, given the digestive enzymes that still exist in raw milk, I suppose. I sure wish there was someplace close to Idaho City that had raw milk.

    It's the big commercial farms that have the big problems with tainted raw milk, not the little guys. I wish the USDA and FDA would stop trying to protect me from myself, and let make my own choices.

    Thank god they can't mess with our beer (we brew our own)! We screw up every now and again, and have an occasional bottle that will give us the screaming squats, but hey, that's life. I'm not living my life in panic of every little bug and germ in existence. Germs are with it.

  8. Oh, and Nadja, couldn't you just sell containers, and wink, wink, you really didn't know what those people were going to do with them? I wouldn't sell them to anyone you didn't know, however, and weren't fully aware of the risks of what they might be doing with raw milk, or didn't know how to sanitize a cow's udders, or didn't know how to milk themselves.

    There's got to be a way around all the BS.

  9. I live in a state where it is illegal to sell raw milk. Some farmers have been selling raw milk to people as animal feed. This is legal. You just say, "Not for human consumption." If they like to drink catfood, it's up to them. Or, it's legal to trade raw milk, so some people come with a bag of feed in exchange for raw milk. Also, in most states it's still legal to give it away, which is what we do whenever there's a surplus.
    That government control thing just pisses me off so bad, but so far (for now) there are legal ways around it.

  10. The farmer, an Amish man named Dan Allyger, had been selling milk to customers from Maryland where the sale of raw milk is illegal. In this instance, the state of Maryland should have gone after its residents who bought the milk, but somehow the Feds managed to get involved. After the raid, Allyger had customers purchase their own "shares" of a cow, from which they could get their milk. The Feds brushed this aside as an end run around the law and threatened Allyger with hard time if he sold to Maryland again. In the state of Pennsylvania where Allyger's farm is located raw milk can be sold so long as it is properly labeled. My guess is that agribusiness has essentially paid off the Feds to make life hard for the little guy. Notice agribusiness has successfully managed to keep labeling off of genetically modified, irradiated hormone-injected meat and produce. Perhaps more sinister is that the Feds are trying to run out of business a man who lives off the grid without being dependent on them.

  11. Additional note: I live not too far from where this incident took place. Our area is very fortunate in that we have access to locally grown produce and farm-raised meats without having to pay through the nose for them. Most Americans don't, and I learned this when in-laws came to visit and were shocked at the quality of the food we served them. "We don't have access to this," they explained. I don't want to be dependent on prepackaged crap from Walmart for my groceries.

  12. Yes....we all should be able to access raw milk any time we want it. See the Weston A. Price Foundation/Sally Fallon and their campaign for raw milk!!!!
    Lynn... from Pa

  13. I just listened to a You Tube video where the man warned the only place to be left for buying food would be government-run Walmarts....coming soon. A very terrifying bit of news....and all irradiated, gmo etc.
    Lynn...from Pa

  14. I just listened to a You Tube video where the man warned the only place to be left for buying food would be government-run Walmarts....coming soon. A very terrifying bit of news....and all irradiated, gmo etc.
    Lynn...from Pa

  15. I live in a state that does allow the sale of Raw milk for human consumption. As long as you don't have more than 3 cows at one time and the sale has to happen on the farm. with that being said, I love raw milk and will not drink any milk from a store. I believe in total free choice, and that goes for anything. As long as you only endanger your self, you should be allowed to do what you please. Anyone who wants the government involved in forcing anyone to be "safe" in out of their mind. If they think the government "cares" about them, they are stupid. The government only cares about money and how much they can make off of you. Small guys doing it off the grid are a threat to Big AG and it's up to we the people to stop them.

  16. My kids get raw milk, I grew up on raw milk as did my mother, her parents and endless generations before. My dairy farm neighbors (central Pa.) have use of our meadow in exchange for milk fresh from their tank cooler. Have never had any issues that I would blame milk for. I have company that relishes the stuff- able to make homemade string cheese and butter for my kids. It is just ridiculous that others can't enjoy the same.

  17. Old post I know, but the Amish don't avoid electricity because of their faith. They avoid it because of the negative consequences of it, which they feel outweigh the benefits. But it is not a blanket ban. Almost all amish workshops have electricity, that farmer milks his cows using the same milking machine everyone else uses, the furniture is made using the same power tools everyone else uses, and lots of them even have cell phones for business use.