Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Got Milk? Raw Milk that is...

Yesterday I came across an article on the New Farm website titled, "Dairyman wants super-quality raw milk in retail stores". The dairyman in this case is Jerry Synder, of Sunny Cove Farm, and the "super-quality" raw milk is unpasturized, 100% organic, and pathogen free. Mr. Synder direct markets his milk (along with grassfed beef, organic apples, and maple syrup) from an on farm store that is open Tuesday through Friday from 2:00 PM until 5:00 PM. He runs a small herd, by most standards, of 50 cows on his all grass dairy.

It all sounds great ... super quality milk, an all grass dairy, organic beef, on farm sales, the store is only open 12 hours a week, small scale, family operated, and customers willing to pay the premium. But, Mr. Synder doesn't want to just sell his milk on the farm. He wants to fight the laws and the regulations to allow "super quality milk" that has been super tested to be sold in the stores. Mr. Synder has his milk tested regularly and it tests at levels 1/4 of the allowed limit. He attributes those great results with quality herd management, knowledge of genetics, sanitation, and nutrition.

At this point I have no desire to have a milking operation on the farm, unless it is just milking a couple of our Dexters for ourselves. But, I find this battle going on in New York pretty interesting because Mr. Synder is producing a superior product and is now trying to work within the system in order to take it to a larger market. It reminds me of Joel Salatin's book, "Everything I Want to Do is Illegal" (which I will read sometime). I encourage you to check out this article and give me your thoughts on raw milk sales. Also, I would be interested in what the laws are in your state. I think here in Iowa it is illegal.

12 comments:

Ambrose said...

In Missouri, you can buy raw milk if is direct from the farmer, no middle man, but try to find one willing is more of a problem.

Steven said...

You're right Ambrose, buying raw milk from the farmer in Missouri is legal. I think they may have to get some kind of permit, but they can also deliver it too! We buy raw Jersey milk from a local farm with only 3 Jerseys and have bought some raw goat milk as well it was actually better than the Jersey milk. We were told that pasteurization makes the goats milk taste different.

I think you have to be careful about raw milk laws. I don't like too much regulation, but I also wouldn't want to buy raw milk from a factory style dairy. If sold in a store I think raw milk should be tested and be of high quality. Otherwise I think it's best to know the farmer/farm and trust that their cows are healthy. We've milked one of our Dexters a number of times and it's hard to feel safe drinking our own milk. I never feel like I've cleaned the udder enough, or strained the milk enough.. so it's a big deal to me to trust the farmer's practices.
Maybe someday we can get a milking machine and not have to deal with so much dirt and dust! :-)

Monica said...

I gots me some raw milk, too :) my boyfriend's lactose intolerance is gone.

The regulations are, IMO, a gross violation of individual rights. I do believe there should be private certification as there is here in Colorado. But the laws banning this product are totally insane. It's no surprise whatsoever to me that this farmer in NY wants to push for raw milk to be sold in stores. I'm a native upstate New Yorker (love the state and the people, but despise its government) -- it's a state full of regulations. He should definitely be pushing for this, with all the sneak attacks on raw milk that have been occurring in PA and CA. One must go on the offensive and really stick up for one's rights in this country. You can't expect that even in states where it's legal it's going to remain legal if you don't fight for it. Government encroaches on our lives at every level -- unless we keep them at bay. It's hard enough keeping them at bay, let alone getting their "permission" for new freedoms.

Sorry to sound like such a nutcase -- but it really is true.

Love the blog! Hope your house building goes well and that you can keep them pigs in line! :)

Monica said...

By the way, Steven, even though I despise regulation, I agree with much of what you said. I would highly recommend people visit their local farm, inquire about testing practices, etc. Where I live there is an independent association that tests the milk for coliforms and pathogens regularly. Although I believe the standards are government set (another thing I don't approve of, as the standards have recently been changed in CA to something that is totally non-objective, non-science based), they are good standards with reasonable coliform counts and I'm happy that an independent board runs the whole thing. So, I feel pretty safe. I have no doubt I can get sick from it someday, but I don't see that the risk is much greater than pasteurized milk, and i have a pretty strong constitution.

The farmers that produce it on a commercial basis know what they are doing, and one wrong slip can cost them big time. So, I trust the free market and informed consumers to make their own decisions. Raw milk sales in stores have been working in California beautifully. I agree with you that it would be totally unwise to buy raw milk from a factory-style dairy. But I think the farmers in those practices are honest enough to recognize that trying to produce raw milk in feedlot situations would be extremely unwise. I also think consumers that are informed know this. I researched the area heavily before I actually set out to buy raw milk.

QuiltedSimple said...

In Ohio it is illegal to buy raw milk - so the farmers that are willing do herd-share agreements - but DOA is trying to crack down on them too - so it's all but impossible to find a farmer willing. Which is a shame, especially as raw milk is so good for lactose intollerance and milk allergies...

Monica said...

QuiltedSimple, my guess is that the situation in Ohio may be related to Monsanto's and conventional dairy farmers' push in Ohio to ban the non-rBGH labeling after they were unsuccessful in PA. They have probably found some government official in Ohio that is sympathetic to their cause. These things can shift like the wind. Monsanto is going to try this in as many states as possible. Apparently, they haven't heard of the first amendment right to free speech. I blogged about this issue here:

http://sparkasynapse.blogspot.com/2008/06/food-labeling-bans.html

Their tactic has been to find government officials sympathetic to their particular business (rather than a free market) and try to assert their controls through specific edicts, as they tried in PA. The governor of PA overturned that labeling ban which Ag. Secretary Wolff instated. Wolff is a conventional dairy farmer turned bureaucrat who believes all milk is the same and that consumers are too dumb to think for themselves, and that labeling milk as non-rBGH is "confusing" to the poor consumers. Also, it makes milk produced with rBGH look "inferior." (Yeah, so what?) Apparently the governor is the only govt. official in PA with a brain that thinks consumers also have brains and can choose for themselves. But now, Monsanto and it's whiny dairy farmers are trying the same thing in Ohio since they were unsuccessful in PA. They've been trying to get state labeling bans enacted since at least 2002 by various legal means when they lost their case against Oakhurst Dairy in Maine -- they actually sued the dairy for labeling their milk as non-rBGH!!! Oakhurst had to settle with Monsanto, but at least they kept the right to label their milk the way they want. Unbelievable.

I try not to be too anti-big business. Really. But Monsanto particularly is full of Machiavellian types who want to assert as much control as possible over others, usually by using government coercion to shut down or silence competition. They are not true capitalists. And they will use any tactic possible to achieve their ends -- even if that means lying and pseudoscience.

Steven said...

Monica, it's been a long time since I felt like I was on the side of government regulations. lol I just feel like if you go into a grocery store you should be able to assume that everything for sale is healthy. But, I suppose that a private business could inspect and label foods just as well as the USDuh or some other .gov . I do agree that the idea of making it illegal to sell anything off the farm or in a farmers market, is crazy. It should also be buy at your own risk... If something is nicely packaged and sitting on a shelf of a grocery store, I don't want to have to research and visit the farm before I feel comfortable buying it.

Steven said...

Oh, they also tried banning the No-rBGH labeling in Missouri too. I don't think it made it through and I was emailing back and forth with my rep. about it.

Monica said...

Hey Steven -- I agree entirely. To knowingly sell contaminated food is fraud. Period. To unknowingly sell it is not fraud but still might set one up for an undesirable lawsuit for negligence. When you buy food, you're expecting it to clean.

However, mistakes happen even with the current regulations. They seem to be increasing, too. Some of it is hype, particularly some of the beef recalls. Overall, the system works remarkably well. But when mistakes happen they are enormous and widespread. Just look at the tomato scare. Unfortunately, I fear the government will pursue ever more ridiculous steps to ensure food safety. Maybe we will now see the individual RFID chip tagging of all tomatoes :)

Buying local and knowing the producer is the best way, I think, to ensure a good product. I realize that's not feasible for all items. I still shop at my grocery store and Costco and such but I'm moving away from some items.

James Fortier said...

We have a farmer, Michael Schmidt, in Ontario who was doing a herd share arrangement for raw milk.
His farm was raided by a full swat team, guns drawn the whole bit. The hilarious part was that it turns out that the Minister of Finance for Ontario is one of his herd share members! Now the Minister of Agriculture should have to have the Minister of Natural Resources have the Minister of Finance arrested for engaging in illegal activity and aiding and abetting milk criminals!
On another note, any comparisons between Jersey milk and Dexter milk? AND anyone familiar with a rare breed of Italian cow called a Pushtal or maybe Pushtard? They were apparently nearly wiped out during WW2 but are slowly coming back. I saw one in Costa Rica give 14 kilos of milk in March. It seemed like alot of milk out of one cow.

Mellifera said...

Kudos to guys like Snyder who are willing to run a tight enough ship that they can do that kind of thing. I hope most raw milk producers are like that... fly-by-the-seat-of-the-pants operations always end up tainting their entire industry. (For perspective, it was bad management that caused Chornobyl and Three Mile Island... look what that did to nuclear power. : )

Barring somebody with a small herd AND the germ vigilance of a microbiologist, I think pasteurization is definitely the way to go. Let's face it: the udder is situated halfway between the cow's rectum and the ground. It takes a lot of labor and skill to overcome the consequences that anatomical detail.

The Aspiring Farmer said...

I know this post is about two years late, but In Tennessee where I live it is illegal to sell raw milk. My family gets its raw milk from a local farm that sells "Pet Quality Milk". It is legal in TN to sell raw milk as a pet food so those local grass-fed raw milk dairy men (and women) sell their milk as "pet quality". I actually had to sign a waiver saying that I understood that the milk was for pet consumption only. They also label the glass milk jars with a sticker that says "pet quality milk not for human consumption". Of course the farmer and I always joke about how much my "pets" love to drink the milk.

I think the most important thing to controlling sanitation and possible raw milk contamination is for the consumer to get involved. For example, we took our kids out to the farm that we get our milk and eggs from and they explained the whole process to us and how they are doing their part to keep nasty stuff out of the milk. I was extremely impressed with the operation and am even more encouraged that raw milk is what is best for my family. Rather than only relying on government regulations to decide whether or not something is healthy for our family, why don't we get involved and make sure that the food we are purchasing whether from a local farm or from the store is up to snuff with our own personal standards. I am no biologist, or food safety expert, but we live in the 21 century, there is all kinds of information at our finger tips on the internet. We spend weeks researching raw milk, what to look for and what to avoid. I am confident and comfortable in my decision to buy raw milk locally. When we put the power in the consumers hands, the consumer is wise enough to determine what is best and what is not. I do believe in standards for production and safety, but I also believe that we all have the ability and responsibility to make good and informed decisions! The more you know personally the more you can avoid a food safety disaster all together.

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