by Mary Anderson, Genesis Acres
Recently newspapers and television news have been discussing the issue of raw milk. The issue at hand is whether raw milk sales in Wisconsin should be legalized. Fifty years ago legislation was passed that prevented the sale of raw milk even though raw milk had been consumed for years prior to the invention of pasteurization and other modern milk processing practices.
Raw milk is essentially just as it sounds. Milk that comes right out of the cow, only being filtered before it goes into the bulk tank. The bulk tank is a stainless steel container that acts not only as storage but also as the refrigerator in which the milk is cooled to a temperature of 36 degrees. Milk from dairy farms is accumulated in the bulk tanks for 24 to 48 hours (most cows are milked 2 times a day, so 48 hours worth of milk is only 4 milkings). Then the milk is picked up after being weighed and sampled by a bulk milk hauler that will take the milk to the creamery where it is pasteurized, homogenized, and processed into bottled milk, cheese, butter, etc. Most of the dairy products consumers have access to today are those of processed milk, and unless purposefully sought out, consumers do not have easy access to “raw milk”.
Although farm families have the ability to, and often drink raw milk, the sale of raw milk is prohibited in Wisconsin. But growing consumer demand is pushing farmers and consumers to go underground to source this wholesome, unadulterated product. Several business models have been attempted by dairy producers to allow their consumer families legal access to raw milk. Some milk is picked up on farm by consumers as a dividend to their investment in the dairy operation. Some consumers own a cow within the herd. But even these carefully thought out strategies are considered suspect by the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture Trade and Consumer Protection in Madison. Most dairy farmers have been threatened with censure or loss of their state license to produce and sell milk if they do not cease raw milk trade.
- Twenty-eight U.S. states do not prohibit sales of raw milk. In some states, consumers may purchase a cow share, which gives them access to raw milk. In others, raw milk can be purchased for animal consumption, but not for humans. In Wisconsin, raw milk sales are currently prohibited.
- Most countries that prohibit the sale of raw milk, allow the sale of raw milk cheeses.
- In 2002, the FDA reported that 200 cases of illness were traced back to raw milk consumption; in 2006, 262 people became ill after eating E. coli contaminated spinach, 1 died.
- In 2010, over 4.9 million pounds of beef (processed at federally inspected industrial processing plants) were recalled due to E. coli contamination.
So why the big issue? The consumers who are rallying behind raw milk feel that raw milk has nutritional benefits that are not available once the raw milk has been pasteurized (heated to 160 degrees). Stories voiced at the public hearing held at Chippewa Valley Technical College and hosted by the Assembly Committee on Rural Economic Development and the Senate Committee on Agriculture and Higher Education on the issue, discussed the benefits such as reduction in lactose intolerance symptoms, reduction in asthmatic symptoms, better immune system performance, and many more. Doctors, homeopathic practitioners, and individual consumers voiced this information.
Because this was a public hearing, scathing testimonials were also voiced by the Wisconsin Department of Health, the Wisconsin Association of Veterinarians, and the Wisconsin Farm Bureau. They spoke in opposition of the proposed new legislation that would legalize the sale of raw milk (Assembly bill 628/Senate bill 434). Why the opposition? Health risks associated with the consumption of raw milk. Raw milk has been blamed for illnesses associated with camphobacter, salmonella, and E. coli. These are also very common food borne pathogens that have been linked back to improperly handled beef and chicken, as well as lettuce, spinach, and other vegetables.
To help consumers who desire the option of purchasing raw milk, contact your state legislator and urge them to support the proposed Assembly Bill 628/Senate Bill 434.
Pasteurized vs. Raw
Pasteurized cow’s milk is the number one allergic food in this country. It has been associated with a number of symptoms and illnesses including:
- Gastrointestinal bleeding
- Iron-deficiency anemia
- Skin rashes
- Colic in infants
- Increased tooth decay
- Growth problems in children
- Heart disease
- Recurrent ear infections in children
- Type 1 diabetes
- Rheumatoid arthritis
Raw milk, on the other hand, is not associated with any of these problems, and even people who have been allergic to pasteurized milk for many years can typically tolerate and even thrive on raw milk. Raw milk is truly one of the most profoundly healthy foods you can consume, and you’ll feel the difference once you start to drink it.