I suppose the Starch Is Bad vs. Starch Is Good debate will go on for awhile, if not indefinitely.  What people like Matt Stone and I agree on wholeheartedly is that our diets should contain as much natural, whole food as possible.  Unfortunately, some state governments have made that nearly impossible, at least when it comes to dairy products.  More on that in a moment.

First, for you hard-core Paleo types out there, I realize dairy products aren’t Paleo.  It’s unlikely that Paleolithic humans tried to chase down wild, horned animals and milk them … and those who did probably made a dramatic exit from the gene pool. But unless someone can prove to me that butter and cheese are harmful, I’m going to keep eating them because they taste awesome. 

These days I buy Kerry Gold butter, which comes from grass-fed cows in Ireland.  Unlike Costco butter, which is nearly white, Kerry Gold is a deep yellow.  The first time I tasted it, I was transported back in time to my grandmother’s kitchen.  (Stupidly, I forgot to buy Microsoft stock in 1982 on the return trip.)  This is how butter tasted when Grandma served it.  It’s how butter is supposed to taste.

I also buy raw-milk cheese from a vendor at our local Farmers’ Market.  Some months ago, I went to see a naturopathic doctor in California because my digestion was sluggish.  His first piece of advice was to give up diet sodas completely.  So I did, after some backsliding.  Now I don’t even like the stuff.  The last time I bought a Diet Coke, I took a few sips and tossed the rest.  Yee-uck.

The doctor’s second piece of advice was to stop eating cheese — unless I could find locally-produced raw-milk cheese.  As he explained, raw milk cheese contains live enzymes that make it digestible.  But if you pasteurize the cheese to death to transport it across the country, it’s more like plastic — his words, not mine.

In Tennessee, raw milk seems to be semi-legal.  Some farmers sell it openly at the Farmers’ Market, but the farmer we prefer can’t …  because his farm is 40 miles away.  But if we request it ahead of time by sending an email, he can legally sell it to us.

When I heard that explanation, I tried several times to make sense of it, then stopped when I thought my head was about to explode.  Apparently, if the farmer drives a cooler full of raw-milk cheese 40 miles and then sells it to just anybody who wanders buy, the cheese will feel slutty and throw a temper-tantrum that results in an explosion of salmonella bacteria.  However, if I request the cheese ahead of time, the cheese views it as an arranged marriage and is happy.

A growing number of people who understand the benefits of eating real food want to buy raw milk, but can’t — at least not legally in many states.  Some manage to find it anyway.  To get an idea of the effort this requires check out this blog post

Just as promised, I found the milk in the fridge. “Nelson” was printed neatly on the glass with indelible ink on an otherwise unlabeled jar. No one was around except for a dog, who surveyed my intentions and went back to guarding the cows. I left the money on the counter and departed with my contraband.

This was actually the least secretive element in my quest to find raw milk. Getting here had required everything short of a secret handshake.

After delicately putting the word out that I was looking, I was interviewed by a local gatekeeper who gave me the name of someone else who would send me in the right direction. In order to get that far, I had to prove my bona fides. The gatekeeper wanted to know my experience with raw milk, an attempt to ascertain whether I was a state health official operating a sting.

You’d almost think some of these state regulators have confused raw milk with heroin.  In fact, it’s probably easier to score heroin. 

Curious about which states have outlawed raw milk, I checked the state-by-state listings on a Weston A. Price site, The Campaign For Real Milk.  Tennessee is still listed as a state that outlaws raw milk, so that’s old information.  At least I hope it is … a vendor at the Farmers’ Market here sells it.  Perusing the state laws confirmed one of my most deeply-held and cherished beliefs:  governments are inherently stupid.  Here are few examples:

Idaho
Even though state law permits the sale of raw milk if the farmer obtains a retail raw milk license,in practice the Idaho Dept. of Agriculture refuses to license anyone to sell raw milk. There has not been a retail raw milk licensee in the state for the past 15 years.

That’s an interesting way of handling it.  Maybe California could use that technique to reduce traffic congestion.
 “Sure, it’s legal to drive here, but you need a license.”
“Okay, where do I get a license?”
“Sorry, we don’t actually issue any.”
“But … I need to drive!”
“Then you’d better get a license.”

Illinois
Raw milk sales are legal on the farm if the farmer complies with the following conditions:

1. No advertising the sale of raw milk.
2. Customers must bring their own individual containers.
3. The customer MUST put the milk from your container into their container.

Okay, I see … the farmer has raw milk in a container.  If I take it home in that container, the milk will be contaminated.  But if the milk is poured from his container into a plastic milk jug that’s been sitting in my “to be recycled” bin for the past three weeks, the contamination goes away and the milk is now safe … but only if I do the pouring, and only if I didn’t find the farmer in the yellow pages. 

Kentucky
Raw milk sales are illegal with one exception: An individual with a written recommendation from a physician may purchase raw goat milk.

“So why do I feel so terrible, doctor?”
“According to your labs, you have a rare intestinal disorder.  It’s called Capralactinecessitis.”
“Oh my gosh!  Can it be treated?”
“Yes, but only if you drink milk that would kill a healthy person.  I’ll write a prescription.”

Maine
Raw milk sales are legal on the farm and in retail stores. Raw milk and raw milk products must have a label on the product containing the words “not pasteurized.” Farmers do not have to obtain permit to sell raw milk if their sales are only on the farm and they do not advertise.

No, that’s not particularly stupid.  I listed Maine because — Stephen King-style horrors! — raw milk is sold there, both on farms and in stores.  If the stuff is as dangerous as the detractors say it is (assuming you don’t neutralize the contaminants by pouring the milk into your own container), wouldn’t the population of Maine be dwindling by now?  Wouldn’t we have heard about it on the news?

Michigan
Raw milk sales are illegal. Michigan was the first state to pass mandatory pasteurization laws-the year was 1948-and has some of the strictest milk laws on the books. Farmers may not even sell raw milk from the farm. In 2002, at hearings on the revision of the Michigan State Dairy Code, the industry attempted to amend the code to make it illegal for dairy farmers, their family members, their farm workers, and even their farm animals to drink the farm’s raw milk.

“Open the door!  Police!  I said OPEN THE DOOR!  Okay, guys, kick it in.”
BOOM!  CRASH!
“Drop the bottle, lady!  I said drop it!  Starsky, grab the kid; he’s got a milk moustache!”

“So, what’re you in for, kid?”
“Well, I was milking Daisy and I took a sip.”

Minnesota
The Department of Agriculture prohibits the sale of raw dairy with the exception of “milk, cream, skim milk, goat milk, or sheep milk occasionally secured or purchased for personal use by any consumer at the place or farm where the milk is produced.” The farmer cannot advertise and customers must bring their own containers. The state interprets “occasionally secured or purchased for personal use” to mean that farmers cannot sell raw milk to regular customers on a routine basis.

So you can buy raw milk from a farm as long you don’t decide you like it and go back on a regular basis.  Great, we’ll have people showing up at farms wearing Groucho Marx glasses to avoid detection.  See, here’s the thing:  if the raw milk makes you sick, you won’t be going back.  That’s why I only tried vegetarian chili once.

Nevada
Raw milk sales are legal but, in practice, there are no raw milk sales in the state. In order for a farmer to obtain a permit from the state dairy commission to produce and distribute raw milk, the county milk commission must first certify the farm for the production of raw milk or a raw milk product. There has never been a county milk commission in existence at any time, so to this point, there has been a de facto prohibition of raw milk sales.

Most of us who saw “Brazil” took it as a warning.  Apparently some government folks took it as an inspiration.

New Jersey
Raw milk sales are illegal. To obtain other unpasteurized dairy products, residents travel to Pennsylvania and New York, which both allow raw milk.

“Waddaya want me to do with this jamook, boss?”
“Bury him in Pennsylvania, but transfer him to your own duffel bag so he don’t rot.  And pick up a gallon of raw milk while you’re out there.”

Pennsylvania
Raw milk sales are legal on the farm and in retail stores. Raw milk for retail producers must have a permit and can only sell to stores if they have their own packaging operation with labeling and bottling machines.

For Pete’s sake, didn’t the Pennsylvania regulators learn anything from the Great Raw Milk Massacre in Illinios?!  You can’t let the farmers bottle this stuff themselves!  You’ve got to make the consumers pour the milk into their own jugs, or all hell will break loose.

Rhode Island
Raw milk sales are illegal with one exception: An individual may purchase raw goat milk from a producer if that person has a written, signed prescription from a physician
.

So that lady from Kentucky with Capralactinecessitis can live in at least one other state and still receive treatment.  Lucky break.

Now if you’ll excuse me, it’s late and a wedge of Baby Swiss beckons.  I expect to wake up tomorrow without experiencing any ill effects.

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Share/Bookmark
62 Responses to “Real Milk Gets A Raw Deal”
  1. Steve D says:

    A couple of points:

    Regarding the differences in ideal diets between individuals certainly some of this is caused by their different ancestry. The thing is though that one of the most salient features of most modern epidemiological nutrition (or for that matter drug) studies is the huge variation between individuals. So even people who are closely related and live in a similar environment will not necessarily have exactly the same dietary requirements.

    So for example with your milk example, there is no difference as far as I can tell whether I eat raw milk cheese or pasteurized milk cheese . Seems like a fairly big physiological difference to me. (another example is that some allergy medicine has serious negative side effects one of my sisters but not effect on the other)

    I wouldn’t put to much emphasis on evolution to define the best diet though. Evolution is anything but an ideal process. For most of human evolution we barely scraped by nutritionally; it wasn’t until the late Paleolithic period that humans came anywhere close to meeting their basic nutritional requirements and then not long after that during the Neolithic they suffered a relapse called agriculture. Modern man, especially in developed countries probably has a much more ideal diet than any prehistoric person. Also, evolution has focused on early developmental stages and would be much more likely to match a child’s requirement than an adult. That said I am sure there are cases where you are right – certainly if some crucial molecules are very abundant in the food source, humans might easily have lost the ability to make them and if these happen to be lost in the processing of food that is an argument for the natural version – these are specific cases though and do not justify the ’natural’ is always better hypothesis.

    Actually humans have been processing (i.e. cooking) their food for a long time; at least as long as 800,000 years and possibly 1.4 million.

    So I don’t think natural food is necessarily better than artificial or processed food any more than natural medicine or natural shelter, or natural clothing is better. We should take each case individually and apply the most rigorous scientific reasoning. At an individual level we need to experiment to determine what is best for each of us.

  2. Dan says:

    Finally got around to reading this and just had to reply.

    Michigan

    “In 2002, at hearings on the revision of the Michigan State Dairy Code, the industry attempted to amend the code to make it illegal for dairy farmers, their family members, their farm workers, and even their farm animals to drink the farm’s raw milk.”

    Farm animals??? If that had passed, then a calf or kid goat would not legally be able to drink milk from it’s momma. The milk would have to be pasturized before feeding it to the baby animal. How did these vulnerable baby animals ever survive in the past on that contaminated raw milk????

    How stupid can people be????

    Pretty stupid, apparently. I hope they have enough jails to hold all the criminal calves.

  3. Dana says:

    Steve D: “Evolution is anything but an ideal process. For most of human evolution we barely scraped by nutritionally; it wasn’t until the late Paleolithic period that humans came anywhere close to meeting their basic nutritional requirements”

    Excuse me? How in the world did we survive if we were not meeting our basic nutritional requirements? Wow. Civilized people come up with the most hare-brained excuses for why we weren’t better off back then…

    “So I don’t think natural food is necessarily better than artificial or processed food any more than natural medicine or natural shelter, or natural clothing is better.”

    You’re SO right. I’m gonna go back to eating out of boxes and jars *right now.*

    Actually I agree with you that the case against processed food is overstated. If you peel an apple, you’re processing it. I finally decided that the real division in terms of healthfulness is between industrial and non-industrial food. If you think industrial food’s so great for people, well, onus for proof’s on you. So far the data do not look good.

    You can’t take any of these individual items and judge them by themselves, though. If you’re eating right, you’re less likely to get sick. Even from infectious disease: Weston Price documented that dairy-consuming peoples who ate their traditional diets almost never got tuberculosis even though they were routinely exposed to it. If you’re less likely to get sick, you’re less likely to need medicine of any kind, natural or not, so that knocks out the natural med vs. conventional med debate. And you need only speak to ecologically-minded design specialists to understand that building according to your local environment is better in the long run, both for your building’s integrity and for your health and safety, than building from a template better designed for some other locale. In other words, don’t build at ground level in a flood zone, and don’t live in a tipi in Hurricane Alley.

    “We should take each case individually and apply the most rigorous scientific reasoning.”

    Yeah, that’s worked out real well so far. You know, when you get right down to it, indigenous primitive people *have* applied rigorous scientific reasoning to the different ways they live, in most respects, or else they could not have naturalized to their respective territories. Scientific reasoning involves looking at what works, not trying to re-invent the wheel. Unfortunately a lot of what passes for civilized “science” does the latter, not the former.

    Now to the original post: I live in Ohio, and just saw an article in the Columbus Dispatch some days ago about raw milk. The writer lied through her teeth and said the purchase of it is not legal here. But you can get it if you purchase a herdshare. I would have to drive some distance from the city just to pick the stuff up, so I haven’t tried this yet. Instead I buy milk that has been minimally pasteurized.

    I thought I was imagining the taste difference until we ran out of it one day and bought some grocery-store-brand whole milk to tide us over. Oh my God, it was nasty. I won’t be doing that again.

    Had to dig this one out of the spam folder; sorry for the delay.

  4. Steve D says:

    “How in the world did we survive if we were not meeting our basic nutritional requirements?”

    All hominid species except one went extinct and the line leading to humans came very close probably several times. Fossil remains of early hominids suggest that they suffered from a variety of nutritional maladies as well as many other problems.

    I should note in the above example I said late Paleolithic, which means between about 50,000 and 10,000 BC. This was the golden age of mankind but by that time we had evolved to basically our present day physical structure. It still represents less than 5% of our history. Before that technology limited our ability to harvest food from the environment – the further you go back the more it was limited.

    Before the late (or Upper) Paleolithic people rarely lived to see their grandchildren. About 50,000 years ago (or so) dramatic improvements in technology allowed us to improve what we could capture (specifically more meat but other stuff as well). Things took a bit of a reverse during the Neolithic (after 10,000) but that’s another story.

    “If you think industrial food’s so great for people, well, onus for proof’s on you. So far the data do not look good.”

    Well, I could say that people are living longer today than they ever have and that life spans are getting longer all the time. Of course diet may or may not have a lot to do with this so its not really proof. However, the statement that “industrial food is good for you” is one I never made and would be just as
    problematic as its opposite. My point is that you have to take each case individually and not make blanket all encompassing statements about processed vs unprocessed food.

    “You know, when you get right down to it, indigenous primitive people *have* applied rigorous scientific reasoning to the different ways they live, in most respects, or else they could not have naturalized to their respective territories.”

    Yes they have. They have use experimentation and experience, just over a longer period of time. Their tests often based on survival were therefore very rigorous.

    “Unfortunately a lot of what passes for civilized “science” does the latter, not the former.”

    I don’t disagree with this either. A lot of what passes for civilized science is not very rigorous. That doesn’t change the truth of what I stated nor the efficacy of science when properly performed.

    I am not adverse to the idea that the choices of Upper Paleolithic people or modern day hunter gatherers may be informative. It is an interesting hypothesis. The point is that this has nothing to do with the physical evolution of humans (although perhaps it is an example of cultural evolution).

  5. Name says:

    What do they trade as butter in the States if Kerrygold is way better?!
    The color depends on cows’ food, but is also often dyed, I mean, color-enhanced with beta-carotene. I think I read that Italian butter is white because they are used to it.

    As to the raw milk business, I have not much experience with raw milk products, since they are so expensive. They can be traded with warning label in Europe, but it’s like one cheese is one buck, raw milk cheese four bucks something, for less than a (weak anglo-saxon) pound of cheese.
    In any case, the ‘live enzymes’ hypothesis doesn’t sound so good. Enzymes are technically not alive at all. Then, what should they help to digest – there’s lactose (we got lactase for that and it’s already fermented down in cheeses), protein (got HCl and proteases), and fat (bile). If we couldn’t “crack” significant shares of cheese bacteria would do it for us, producing certainly no constipation (ask anyone with lactose intolerance). “Normal” cheese is also not pasteurized at all, it’s made from pasteurized milk but is alive – your Camembert will, uh, mature. (Most cheeses in Europe are from pasteurized milk, I think it’s true even in France.) In summary, I would propose that the alternative theory of introducing alien germ strains (causing mild diarrhea) is much easier and more credible. The effect can also be had by having a nice breakfast of live yoghurt with sauerkraut condiment and turkish coffee, I suppose. There may be other health benefits from raw milk, like “unchanged” fats (not homogenised) however.

    I find the raw-milk cheese much easier to digest. It’s more expensive — roughly double the price per pounds — but worth it.

  6. gallier2 says:

    Name is right. It’s quite difficult to find raw (cow) milk cheese in France. Nearly all industrial production is from pasteurized milk. Notable exceptions are sheep milk cheeses like Roquefort because they do not develope the rigtht taste with pasteurized milk.
    There was an interesting documentary in 2008 about the problem of raw vs pasteurized milk cheese that made some headlines here. Lactalys the big international milk corporation (danone) tried to censure the show.
    http://translate.google.fr/translate?js=y&prev=_t&hl=fr&ie=UTF-8&layout=1&eotf=1&u=http%3A%2F%2Folivierbonnet.canalblog.com%2Farchives%2F2008%2F01%2F08%2F7490072.html&sl=fr&tl=en
    original link
    http://olivierbonnet.canalblog.com/archives/2008/01/08/7490072.html

    Here are some parts of the show (sorry french only, no subtitles);

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mWVpaYFbmaY
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lvBHCDdVgQY
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tNFN8CmjMOM
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bivLKBTso4k

    There were several points that were made in the show that were quite surprizing:
    - raw milk is safer than pasteurized milk (if you kill the normal bacteria in milk they are easily replaced by nasty ones like listeria or salmonelles, all the listeria contaminations happen on pasteurized milk cheeses). To enter a pasteurized milk cheesery you get the full NASA treatment of decontamination and what not, but a traditional raw milk cheesemaker does only need to have clean hands.
    - the lobbies in France always accuse the EU for their push to pasteurized milk but when the show master goes to Brussels to see what the Commission has to say, the official tells him that the legislation is quite clear, that raw milk cheese are absolutely allowed and are not subject to any special regulation going farther than normal hygiene ones. They then taste samples of commercially available raw cheeses from all Europe (even English raw milk cheddar).

  7. John Hilliard says:

    Please read this about raw milk, because the people who sell raw milk may not be fully informed of the risks involved:

    http://www.fda.gov/Food/FoodSafety/Product-SpecificInformation/MilkSafety/ConsumerInformationAboutMilkSafety/ucm165105.htm

    I wouldn’t expect them to speak kindly of their competition. Now weigh the incidents involving raw milks versus the incidents involving supposedly safe, pasteurized foods.

  8. Percival says:

    Colorado recently made raw marijuana legal, pasteurizing it (aka burning) is optional. How many people will die due to drugged drivers? In the coming years the proof won’t be personal opinion like so much of the raw milk debate but in graves and statistics.

    In many US states laws allow 2 males to play in each other’s raw feces and get a tax break for doing it. There are millions of known harmful bacteria human feces. Legislators didn’t seem too worried about the bateria then. Hhmmm kind of makes you want to vomit doesn’t it.

  9. Percival says:

    I used to sell raw milk!

    And one more. If you go to the hospital and need blood they will give you blood from another person and that blood has not been pastuerized.

    Please put back my first comment. Stop censoring the freedom of speech. If you don’t like the truthful things people say then take down your website.

    • Tom Naughton says:

      Your first comment was in the queue waiting for me to approve it. Believe it or not, I can’t sit around all day doing nothing but checking and approving comments, so sometimes hours go by while I do useful things like work or exercise or run errands.

      I can’t censor anyone. Censorship is what happens when you’re not allowed to speak or publish. If I did decide to delete your comments, that wouldn’t be censorship. It would be refusing to provide you with a forum on my site. Those aren’t the same. Same goes for “freedom of speech.” If someone doesn’t publish your comment, your freedom of speech hasn’t been abridged. If the government prevents you from speaking or publishing, then your freedom of speech has been abridged.

  10.  
Leave a Reply