The Older Brother visits the sausage factory

Greetings, fellow Fat Heads.

I’m guessing Tom had his whole routine for this year’s Low Carb Cruise down cold by Monday.  I’m also guessing he’s still going over it again and again.  That’s how he rolls.  I, on the other hand, don’t tend to burden myself with such preparation.  So here we go!

The sausage factory is a reference to the observation generally attributed to Otto Von Bismark — that people who like politics or sausage shouldn’t watch either being made.

Actually, making sausage isn’t that bad.  I’ve made a few batches since “converting” from the conventional nutritional wisdom, and it’s been pretty good. But watching law being made is every bit as revolting as the quote implies.   I’ve been there in the belly of the beast, and it’s pretty much always ugly.  I did get a state legislator to curse at me once while I was testifying against some insanity.  Other than that, though, there’s nothing redeeming about it.

There’s actually something even worse than lawmaking.  That would be “rulemaking.”  That’s where the regulatory agencies are given charge to “interpret” the sundry laws and directives passed through the legislative process.  The more vague the law, the more the regulators get to decide.  So the actual rules you have to live by are determined by unelected bureaucrats.  They can be (and are) arbitrary, contradictory, and unevenly enforced.  The idea of even being in the same room with one of these people irritates me.  Watching them at work infuriates me.

So, there I was yesterday, in the same room, watching a bunch of them work.

And it’s all your fault.

See, since you all keep getting Tom invited to speak hither and yon, and then I get invited to sit in the Big Chair while he’s gone, some of you have gotten to know a bit about me.  One such person, Angel S — who also lives in Illinois — sent me a heads up that the Illinois Department of Public Health was getting ready to regulate raw milk producers out of business.

I read Angel’s blog post, and then started looking for more information.  The IL Dept of Health, with funds from the US FDA (“official position: all raw milk is dangerous”), had set up a Raw Milk Steering Subcommittee to investigate if raw milk needed regulation in Illinois.  To ensure deep understanding of the product and issues, the regulators picked — for this 19-member committee — exactly ONE person who sold raw milk as a vocation (Donna O’Shaunessy, see her blog post here).  Well, that’s not entirely accurate, because she wasn’t asked to be on the committee until they’d already had their first two meetings and had finished their draft recommendations.  When Donna inquired as to how the committee could propose drastic new regulations of a product without actually speaking to anyone who makes or consumes the product, the head regulator replied that she didn’t know how to contact any of those people.

Unsurprisingly, they came up with helpful recommendations like only allowing 100 gallons of raw milk sales per month.  And requiring that anyone selling raw milk get a Class A Dairy license.  In other words, force raw milk producers to spend tens of thousands of dollars on equipment you don’t need if you’re not a feedlot, volume milk producer; regularly produce hundreds of pages of useless documentation; and then limit their sales to the equivalent of about one cow’s monthly output. Did I mention that seven of the committee members represented the interests of mega-dairy operators Dean Food and Prairie Farms?  You know, commodity, low-cost producers who already have to have Class A licenses.

Mad yet?

As it turns out, even though IDPH couldn’t figure out how to find anyone involved with raw milk, Donna sure could!  She embarrassed IDPH into adding some more raw milk producers and some consumers to the committee (n.b., that is the only way to get a bureaucrat to do something other than what they had already decided they were going to do).  Also, it seems a BUNCH of people started contacting their alleged representatives, who started contacting IDPH asking them why they were making their constituents so mad.  People were also contacting the bureaucrats directly.  Smart people.  Passionate people.  Loud people.  Bother, bother.

Imagine what was going through the bureaucrats’ minds.  “But, everyone from the FDA told us raw milk was bad, and just a few fringe lunatics drink it.  And all of our swell friends from the big dairies had such good ideas — they don’t have any problem with 10,000 gallon chill tanks and separate milk parlors and monthly testing.  That’s what they let us tell them they have to do!”  Hilarious.

The third meeting first got moved to a bigger venue (the Illinois Corn Producers’ building in Bloomington) based on the number of people saying they wanted to attend (danged Open Meetings laws!).  Then it got rescheduled to add time for public comment because so many people wanted to direct a few words to our overseers.  Here’s what it looked like when I got there Wednesday morning:


That’s from about halfway back in the line of cars that were parked on the street. The parking lot was already full.

Here’s what it looked inside the meeting room after they switched into an even BIGGER building next door after lunch.

And as much as I hate being around, and watching, and especially listening to government bureaucrats tell us how much good they’re doing us, it’s almost fun when you’re in a room full of those smart, passionate, loud people who’ve had enough and don’t intend to take it anymore.

Almost, hell.  Turns out watching sausage being made can be fun — it just depends on who’s getting stuffed.

Well, it’s getting late, and The Wife and The Oldest Son and I are off to watch a Cubs game tomorrow from one of the rooftops.  I’ll give you the play-by-play analysis of the meeting later this weekend (I probably won’t be able to catch any comments until Saturday).


The Older Brother



7 thoughts on “The Older Brother visits the sausage factory

  1. Scott

    Dear Older Brother,

    You don’t have to include this in the comment section if you don’t want to, I am writing THIS to get to YOU… lol

    If I had only known you would be at the meeting! I am a consumer, a customer of Rick and Kelly Boge of Golden Guernsey of Illinois (they sat next to Donna O in the first 1/2 of the meeting.) I have been buying my raw milk from them for 2 years now, and they asked me to come to the meeting.

    When I heard that over 115 people had signed up to speak (in a 30 minute window, 3 minutes each,) I did not put my name on the list to speak; I should have, given how many people declined to speak, or just wanted to log their comments in absentia.

    Send me an email if you need more info from the meeting, or anything of that nature. The ironic thing about the meeting and work group is that the raw milk producers in Illinois now have a connection, and they are networking regularly.

    I think towards the end of the meeting Molly was actually kind of opening up to the milk producers. I spoke with her a little bit over the lunch break, and asked her if she had ever had raw milk, or been to a proper farm, where the animals are pastured and modern/ancient PROPER animal husbandry techniques are used to keep the animals healthy. She said she had not, but then added “I get the feeling that I really need to visit a few of these farms to understand more.” Don’t count her out yet!



    p.s.. you REALLY need to try the bacon that Donna and her husband make. Their farm is a bit down the road a pace (Dwight exit off of 55,) but holy smokes is it worth it.

    Hi Scott,

    I’m really sorry I didn’t post something prior to going to the meeting so folks could meet up. Here’s something really embarrassing — I’m now positive Angel S, who tipped me to this whole thing — was one of the people who spoke and I didn’t realize it until I started to write this post tonight and referred back to her original email (early April). I think she was sitting in the row in front of me — I was in the back row of tables at the far end of the room.

    I think you’re exactly right in that the committee has actually helped the raw milk folks by bringing us together. I don’t think that’s what the FDA had in mind when they bankrolled it, eh?!

    Funny you mention talking to Molly because I asked her at the end of the meeting if she’d ever been to a raw milk producer’s operation. She hedged a little, saying her people were at dairies all the time. I said no, I mean you and maybe some of the committee members actually go walk around a raw milk producer’s operation and talk to them to see what their world is like. She seemed receptive. I really think the IDPH people were gobsmacked when they saw the number and caliber of the crowd, compared to whatever impression they’d been fed. It’s a world they haven’t seen. They won’t change, but perhaps they’ll back off.

    Thanks for commenting — maybe we’ll meet up at the next meeting!

  2. Lori

    The regulator didn’t know how to contact any raw milk producers? It took me two minutes to find a long list of raw dairy farmers in Illinois, starting with a Google search. I clicked on the first site Google brought up and followed the instructions on that site.

    Another good way would be to stand in the aisle of a Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, your local organic food store, or a farmers’ market and whisper “I wonder where I could find some raw milk.”

  3. Howard

    I see you are doing a good job of holding the fort down while your little brother is off doing his thing…

    …which, by the way, he is doing quite well. He just finished his roast presentation, which was a very polished spiel, and very well received (just like it was last year). I think I got a pretty good audio recording, but all I could see on the video was the screen because the room was too dark. There was enough other recording equipment going that he probably doesn’t need the backup, but I’ll keep it anyway, just in case.


    Good to have multiple audio/visual sources. I know that caused some issues last year. Looking forward to is presentation when he gets back.

    1. j

      Will the presentation(s) be available on this site or elsewhere?

      Tom has generally got them edited and posted here a week or two after returning. Stay tuned!

  4. Matt

    Somehow, legislators and other government officials need to have a voice in the back of their head that says “Always err on the side of freedom” or some other simple libertarian mantra that will prevent them from intervening in these matters. Any intervention into a transaction between two willing parties (e.g. raw milk producer and raw milk consumer) should be considered morally reprehensible.

    In some cases, one of the two parties is the beneficiary of intervening regulation/legislation. In this case, neither of the two benefit. Instead, external lobbying interests would benefit. Dean’s and Prairie Farms are not the enemy as painful as that is to say. If the government officials (enablers) were libertarian minded, these companies would have to do things the old fashioned way, through diversifying their own product lines to meet the needs of this growing “fringe” market for unpasteurized dairy products. Lobbying requires investment in time and money. Dean’s dairy products have not improved due to said lobbying (anecdotally, I have found their half n half to be intolerable – too milky and corny).

    If I would make one concession to the anti-liberty side, it would be to allow for some labeling laws. Perhaps, raw milk would get some kind of warning box on it saying whatever they want it to say. That would add a nominal cost and the consumers would look right past it in the same way that I laugh at the RDA for saturated fat on nutrition labels on products like dark chocolate or sausages).

    While, most remnants of my internet worship have long since vanished, I believe that the libertarian vision works best in places with extensive access to information and freedom of movement. The readership of this website are relatively well informed and are beneficiaries of the vast resources on the net along with their own critical thinking. The hope is that Americans in general will grow steadily more aware of these matters of nutrition, science, and food politics (ironically, perhaps just to get back to our grandparents’ understanding). That is a cultural prerequisite to the abolition of the nanny-state mentality.

    If they had that voice in the back of their head, they would go into another line of work.

    I’m not even willing to concede on labeling laws. If a dairy sells me a liquid that they say is “milk,” but it also contains milk solids and aspartame, that’s fraud. They are protected from prosecution for that fraud through the existence of the USDA, FDA, et al.

  5. Bret

    I always love a good story about government bureaucrats being rightly humiliated.

    Sadly, I am sure their debriefing of this event will focus on not letting such embarrassment happen again–including getting Congress’s blessing not to hold open meetings anymore.

  6. Angel

    Hey Lori, it gets better. The regulator, Molly Lamb, bragged during the meeting “I do know how to use the internet.” She had been using the internet to monitor online advertising by Illinois raw milk farmers (Illinois supposedly currently prohibits raw milk farmers from advertising).

    So, she had plenty of information on hand for contacting farmers, but she did not do it.

    Here’s my follow-on post about the meeting, Ms Smith Goes to Bloomington:


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