by Heather Callaghan
As demand for fresh raw milk from grass-fed cows rises, so do the calls for scrutiny.
Believe me when I say that governmental sights are set on all dairy producers as grounds for the next potential terrorist threat – more on that soon. Thank you Food Safety Modernization Act for that little gem…
The FDA has no interest in tests or certifications for raw milk, because it is always viewed as dangerous for lack of pasteurization. Instead, it uses taxpayer funds for lengthy sting operations to spring SWAT-style raids on Amish farmers and puts pressure on health departments to push out raw milk producers.
Thus, if a state is not one of the few states that allows for retail sales of unpasteurized milk from grass-fed cows or goats, consumers must go through roundabout hoops to get the product. Like buying it labeled as pet food or signing up for a private cow-share to be part owner. In some states, any kind of farm-to-consumer provision is strictly prohibited and any type of interstate sales/transportation is illegal across the whole U.S. The health department in Illinois openly admitted to trying to regulate raw milk producers into complete oblivion because they saw a regulation vacuum and didn’t think anyone should have it.
With no possible compromise in sight, and no national standards, raw milk producers have taken to an independent certification standard, similar to the Non-GMO project for verification – labeling food products that are organic if companies won’t bear genetically modified ingredients. It’s a way for raw dairy farms to have openness, testing and transparency to let consumers know exactly what they are getting.
The Raw Milk Institute (RAWMI), founded by Mark McAffe, CEO of Organic Pastures Dairy, the largest raw dairy operation in California, seeks to do just that. There are about half a dozen farms who have joined the ranks, with 10 more in the process. It is also a place for education.
People are searching for local raw milk. But when they go to the farm, or they go to the store, they really don’t know what they’re getting.
To achieve accountability, transparency and standards, he worked with epidemiologists, biologists and health professionals. Not just with a bent on “bacteria levels” but for the entire production process. Raw milk producers must go that extra mile for safety, cleanliness and a testing trail. Especially with agencies admonishing them, warning the public not to visit them and waiting in the wings to close production at the slightest infraction. The same harsh treatment, of course, does not apply if a large chicken product factory actually sickens nearly 600 people with salmonella and continues to sicken them today without even having to issue a recall.
RAWMI conducts hazards analysis, planning, testing and a site visit. It also reaches out to help the farm with safe raw milk production.
Fun fact: Did you know that certified organic raw milk almost became the standard for all milk sold in the United States? Back during the “swill” milk disease outbreaks in congested towns lacking sanitation (late 1800s, early 1900s), two options were up for decision. Inspections leading to raw milk certifications or pasteurization. The New York Milk Committee of 1910 opted for pasteurization. Large companies also wanted a return on their investments in emerging pasteurization technology. The very real public health safety risk (caused by lack of sanitation and use of horses for transportation) was not rationally solved based on greater long-term health, but by short-term economic gains. See the Harvard Raw Milk Debate, starting at the 14-minute mark.
Read and listen to more about the self-regulating body here: