Food and Cuisine cow

Published on April 10th, 2009 | by Jennifer Lance

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Raw Milk is Most Widely Consumed Illegal Commodity Besides Drugs

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Do you drink raw milk?  If you live in one of the states where raw milk is illegal, you may be part of underground movement that is second in size only to illegal drugs. It’s legal to consume raw milk in all 50 states if you own your own dairy cow, but it is not legal to sell it if you live in one of the 46 states that have adopted the Pasteurized Milk Ordinance (PMO).  The PMO states that only Grade “A” pasteurized, ultra-pasteurized or aseptically processed milk and milk products can be sold to the final consumer, and federal law makes it illegal to transport raw milk across state lines. Such laws make raw milk drinkers underground consumers like illegal drug users.

Image by Royalty-free image collectionRaw milk is second to drugs in illegal consumption

Raw milk is second to drugs in illegal consumption

In the United States, between 500,000 to 1,000,000 people drink raw milk (remember, it’s hard to get statistics on an underground market).  Raw milk has long been touted for its health benefits, and recently Chelsea Green and MSN have reported on the black market for raw milk.

After illegal drugs, raw milk — milk that’s unpasteurized and unhomogenized, just as it comes out of the cow — may be the most briskly traded underground commodity in America.

To get raw milk, consumers jump through a variety of hoops.  From belonging to a herdshare (similar to a CSA) to meeting vans in the early morning, raw milk drinkers are finding ways around federal and state laws. Some consumers buy raw milk in neighboring states where it is is legal and transport it home themselves.  Other people drive several hours to a raw milk pick up site as part of a raw milk club. MSN reports:

There’s good reason for these clubs to be cautious. While state authorities rarely go after raw milk buyers, distributors have gotten in trouble — late last year an Ohio raw milk co-op was raided at gunpoint by sheriffs’ deputies. And state officials regularly try to shut down dairies that sell raw milk. The Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund, which defends farmers’ right to sell raw milk, has a dozen cases on its docket right now. “People have the legal right to drink it,” says Pete Kennedy, interim president. “The problem is finding ways to enable them to exercise their right.”

Ron Paul wants to make drinking raw milk a personal choice and remove federal regulation.  There is no doubt pasteurization has prevented illnesses, but when consumers are locavores that know the sources of their dairy products, the risk is minimized. Personally, I have never experienced negative consequences of consuming raw milk or raw milk products.



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  • Lauren

    Your article is hilarious great and informative!!! Thanks so much for giving me more perspective on the issue! I live in Washington and drink raw milk all the time!!! that is all I can drink because I am lactose intolerant because of the pasteurization homogenization process. I never really think twice about the issue that most people in the states don’t have access to it like I do!! Absolutely loved the read!!! :-)

  • Axion

    LOL great job squeezing in a ron paul reference. Does he pander to every single fringe group?

  • Heidi

    I used to get raw milk from my neighbor’s bulk tank–nothing better if you have direct access to a dairy farm !! Sweeping mangers, feeding calves and putting up hay gets you a long way with farmers….

  • Stella

    I LOVE raw goats milk, and have been drinking it for years. My kids went right from breast to raw goats milk. I feel like people should be able to decide for themselves what to put in their own bodies :o)
    You no what REALLY drives me nuts?
    It’s the fact that nobody wants to talk about all the people who have gotten sick drinking legal milk. If you really want to know a great book on the subject read
    The Untold Story of Milk: Green Pastures, Contented Cows and Raw Dairy Products by
    Ron Schmid.
    By the way I just found this site tonight and I’m loving it!
    Remember RE-cycle, RE-use, RE-purpose, RE-duce!

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