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.
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.