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Monday, February 27, 2012

Raw Milk, Part 5

In 2010, I did a four part series for this blog titled “Raw Milk, the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly”. I shared my ambivalence about the topic. I am a lover of raw milk - Part 2 - but I also understand the dangers. Indeed, I have experienced food poisoning from it as I described in Part 3 of that series. I have continued to support raw milk sales from a libertarian standpoint - get the government out of our lives. But recent events may have the pendulum of my emotions and intellect swinging the opposite direction again. A dairy farm that I am familiar with - The Family Cow Farm - just experienced a Campylobacter outbreak which has sickened dozens of people who drink their raw milk. See the following articles - Article 1, Article 2, Article 3, Article 4. This is a good farm. They do things right. They are licensed by Pennsylvania to sell raw milk. They practice good sanitation and they regularly test their milk for contamination. But it happened. There was a flaw in their system and people got sick. Some were hospitalized. Fortunately no one died. This is no anti-raw milk conspiracy.

In my job, I frequently visit dairy farms. When I am offered a glass of cold raw milk, I relish it as wine lovers relish fine wine or chocolatiers savor fine dark chocolate. But I know the risks are real and I have experienced coming up on the losing end. Drinking pasteurized milk, which my family nearly always does, is absolutely safer. The person who argues otherwise is uninformed. Yes the pendulum has swung the opposite direction. I discourage people from drinking raw milk. But if you do, make sure you get it from a reputable farm. Please don’t give to the very young, the old, or to those with compromised immune systems. Do not store raw milk for any length of time as bacteria will multiply. And if you do drink it, please savor it like I do.  


Mike said...


So does the libertarian part of you still advocate raw milk sales, or do you think the government should ban raw milk sales. I think it's good to educate to the potential dangers of raw milk, but regardless of the dangers, I would rather let consumers make decisions than government.

Dale Johnson said...


The way you frame the question and your viewpoint, I would say that the libertarian part of me would advocate for raw milk sales. But if the question were worded differently, I might appose it. For example "Do you think the government should protect children from dying of food poisoning by mandating the pasteurization of milk?"

Raw milk consumption causes food born illnesses almost every year. One day a child or an adult who doesn't understand the dangers will die from it and I would hate to be legislator who voted to make it legal.

Each year 40,000 people die in car accidents. So let just outlaw cars to protect everyone. We let people smoke and drink alcohol but they can't drink raw milk. Bad analogies.

There are lots of things we can't protect people from. But food poisoning from raw milk is one of the thins we can. If you read part 2 of my series you know how much I love raw milk. But if I buy whole, cream-line pasteurized milk from a farmer, it is a pretty darn good substitute for raw milk and it is much safer.

Ask me tomorrow and I will probably change my mind.

Rachel said...

Proper mastitis management (never ever drink raw milk from an animal that has even sub-clinical mastitis) is key as well as proper sanitation and manure management. It's one of the reasons I prefer goat milk because their feces is much less likely to contaminate the milk compared to a cow.

Mike said...

Thanks Dale,
I didn't realize that I was asking you such a leading question. I agree that it is much more difficult to answer the question the way you put it. I need to do a better job at understanding both sides of the issue.

Your car argument makes sense. Your tobacco argument doesn't. It could be argued that we can protect people from tobacco and alcohol side effects as much as raw milk.

It is good to note that this issue is never black and white like I like to make it.

I get blinded at times because I am so overly concerned about losing freedom. I don't trust the government to make good decisions. I know individuals don't either but I am scared of losing freedoms I hold dear.

Charlotte said...

Mike, I too am concerned about losing individual rights. Even with government protections, people get food poisoning. But the further people are from the farm, the more likely there will be problems. But I grew up with Mom milking the family cow twice a day. There is nothing better, but it can't be available to everyone.

Anonymous said...


Summer said...

Campylobacter is basically a few days of diarrhea, right? It's supposedly really common. Just because milk is pasteurized, doesn't make it safe. On the contrary, "killing" the milk makes it more vulnerable to pathogens.

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