Tag Archives: Raw Milk

Feds Declare War on Raw Milk Cheese: Regulation Spoils Acclaimed Wisconsin Cheese


No matter which way you slice it, the federal government is turning Wisconsin cheesemakers’ moods extra stinky.

A soft raw milk cheese, Rush Creek Reserve, made by Uplands Cheese Company near Dodgeville, Wis. is the latest cheese to be ruined by regulation.

Newly imposed regulations may require aging periods for raw milk cheese to exceed the standard 60 days, which is already twice as long as European cheesemakers do. By the time Rush Creek Reserve completed the potential two month-plus aging period, the cheese would become overripe.

So, Uplands Cheese Co. has decided to no longer produce the much sought-after cheese.

According to the Chicago Reader, “It’s not because of anything that has happened at Uplands—[cheesemaker Andy] Hatch describes his most recent FDA inspection earlier in the summer as “really positive”—or, indeed, because of any particular incident anywhere that he knows of. But a cheese specifically designed for aging for 60 days—the rule since 1949—risks suddenly being afoul of newly imposed regulations which may mandate longer aging periods or other impossibly strict conditions for cheese making.”

Just like the FDA’s rule change on curing cheese on wood planks earlier this year, the potential for regulation change doesn’t make producing a cheese that could be illegal once it’s ready to be sold economically feasible. .

Wisconsin cheese blogger Jeanne Carpenter explains it this way: “The death of Rush Creek Reserve should act as the canary in the coal mine for all American raw milk artisan cheeses, because just as our great American artisan cheese movement is in serious full swing, the FDA has basically declared a war on raw milk cheese.”

Thankfully these changes don’t affect Pleasant Ridge Reserve, Upland Cheese’s most decorated and celebrated artisan cheese. But who knows what new rules the feds will come up with next.

More and more companies like Burger King are fleeing the U.S. and finding new homes in Canada where corporate tax rates are more favorable.

As the U.S. becomes increasingly business unfriendly with high taxes and regulations will cheese makers find a new home in another country? I certainly hope not.

Charge Against Minnesota Raw-Milk Farmer Dismissed


Despite admitting to breaking the law by selling raw milk and other unpasteurized dairy products, Minnesota farmer Michael Hartmann had his charge dismissed and has been released from probation.

Sibley County District Court Judge Erica MacDonald determined after a hearing in Gaylord, Minn., that Hartmann should not be assessed further penalties for his actions, and she dismissed a charge against him of probation violation.

“The court affirmed the bedrock principle that the state cannot insert itself into a private transaction between consenting adults to buy a natural product, or interfere with the type of foods that a parent might choose to nourish their family with,” defense attorney Zenas Baer said.

Judge MacDonald had previously ruled that Hartmann violated the terms of his probation by continuing to sell raw milk and not cooperating with Minnesota Department of Agriculture rules, which only allows on-farm sales of raw milk.

Hartmann was on probation from a 2012 incident where he pleaded guilty to two misdemeanor counts of illegally selling raw milk, as well as selling beef and pork without a license. He was then fined $585 and sentenced to unsupervised probation for six months. He agreed to also follow all state licensing and labeling laws.

Raw Milk Could Become Available Under Proposed Legislation

Congressman Thomas Massie (Republican–KY), Congresswoman Chellie Pingree (Democrat –ME) and a bipartisan coalition of 18 other lawmakers have introduced legislation to improve consumer food choices, including access to raw milk, and to protect local farmers from federal interference. The two bills – the Milk Freedom of Act of 2014 and the Interstate Milk Freedom Act of 2014 – are the first in Massie’s series of “food freedom” bills he plans to introduce.

Massie has a unique perspective: “As a producer of grass-fed beef, I am familiar with some of the difficulties small farmers face when marketing fresh food directly to consumers. Our bills would make it easier for families to buy wholesome milk directly from farmers by reversing the criminalization of dairy farmers who offer raw milk,” said Massie. “The federal government should not punish farmers for providing customers the foods they want, and states should be free to set their own laws regulating food safety.”

Although Congress has never passed legislation banning raw milk, the federal Food and Drug Administration has used their regulatory authority to prosecute farmers for selling raw milk. Raw milk is fresh milk that has not been pasteurized and contain beneficial nutrients that have not been eliminated by the pasteurization process.

The Milk Freedom Act of 2014 would provide relief to local farmers, small producers and others who have been harassed, fined and in some cases even prosecuted for the “crime” of distributing unpasteurized milk. This bill would prohibit the federal government from interfering with the interstate traffic of raw milk products.

Likewise, the Interstate Milk Freedom Act of 2014 would prevent the federal government from interfering with trade of unpasteurized, natural milk or milk products between states where distribution or sale of such products is already legal.


Raw Milk Could be legal again in Maryland


A proposed Maryland bill would restore the right of the states’ citizens to participate in cow shares, or cow boarding, to obtain raw milk.  Maryland citizens lost the right to raw milk via cow shares in 2006, when the appointed director of the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene redefined the word “sale” to include agistments.  A hearing on the bill is scheduled for January 28 at 1:00pm at the Lowe House Office Building in Annapolis.

cow shares maryland

Cow shares or cow boarding refers to a practice in which people buy shares in individual animals for a portion of the milk they produce.  These people may not own the land or have the skill or time necessary to own a cow (and since cows produce far too much milk for a single family to consume selling shares even makes sense for people who are able to own a cow or two), but the farmer is paid to care for the animals and distribute the milk to the cows’ owners.  It is a very popular way of getting around raw milk bans nationwide.


Since the undemocratically passed ban on cow shares in Maryland criminalized this practice, the state’s residents have been forced to look elsewhere for their milk (participating in cow shares across state lines, as the sale of milk across state lines is illegal on the federal level), while hundreds of Maryland raw and natural dairy farms have closed down.

House Bill 3 was filed by Annapolis Delegates James Hubbard (D-23A) and Nic Kipke (R-31).  Hubbard and Kipke point to a variety of reasons for proposing the legislation.  They say it will help local farmers, create more economic opportunities, and would help keep agriculture local.  In keeping sales of agricultural products local, the bill could help more money stay in the state and in individual communities, prompting Hubbard to call the bill a “win-win-win.”

A hearing on the issue will take place in Annapolis’s Lowe House Office Building on January 28 at 1:00pm.  In addition to the environmental, economic and tax benefits, the bill has obvious freedom implications.  It would re-open and renew a whole new, increasingly popular market.  Raw milk advocates say that unpasteurized dairy has significant health benefits, including increased protein, vitamins, minerals and probiotics.

Oregon Farmers May Go to Prison for Raw Milk Ads

There is no free speech when it comes to advertising raw milk products in Oregon. In fact, those who violate this law may face possible jail time.

Most states in the country have significant restrictions on the sale of raw milk, and at first glance, Oregon’s seem like some of the less extreme ones.  Sales are outright illegal in 20 states, and though Oregon does not allow the retail sale of raw milk, it does allow small organic dairies – with three cows or fewer, only two of which can be lactating at any given time – to sell their product directly to consumers.  The catch, however, is that these dairies are prohibited from advertising their product.

AndersonCow-250x300Christine Anderson filed a lawsuit on Tuesday in the hopes of changing that.  She owns and runs Cast Iron Farm, a two cow dairy and has taken great pains to ensure the process creates the highest quality, safest milk possible, combining modern and traditional methods.  The government’s concern is that raw milk may carry harmful bacteria like salmonella and E. coli, but such hazards are usually a product of human milk processing, not the cow, itself. Anderson’s process minimizes these risks.

Last year, the Oregon Department of Agriculture told Anderson she must remove the milk prices from her website, and as part of this, she has been unable to advertise sales when she has a surplus of milk and is forced to waste much of it, feeding it to her pigs.  She also felt compelled to remove information about her milking, bottling and testing methods from her website, because they could also be construed as advertising.  The irony of this, as her attorney has noted, is that this actually keeps consumers from accessing information which could help them make safer raw milk choices.

There are a growing number of Americans who consider raw milk to be much healthier than that which is pasteurized.

The pasteurization process destroys proteins, enzymes and probiotics which many consider integral to digestive health.  Digestive health has been increasingly linked to overall health, with allergies, infections and even autoimmune disease being connected to digestive issues.

Another issue facing smaller farms is that big corporations like Monsanto and the milk lobby have millions of dollars to advertise their products. They control the public narrative and have the power of the mass media to essentially eliminate smaller competitors.

However, the public is waking up and are concerned about pasteurized milk products that may contain growth hormones. Many countries have already outlawed the artificial hormone rBGH used to inject milk cows in order to maximize production. Starbucks, Chipotle, and Ben and Jerry’s state that their dairy products are rBGH-free. Concerns over chemicals, hormones, and drugs in pasteurized milk has helped raw milk sales. The trend to buy local and natural foods continues to be a popular trend in the U.S.

Those in rural communities are fighting draconian laws and regulations imposed by politicians who are influenced by special interests and lobbyists. Farmers like Anderson are filing lawsuits while others are using jury nullification to stand up for their Constitutional rights.

According to the Minneapolis Star Tribune, “a Hennepin County jury found Alvin Schlangen not guilty of three misdemeanor counts of selling unpasteurized milk, operating without a food license and handling adulterated or misbranded food.” Each count carried a maximum sentence of three months’ imprisonment.


More on Jury Nullification

South Dakota’s New Raw Milk Regulations May Harm Smaller Farms

Proposed South Dakota raw milk regulations will make it difficult for smaller operations to continue selling the substance in the state.  Department of Agriculture officials finished a third public hearing on the issue on Wednesday, saying the rules are necessary to ensure safety.  A legislative committee last August had rejected the rules until it had more information on their financial impact for farmers.

The State of South Dakota currently allows the sale of raw milk, though not from retail stores.  Farms are allowed to sell the popular substance directly to consumers. Raw milk must also be clearly labeled as raw, but no other regulations currently exist.  The new regulations would regulate the production, testing and labeling of raw milk in the state.


One of the new regulations would require the labels to have written, “This product has not been pasteurized and may contain harmful bacteria.  Pregnant women, infants, children, the elderly and persons with lower resistance to disease have the highest risk of harm from this product.”  This would require farms, both large and small, to redesign their labels and in some cases print more expensive ones.

The other regulations are more severe.  They would require a bottling date, as well as requiring regular testing and setting standards for bacteria and other contaminants.  Some have argued that the regulations – such as those designating maximum numbers of beneficial bacteria – are unreasonably low, and will be next to impossible to achieve.

Many who drink raw milk drink it specifically for these beneficial bacteria.  Individuals have cited raw milk as beneficial for health problems, from arthritis to irritable bowel syndrome.  The idea that the state would regulate the production of raw milk to minimize the very aspects of the product that people find beneficial and appealing simply reiterates the idea that the state feels it knows best.

Another effect of the new regulations would be the favor of larger operations over small farms.  Since 2010, raw milk producers have been required to have a license or permit, and only five dairies in the state are currently licensed to sell raw milk.  The new regulations would push more dairies out of business by imposing testing and labeling requirements which put extra financial burden on the operations.

Citizens believe this law would violate personal freedoms and give unfair advantages to larger farms over smaller competitors. Bigger corporations frequently use lawmakers to create regulations to push smaller operations out of businesses in order to strengthen their market share by reducing competition. Clearly this is a concern in S.D.

Those who oppose this law want the freedom to enter into private, contractual agreements without government interference.

Raw milk connoisseurs want to consume a living product that is fresher, full of nutrients and tastier, not a sterile, pasteurized product. Raw milk proponents say pasteurization – the process of heating milk to kill disease-causing bacteria – kills the good stuff, and they claim the bacteria is beneficial to human health.


There continues to be a high demand for raw milk despite the debate on its health benefits. North Carolina has banned raw milk sales, but residents are buying the products through the black market. According to reports, there is such a high demand that distributors have created “drop sites” in N.C. and will only sell to people they know. For many states “raw milk” has become the “new pot” and purchasing this popular substance will continue to be funneled through the black market despite government regulations.



FDA ’s Secret War on Raw Milk and Organic Farming

When Michael Bloomberg started his anti-soda campaign in September 2012, there was an outrage.  He cited the “obesity epidemic,” and the “statistic” that 2013 would be the first year that more people died from overeating than from hunger. The “big gulp ban,” which prohibited the sale of sodas more than 16 ounces in size, was struck down by the New York Supreme Court in July 2013 because of a violation of the city’s separation of powers doctrine.

Raw Milk

Many people celebrated a victory for liberty in what seemed like an obvious issue.  Soda may be unhealthy, but the government doesn’t have the right to dictate what people choose to consume.  The government already does this nationwide though, and some of the strongest regulations involve products with tangible health benefits, like unpasteurized, or “raw,” milk.

The FDA controls the sale and consumption of raw milk because they claim that it poses a threat of foodborne illness.  It can contain salmonella, lysteria and e-coli, much the same way that unpasteurized eggs, raw meat and even raw vegetables can, and which in all likelihood are a result of the commercial process rather than the milk itself.

Many people, however, believe that raw milk is significantly healthier and better tasting than milk processed according to FDA regulations.  Pasteurized milk is heated, usually at extremely high temperatures, and then homogenized, which prevents the formation of a cream layer.  This process destroys many valuable enzymes and vitamins, changes the taste and reduces culinary possibilities.

On the federal level, the sale of raw milk is forbidden across state lines, and most states have stringent restrictions, including 19 which have banned sales completely and an additional 14 which ban sales outside of the farm on which the milk was produced.

Recently, the FDA has also been involved in multiple lawsuits and controversial cases regarding raw milk.  Earlier this year, one lawsuit was filed and another dismissed against the FDA regarding its regulations.  The first, by the Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund, involved 100 gallons of milk which were embargoed and forced to be destroyed by the Georgia Department of Agriculture in 2010, but which the plaintiff argued was actually enforced by a present FDA agent instead of the state government.  The case ruling established that the FDA would not take action against consumers who purchased raw milk, instead focusing their effort on farmers and distributors.

The second lawsuit took place in California, and involves Organic Pastures Dairy Company, which petitioned for the right to sell across state lines four years ago.  The company’s goal is to force the FDA to take final action on the petition, which it should have decided on in 180 days.  Both Arizona and California allow raw milk sales, but the Fresno-based company cannot sell its product to the Arizona-based Sprouts grocery stores because of the federal law.

Stories of FDA crackdowns on raw milk dairies, distributors and clubs have emerged across the country.  Some people have bought shares in cows to get around regulations, because the government does not prevent people from drinking the milk produced by their own cows.

This battle is only a small part of a far bigger battle over agricultural freedom which involves everything from commercial drivers’ licenses to the estate tax – which will destroy the family farm – to Senate Bill 510, which makes it illegal to produce food valued over $5000 without submitting it for FDA testing.

Raw milk and agricultural freedom is an issue which goes beyond citizens’ right to decide what they put in their own bodies.  The ability to grow one’s own food allows for independence and self-sufficiency, and the destruction of the family farm will make people dependent on centralized food supplies.  The fight over raw milk and agricultural freedom is a fundamentally important one to the US.