Small Dairy Sustainability

North Carolina has a rich heritage when it comes to agriculture. My ancestors settled for a while in Orange County, just a few miles from what is now downtown Chapel Hill. And, like so many of their neighbors, they declared to the census-takers that their main occupation was farming. It didn't take much to be a farmer back then—a little plot of land to grow some vegetables, a few cows to milk, and bingo. You're a farmer.

And most folks back then didn't have a whole lot of money to toss around. Barter was pretty much the rule of thumb, and people would trade back and forth with each other in order to survive. One of the necessities for survival back then was milk fresh from a cow. Without this in your daily diet, folks tended to get sickly. They didn't understand the reasons why, they just knew they needed it.

I don't really understand it that well either, so I decided to ask someone who should know:

"It's all about the enzymes, and my milk is full of them."

"Yeah it is! And it's really, really good, too! You should seriously try some. I'd drink it all day long, but my mom--"

"Hush! I'm...not really sure what enzymes are, or what they do per se. I guess I could Google it but, as you can see, my plate's pretty full here. Why don't you do it?"

So I did:

Enzymes are complex proteins that facilitate, catalyze or speed up chemical reactions. The precise order of amino acids in the proteins from which they're made determines their shape, and their shape determines their function.

Typically, each enzyme does just one thing, so there are just about as many enzymes as there are different things for them to do. Without taking part themselves, they make possible hundreds of thousands of processes in our bodies: they can chop things up (hydrolases), put things together (ligases), split double bonds between atoms (lyases), and move chemical groups from molecule to molecule (transferases). If it's a biochemical reaction, there's an enzyme involved.

Heating food above 118°F./48°C. destroys most of these natural helpers, forcing us to make our own digestive enzymes to get at the nutrients. Having to make our own digestive enzymes puts an extra burden on our pancreas, which is typically busy enough with other metabolic needs.

I consider food enzymes to be right next to proteins, carbohydrates and fats, in importance. A fourth major food group, if you will. The late enzyme expert, Dr. Edward Howell, believed that life-span was related to the rate at which an organism's enzyme potential was exhausted. He felt the increased use of food enzymes (either from raw foods or supplements) reduced the rate of enzyme potential exhaustion.

I was actually already (somewhat) familiar with this, as I've done some research in the past about the negative effects of antibiotics, and the dangers associated with over-prescribing them. A lot of these little guys like lactobacillus are simbiotic and perform critical functions in our synthesization of food, and antibiotics kill them off, leaving us less able to process the nutrients we need to stay healthy.

Okay, back to the raw milk. You can't buy this (unpasteurized) stuff in the store in North Carolina, but up until 2004 you could coop, or buy "cow shares", making you a part owner of the cow which allowed you to drink its raw milk. As often happens, back in 2004 a line was added to some legislation banning this practice, and now if someone wants raw milk, they have to drive to South Carolina (where it's legal) to aquire it.

After getting fed up with this, a lady named Ruth Ann Foster contacted her State Senator for some help:

It is that legal arrangement that raw milk advocates in the state are trying to reinstate. Sen. Kay Hagan (D-Guilford) introduced a bill this session that would repeal the ban.

"I have been amazed at the number of people I have met who want to drink milk that comes from a cow that has been raised not in confinement, grazed on grass, no hormones or antibiotics," Hagan says, adding, "back to what God and nature intended."

She admits that the first time Foster, her constituent, approached her about the issue of raw milk, she thought to herself, "What is she talking about?

"I think we all come to the table with preconceived notions that pasteurized milk is the only way to go," Hagan says. "You really have to understand the history of it to understand where we are today."

I have to give a nod to the author of this piece. Suzanne Nelson is a frequent contributor to Indyweek, and did a heck of a job fleshing this story out.

There is a Latin phrase perennially useful in unraveling great mysteries: Cui bono? Who benefits? The dairy industry in the United States is a $40 billion-a-year business, not including federal subsidies, which themselves run in the billions. Farmers step outside of this rigid system at their peril. In 2003, a maverick dairyman in California tried to sell milk at 20 cents less a gallon than his competition by snubbing the public-private consortium that has controlled milk production for 70 years. His brazen move was squashed by an act of Congress.

Milk is big business. And pasteurization is a necessary element to dairy consolidation, as it permits milk to be stored and transported over long periods and distances.

This subject originally crossed my radar a few months ago when I was reading over Kay Hagan's sponsored bills list. At the time I was more interested in digging for dirt (sorry Kay), so I tried to ignore it and what it implied because it didn't fit my agenda. Which is wrong on several levels, but mainly because it does fit my agenda.

So what do we have here? We have a constituent who approaches her representative about an issue, and that representative looks into it and decides to take action. Against the "establishment" fear-laden viewpoint, and against powerful corporate interests. Think about that for a minute.

This bill passed the Senate 39-9, and Pricey Harrison is now shepherding it through the House. Whether it survives the strong resistance or not, I think it reveals something about Kay Hagan's character and her outlook on public service that we may have (chosen to) overlook.


Kudos to Kay and you for bringing our attention to her good work

Back in the early 80's, I worked one winter at a dairy in SC that bottled their milk raw. We bottled in the morning and milked in the afternoon. It was kind of fun ( I was young then) but I did feel sorry for the owners who were tied to the place every day of the year. They also kept about 20 goats they milked.

Fresh, raw milk is so different from the grocery store stuff.

Progressive Democrats of North Carolina

The first time I went to North Africa,

I was forced to drink goat's milk. Well, I wasn't really "forced", but it was the only milk available. I started out just wetting my cereal with it, but after 4-5 weeks I was drinking several glasses a day.

Then when I came home regular cow's milk tasted weird. ;/

It is totally illegal to buy raw milk in North Carolina....

for human consumption. It is totally legal to buy it for pet consumption.

I'm just saying.

Of course, the thing that all this misses is that we don't need and shouldn't have cow's milk!!! Yep, big dairy conspiracy, we don't need milk. Especially as adults. CERTAINLY as adults we don't need milk. An occasional glass with cookies, or in the form of cheese or ice cream? Well, that is a desert and if you are into deserts then okay, but you don't "need" milk.

Raw milk at least offers some health benefits along with it, but the stuff you buy at Harris Teeter. Bad for you. Bad for your kids. Bad, bad, bad, bad.

Jesus Swept ticked me off. Too short. I loved the characters and then POOF it was over.

Have to disagree there

Besides the food poisoning you can get, regular milk (especially skim milk) has nutrition in it just like it says on the label. No, we don't NEED milk, but we also don't NEED a lot of foods that still provide nutrition for us.

And as far as big dairy, well yes there is big dairy, especially out in California and down in Florida and New Mexico. But in places like PA (aren't you from PA?) and New England, the majority of dairy farmers are the old stereotypical family farmers that work 364 days a year with less than 100 cows. And before we go trashing dairies, maybe we should think about the benefits of using land for dairy farming rather than the most probable alternative, namely more suburban development.

And yes, people love raw milk. Because it's got all that raw fat! That's it. You could also buy some raw steak and just trim the fat off around the edge and gnaw on that for a while for the same effect. But to say that raw milk is better for you than a locally produced organic skim milk is just not scientifically true.

That's wrong.

raw milk is just that, raw. The enzymes are not denatured. It's better for you.

I'll have to come back later to address mroe.

Jesus Swept ticked me off. Too short. I loved the characters and then POOF it was over.

A few things, Adam

First, raw milk from a properly cared-for cow is definitely better for the average person, and especially for someone who's just undergone an antibiotic regimen.

Second, the normal, everyday dairy farmer you're referring to (under 100 head) are disappearing even as we speak, due to industry consolidation.

The economics of producing and selling milk are making it impossible for small to medium operations to break even. Heck, some of them (even the bigger ones) can't even sell their milk, because they don't produce enough to overcome the shipping costs.

This bill gives small dairy farmers a potential source of revenue they don't have right now, and may just keep them operating a few years longer.

RE: food poisoning.

There are several raw milk producers in California that regularly test their milk and it comes up "cleaner" than that sold in the store. The idea that you will get food poisoning from raw milk is simply not true, at least no more true than the idea that you will get food poisoning from any food.

Jesus Swept ticked me off. Too short. I loved the characters and then POOF it was over.

I'm sorry, wait

The producers are testing their own milk? And finding it clean? Huh.

You know what's slightly more persuasive? The FDA testing the stuff and finding it frequently dirty.

Is this the same FDA

that allows Monsanto etal to use cancer-causing growth hormones in dairy cows, and approved the use of cloned cows for dairy production?

If it's a different FDA then, you know. I'm all ears.

I assume you're cherry

I assume you're cherry picking examples of the FDA's failings that fit the conclusion you've already reached because you're in a bad mood or something, and I forgive you. And the raw milk question isn't about hormones (that's the organic question) or cloning (that's... I don't even know what that's about).

It's not just the FDA, anyway. The WHO and USDA recommend pasteurization, too. Of course, they could all be wrong, but if you're going to be making that case, I would think you would need to come armed with - at a minimum:

  1. evidence that raw milk is different than pasteurized milk from the same cows;
  2. that the difference confers a benefit;
  3. that the benefit is significant, both:
    1. in light of the role that milk plays in peoples' diets (so it's not really helpful to the raw milk cause to say that it has more vitamin C, as milk isn't a significant source of vitamin C) and
    2. in light of how the difference is processed by the human body (so it's not helpful to say that raw milk includes enzymes that help with digestion if those enzymes are broken down and not used by human digestive tracts); and
  4. that the benefit is not outweighed by the risks (which, in the case of raw milk, are fairly well documented).

Here's the deal

Milk is pasteurized to increase its shelf life. If I can ride down the street to get milk and don't need to rely on planes, trains and tractor trailers to bring me milk from some place far away, then I don't need my milk to be pasteurized. If I can be trusted to handle raw meat, then I can certainly be trusted to handle raw milk. I don't need the FDA telling me what's good for me in this instance. Raw milk might not be right for everyone, but shouldn't we be able to make that choice for ourselves if presented with the opportunity?

Robin Hayes lied. Nobody died, but thousands of folks lost their jobs.

Vote Democratic! The ass you save may be your own.

Betsy, I love you from a

Betsy, I love you from a distance, but this reasoning is holier than Our Lady of Perpetual Sorrow on a Sunday morning.

  • Milk is indeed pasteurized to increase shelf life. It is also pasteurized to kill stuff living in it.
  • People generally don't eat raw meat without cooking it, so I don't think it's the best parallel for raw milk (unless you're buying raw milk to bring it home for pasteurization).
  • Cars without seat belts also might not be right for everyone...

We have decided as a society to have these organizations tasked with overseeing food safety. If they're wrong in banning a product, let's say so. But is there an argument in favor of raw milk that doesn't equally apply local organic pasteurized milk, and that isn't based on anecdata? And does that argument outweigh the risks?

Since I don't know you

I can't say I love you.....however....

My parallel is a good one - it might not be perfect since meat is usually cooked before eating. Like meat, the safety of raw milk has a lot to do with how it was produced, handled and packaged. You don't get raw milk from the same cows that provide our pasteurized milk because of what they are fed. Raw milk should come from cows that are fed on green grass. The handling and packaging would be up to me. I think I will do what's best to protect my family. I don't leave raw meat sitting out on the counter for a reason, ya know?

Raw milk does have bacteria and much of it is good bacteria - the kind that fights off the bad stuff. Pasteurized milk still makes people sick. Maybe that's because pasteurization kills the good bacteria along with the bad and maybe it's because that milk is provided by cows so souped up on drugs and other "additives"....according to the GAO - the arm of the gub'ment that's keeping track of the FDA, the FDA hasn't always been and may still not be doing its job. I'm thinking this deserves a whole post. I'll see if I can't put that together.

Vote Democratic! The ass you save may be your own.

I'd like that

A post, that is. And also to know what the good bacteria are and what they do. And you do know me, but I'm in disguise.

My young'un gets organic, BHG-free milk to avoid some of the problems you describe (and because grass fed cows tend to make milk with more vitamins). I don't know about antibiotics, but I do know that without BGH, the need to give your cows antibiotics goes way, way down. So I think we agree on a lot.

What I still don't get (and this is why I look forward to your post) is what benefit there is to skipping the pasteurization step on the milk that my family drinks, and why that benefit would exceed the risks involved with not sterilizing an eminently sterilizable food product.

antibiotics have more to do with feed.

cows cannot properly digest corn, so corn-feed beef get "ulcers" that require constant antibiotics to treat. Also, they are kept in nasty conditions with lots of nasty bacteria. Grass-fed beef does not have this problem so they do not require antibiotics.

There have been studies that probiotics have a real impact on your health. I think the thought is that raw milk has probiotic properties and/or bacteria. Also, that the enzymes normally found in raw milk help with digestion of milk protein and sugar. When the milk is pasteurized the bacteria and enzymes are killed.

Jesus Swept ticked me off. Too short. I loved the characters and then POOF it was over.

Cows on GBH don't get better

so they end up on much more aggressive antibiotics over a longer period of time. Didn't know that feed was the culprit, though.

Raw Meat

People do eat raw meat:


Carpaccio is the most popular dish served at Harry's Bar. It is named for Vittore Carpaccio, the Venetian Renaissance painter known for his use of brilliant reds and whites.
Carpaccio, which has been copied by any number of good restaurants all over the world, is made by covering a plate with the thinnest possible slices of raw beef and garnishing it with shaved cheese or an olive oil dressing.

See also:

Steak Tartare
Filet Americain
Tartare de Boeuf
Carne Cruda
Carne all'Albese
Carne Piemontese
Yuk Hwe
Beef Sashimi

See also "hairsplitting"

Maybe Steak Tartare is not popular among Triangle Men but it's fairly common in restaurants in NYC, DC and San Fran and it can be found in Raleigh at Poole's Diner, Sullivan's Steakhouse, Bloomsbury Bistro and Enoteca Vin.

The limits of analogy

Okay, okay; jeez. Steak is different than milk. Clearly the FDA, WHO and state authorities have not decided that there is no acceptable way to make steak tartar safe for human consumption, which makes it a poor analogy for raw milk.

But maybe we can flog this analogy a bit more. Steak never needs to touch anything else organic besides the bone and other meat it sat next to in the cow. Ground beef, however, is a messier proposition. (You can get your hamburger cooked rare, but only at places that grind the meat from the steak in their kitchens; if it is factory ground, then you can get your burger any way you want it, as long as you want it medium well.) I suspect that raw milk is more like ground beef than like steak. At least, I wouldn't want to know how one goes about milking a cow without touching the outside of a cow. This gets back to the "I'm not letting my kid crawl up under a cow" point.

But four of five doctors can still tell the difference between milk and hamburger, so yes, the analogy will break down somewhere. That's just what analogies do.


Steak Tartare IS ground beef, usually served with a raw egg.

We like it in the weeds, don't we?

Is it factory ground, or restaurant ground? As Triangle Man, I must say that I've read enough of your comments to know you're a pretty smart person, and I suspect that you're being intentionally obtuse in order to be an acute pain; you'd better get right.


A dairy herd of no more than 10 cows is more analogous to a restaurant than a meat factory. Raw milk would not be blended with milk from other herds under this Bill.

I'm simply responding to your original reference to eating raw meat (after Betsy's reference to handling raw meat). Given the amount of people who actually do eat raw meat I think it's a reasonable parallel and one that shouldn't have been dismissed so readily. That doesn't even include raw fish sushi and sashimi.

For the record, pasteurization is not the same as sterilization. Sterilization is absolute. Pasteurization is relative. There are also treatments for raw milk to control bacteria that stop short of pasteurization but still warrant the designation of "raw milk". Some pasteurization protocols that produce safe milk do not meet legal definitions and are still called "raw milk".

Pasteurization produces a substantial reduction in bacteria and enzymes but it does not eliminate them. Some bacteria and pathogens survive pasteurization. Pasteurization refers to heat treatment in a range of temperature/time combinations from 30 minutes at 145degF to 0.01 seconds at 212degF. Pasteurization is a compromise. The closest we get to sterilized milk is UHT which is 2.0 seconds at 280/285degF. It tastes different, but it lasts a long time at room temperature.

Many bacteria in milk never existed when the milk left the cow. Control of bacteria growth by cooling is important immediately after milking and also after pasteurization. Like the management of raw fish and raw meat there are ways to manage raw milk that reduce the risks associated with bacteria and pathogens that are more sophisticated than a blanket ban on consumption via sale.

My comments are frequently obtuse. Knotted logic is not always susceptible to orthodoxy.

My point about the FDA

was they have demonstrated that they are prone to manipulation by big agribusiness entities, putting our health lower on their list of priorities.

And as far as your checklist, the only thing that wasn't covered in the body of the diary is #4. Which I should have addressed, because the lack of pasteurization does present risks, especially if the cow/dairy is improperly maintained or the milk isn't consumed quickly enough.

But I believe, for some people, the benefits do outweigh the risks, which is why they should be allowed to become a part-owner of a cow and drink its milk.

W/ All Due Respect

I enjoyed your post - it is well-written and engaging, and obviously got me thinking about a topic that I hadn't much considered before.

I don't think you addressed points 2/3 (which are really, I guess, one larger point). You've got a quote from a guy who "considers" and "feels" about enzymes (and if you follow the link, he "believes", too), but a prof at U. Wisconsin-Madison says (skip to about page 14) that the enzymes killed in pasteurizing milk aren't enzymes that our bodies would use to aid digestion. Rather, our own native enzymes would break down the bovine enzymes.

That doesn't mean that Dr. Edward Howell's feelings and beliefs about enzymes are wrong -- enzymes are important for healthy living -- just that the enzymes you save by not pasteurizing milk aren't doing you any significant good.

So on the one hand we have speculative benefits, and on the other hand we have the fact that, when you leave the enzymes, you're leaving other stuff, too. The more I read about this and think about it, the more it seems like a case of the FDA and state legislators doing their jobs.

The last thing I want to do

is discourage people from drinking milk, but I'll see your outbreak chart and raise you some outbreaks and other health issues from pasteurized milk.

As Betsy said earlier, what goes into the cow and how the milk is handled are extremely important. What you're giving to your family is good stuff, and I wish more people were willing to pay extra for organic. But for some people, it's still not a "living" milk, and they want the raw stuff.

Maybe more harmful than helpful to your point

The doc you linked to is an example of persuasive writing. It's an argument for a particular position, which means it isn't supposed to be understood as a fair presentation of all evidence. In fact, there are a couple of blatantly cheap shots right on the page you linked to. The culprit in paragraph 1 is cow's milk, not pasteurization — the author had to shoehorn the word "pasteurized" into the quote to even give the appearance of a causal link between pasteurization and SIDS! The second paragraph also cites a source that has nothing to do with pasteurization (see for yourself - the original is here).

A clearer example might be on page 10, where the author describes food-borne illness outbreaks traceable to pasteurized milk. This would be helpful in response to an argument that pasteurized milk is 100% safe, but, of course, nobody is making that argument. The author's only attempt at taking on the real question (whether milk is safer pasteurized or un-), is on page 9, relies on statistics a 1940s trade publication and figures from a letter that is not reproduced. What you will not find is any current data showing that illnesses arising from pasteurized milk occur 30+ times more often than from raw milk. (That factor is based on the highest percent I've seen of raw-drinking Americans, which is 3%; let me know if I've got that wrong.)

In a world where 97% of milk consumed is pasteurized, you can blame every kind of milk-related badness on pasteurization — if you are willing to ignore the difference between correlation and causation.

That's one reason why I didn't

use that link sooner, as the author is a touch...eccentric. :)

But he did compile quite a bit of historical data on other (not raw milk) outbreaks, which I think is central to the argument that people deserve the right/ability to choose between the two types of milk.

You're right

Definitely central. We need some data on relative safety. Operating a car is dangerous with or without seatbelts. It's the difference between with and without that justifies legislation.

Seat Belts

NC Seat Belt Laws do not require the universal application to all passengers in all vehicles. There are many exceptions.


If your point is that we should ban raw milk except in the cases of those "with a professionally certified medical condition or mental phobia [requiring] use", I'd be willing to look into that.


You missed some other exceptions:

- Vehicles not required to have belts. In general, these are cars made before 1968 and light trucks and vans made before 1972.
- Rural letter carriers and newspaper carriers while performing duties.
- Frequently stopping delivery vehicles if speed between stops does not exceed 20 mph.
- Vehicles with "Farm" license plates while being used for agricultural purposes in intrastate commerce.
- Any occupant of a motor home, as defined in G.S. 20-4.01(27)d2, other than the driver and front seat passengers.
- Backseat occupants of law enforcement vehicles while in custody.
- Driver or passengers of residential garbage or recycling trucks during collection rounds and traveling to/from loading and unloading locations.

Also, you would think child seats are mandatory but a child restraint is not required if "If all seating positions with belts are occupied"

You can also ride in the back of a pick-up without a belt.

School buses don't typically have seat belts:

Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS) 222, "School Bus Passenger Seating and Crash Protection", does not require the installation of seat belts (other than for the driver) on new school buses with gross vehicle weight ratings (GVWRs) of greater than 10,000 pounds, the standard large school bus. Buses with GVWRs of 10,000 pounds or less are required to have seat belts for all passenger positions, but the larger buses rely on strong, well-padded, energy absorbing seats and higher seat backs to "compartmentalize" and protect passengers during a crash.

Is there an argument for

raw milk in there? I'm playing along from work today, and am maybe a little distracted, but I think we're getting sidetracked. The general rule is that you wear your seatbelt, and the general rule is that you can't sell raw milk. Are you proposing exceptions to the latter rule?

Thanks for the help. I don't mean to be dense, just don't see the parallel.

Rules & Choices

A general rule implies there are exceptions. This is the case with seat belts. The ban on selling raw milk for direct human consumption is an absolute rule in NC. It is not a general rule. Would that it were. In some other states it is a general rule with exceptions.

You brought up seat belts, for the second time, in this thread. I'm trying to see what the parallels are because seat belt laws are actually less restrictive than the laws applying to raw milk. Yes, the general rule is that you wear your seatbelt. The absolute rule in NC, not a general rule, is that you can not sell raw milk for direct human consumption. If we had raw milk laws calibrated along the lines of the seat belt laws we might actually have sales of raw milk. Yet even that is not what this bill proposes.

The proposed law still maintains the absolute rule banning sales of raw milk for direct human consumption. It provides for joint ownership of a lactating animal and direct human consumption of that animal's milk by the owners. It is restricted to herds of 10 or less (which eliminates small herds in the 10-100 range).

Yes, we have seat belt laws for a reason just as we have exceptions to those lawsfor reasons. Some raw milk exceptions would be reasonable.

I am a vegetarian who eschews milk, generally, though I am partial to a wide variety of dairy products including raw milk cheese and in my lifetime I have consumed a host of various meat products including steak tartare. I've consumed raw milk on my uncle's farm and ridden in the back of pick-ups. I've had my share of GI encounters and none of them involved dairy products. I think the pick-up bed was more dangerous. I've also ridden atop a fully loaded 40 foot trailer. I'm still here in spite of my choices.

My general rule is that I don't force my choices on other people and I don't like people forcing their choices on me. I don't recommend raw milk to anyone, much less raw meat. People should be free to consume them, with appropriate disclosure and precautions. If we let people smoke and ride in the back of pick-ups and smoke in the back of pick-ups, I don't see why we can't let them consume raw milk from their own cows.

Some of us don't have access to organic.....

Well, we do....but we can't legally buy it....ifn you know what I mean.

Vote Democratic! The ass you save may be your own.

I should have said they have it tested.

I'll do the googling tomorrow, but this is rock solid. Now, if raw milk has no regulations, then there might be problems. BUT, don't forget that homogenized milk has these regulations, gets boiled, and is STILL dirty.

Jesus Swept ticked me off. Too short. I loved the characters and then POOF it was over.


There's dirty, and then there's dirty, of course.

I love milk

and so do my kids. Think of how much healthier we'd be if we could drink raw milk.

Robin Hayes lied. Nobody died, but thousands of folks lost their jobs.

Vote Democratic! The ass you save may be your own.

Great post, Steve.

They should be paying you. Oh, they are?

Just kidding. I'm really glad to see this story because is brings Kay to life in a new way. Well told, too.

Excellent post

Great post, and great example of government gone wild. I wrote this post in December about the dairy industry in particular -- it's a great example of how government serves corporate interests instead of the people:


William (B.J.) Lawson
Congressional Candidate, North Carolina's 4th District

William (B.J.) Lawson, M.D.
Congressional Candidate, North Carolina's 4th District

Very nice, Steve

I hope it passes because I've been planning to buy raw milk in South Carolina even though I'm surrounded by cows here in Union. This would be a big bonus for us.

Oh...and thanks, Kay.

Robin Hayes lied. Nobody died, but thousands of folks lost their jobs.

Vote Democratic! The ass you save may be your own.

Excellent information.

thanks, Steve ... and Kay ... and Pricey.

Raw milk does taste different, too ... mmmm ... deeper, richer, better. Like the difference between a tomato warm off the vine and one that's been cooled in the refrigerator.

"It is amazing what you can accomplish if you do not care who gets the credit." - Harry Truman

"They took all the trees and put them in a tree museum Then they charged the people a dollar 'n a half just to see 'em. Don't it always seem to go that you don't know what you've got till it's gone? They paved paradise and put up a parking lot."

We'll drink a toast of raw milk

if it passes.:)

I'll definitely drink some. I've been getting my eggs (I eat a lot of them) from a friend who feeds his chickens the right stuff, and this raw milk is right down my alley.

I also take some other (weird) stuff, like fish oil so my heart won't explode, St. John's wort so I won't attack innocent civilians, gingko biloba to increase my mental powers to super-human levels, etc. :)

Lips off the teat

If I ever see my kid crawling up under a cow to suckle directly from its teat, I'll stop him. And give forth a hearty "what the hell is the matter with you, boy?" Can someone explain why I should feel differently about raw milk? I'm sure vitamins or enzymes or something are lost when McDonalds cooks up Big Mac, but I'm sure as hell not signing onto a "raw Big Mac" campaign.

I'd check this out. I'd also consider the fact that 300+ Americans got sick from raw milk in 2001. Before you go comparing that to the number of people who get sick from shellfish or strawberries, consider that only a small percentage of people even know what raw milk is. Of that small percentage, most probably don't care enough to go drink any, and some more (like me! hi!) are definitely not going to drink it. That 300 is probably a fairly significant part of people who drink raw milk or eat raw milk cheese.

I get that our culture is bad about passing up natural solutions to problems in favor of costlier, more complicated solutions. And I understand that we too often fail to take heed of the wisdom of the past. But can you just let the scientists clean your milk, even if it means you have to take a Flintstones now and again to get your vitamin C?

More on the benefits

of raw milk:

Raw cow's milk has all 20 of the standard amino acids, saving our bodies the work of having to convert any into usable form. About 80% of the proteins in milk are caseins- reasonably heat stable but easy to digest. The remaining 20% or so fall into the class of whey proteins, many of which have important physiological effects (bioactivity). Also easy to digest, but very heat sensitive, these include key enzymes (specialized proteins) and enzyme inhibitors, immunoglobulins (antibodies), metal-binding proteins, vitamin binding proteins and several growth factors.

The 60 plus (known) fully intact and functional enzymes in raw milk have an amazing array of tasks to perform, each one of them essential for one key task or another. Some of them are native to milk, and others come from beneficial bacteria growing in the milk.

To me, the most significant health benefit derived from food enzymes is the burden they take off our body. When we eat a food that contains enzymes devoted to its own digestion, it's that much less work for our pancreas. Given the choice, I'll bet that busy organ would rather occupy itself with making metabolic enzymes, letting food digest itself.
The amylase, bacterially-produced lactase, lipase and phosphatase in raw milk, break down starch, lactose (milk sugar), fat (triglycerides) and phosphate compounds respectively, making milk more digestible and freeing up key minerals. Other enzymes, like catalase, lysozyme and lactoperoxidase help to protect milk from unwanted bacterial infection, making it safer for us to drink.

With high levels of lactic acid, numerous enzymes and increased vitamin content, 'soured' or fermented dairy products like yogurt and kefir (made with bacteria and yeast, actually) provide a plethora of health benefits for the savvy people who eat them. Being acid lovers, these helpful little critters make it safely through the stomach's acid environment to reach the intestines where they really begin to work their magic (Above right, Lactobacillus casei).
Down there in the pitch black, some of them make enzymes that help break proteins apart- a real benefit for people with weakened digestion whether it be from age, pharmaceutical side-effects or illness.

scharrison, thanks

But these are the same claims I'm seeing refuted in the FDA literature. All the links in that article are internal (that is, only point to pages). There's a "science stuff" section, but it consists of long lists of journal articles grouped into sections like "calcium". I wish they would just say "here is the peer-reviewed work showing that the FDA is wrong about cow enzymes being broken down by our bodies' own enzymes before they can do us any good."

I guess I'm about ready to give it up, anyway. The raw milk ban sounds like good regulation to me. At the very least, it seems like the kind of decision we created the FDA to make. But I nonetheless hope that those of you who succeed in getting around (or knocking down) the ban stay healthy.

One sort of meta thing about this conversation — it's a reminder of how much about politics is situational, rather than "liberal" or "conservative" (and, consequently, doesn't fit neatly into the national political narrative). The "it's my decision, the government should stay out of it" argument (made here implicitly and explicitly) is something I usually think of as conservative. One of the things fascinates me about communities like BlueNC is how flipping necessary they are. The barber shop is too small a venue for this kind of conversation, and MSNBC is too big. You're all to be congratulated for keeping this (broader) discussion alive.

Even if you are crazy to want to drink salmonella milk.

Conflicts of interest

As I hinted at before, I have lost faith in the objectivity of many government agencies, which (I believe) are rife with conflicts of interest:

USDA secretary Ann Veneman is a former director of Calgene (swallowed by Monsanto and now part of Pharmacia), the biotech company that heralded the world's first genetically altered food, the Flavr Savr tomato. Before becoming USDA secretary, Veneman, an attorney, was appointed by California Governor Pete Wilson as the secretary of the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA).

Linda J. Fisher... Vice President of Government and Public Affairs for Monsanto Corporation, a leading developer of biotech foods, has been nominated for the second-ranking job at the Environmental Protection Agency. Fisher, who worked as Assistant Administrator of the United States Environmental Protection Agency's Office of Pollution Prevention, Pesticides, and Toxic Substances for 10 years before heading Monsanto's Washington lobbying office, was nominated for the post of deputy administrator. She also served on a U.S. Agriculture Department advisory committee on biotech foods. One of the major issues currently before the EPA is a request from Aventis SA to approve a genetically- modified corn known as StarLink for human consumption. StarLink, a variety altered to repel pests, was barred from human food in 1998 due to concerns that it might trigger allergic reactions in some people. - Reuters 1may01

Michael A. Friedman, M.D. . . former acting commissioner of the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Department of Health and Human Services . . .now senior vice-president for clinical affairs at G. D. Searle & Co., a pharmaceutical division of Monsanto Corporation.

Carol Tucker Foreman. . . former Monsanto lobbyist was appointed by to serve as U.S. "Consumer Advocate" on U.S. Biotech Consultative Forum Delegation. Ignoring the unanimous recommendation of many consumer and agriculture groups concerned about biotechnology, the White House, with input from the U.S. State Department, recently appointed its own "consumer advocate" to the global Biotech Consultative Forum which was formed to head off any foreign anti-biotech concerns.
"I'd say that the massive PR counter assault against biotech activists has just scored its most important victory with this appointment of one of them as our consumer activist," charged John Stauber, PR Watch Managing Editor in reacting to the appointment of Carol Tucker Foreman of the now very dubious "Consumer Federation of America" (CFA) to serve on the panel.
Although a number of groups had forwarded the name of Dr. Michael Hansen of Consumer Union's Consumer Policy Institute, Dr. Hansen, who has testified before Congress and many other bodies exposing false claims made by the Monsanto Corporation pertaining to the company's manufacture of recombinant Bovine Growth Hormone and other products, was passed over in favor of Foreman, a recent former lobbyist for Monsanto.

Terry Medley . . . former administrator of the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) of the United States Department of Agriculture, former chair and vice-chair of the United States Department of Agriculture Biotechnology Council, former member of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) food advisory committee, and now Director of Regulatory and External Affairs of Dupont Corporation's Agricultural Enterprise.

Margaret Miller . . . former chemical laboratory supervisor for Monsanto, working on rBGH safety studies until 1989. . . now Deputy Director of Human Food Safety and Consultative Services, New Animal Drug Evaluation Office, Center for Veterinary Medicine in the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA). [2,3]

Michael Taylor . . . former legal advisor to the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA)'s Bureau of Medical Devices and Bureau of Foods, later executive assistant to the Commissioner of the FDA, where he wrote the rBGH labelling guidelines that prohibit the dairy industry from stating that their products either contain or are free from rBGH. Even worse than that, the FDA ruled that the labels of non-rBGH products must state that there is no difference between rBGH and the natural hormone. And wasn't the only ex-Monsanto employee-turned FDA official involved in rBGH policy. (See Margaret Miller, Suzanne Sechen) . . . Still later he was a partner at the law firm of King & Spaulding where he supervised a nine-lawyer group whose clients included Monsanto Agricultural Company. He was instrumental in advising Monsanto in their legal power to sue states or companies that alerted the public that their products were rBGH-free. . . .Still later he was Deputy Commissioner for Policy at the United States Food and Drug Administration, and now again with the law firm of King & Spaulding.

Alright, I quoted too much. But people need to understand just how tainted the upper levels of the Executive bureaucracy are, especially if they're looking for guidance on health matters.

Proposed bill still restrictive

The actual bill being discussed does not provide for the sale of raw milk, restricted or otherwise. The law will still state that:

Only milk that is Grade "A" pasteurized milk may be sold or dispensed directly to consumers for human consumption.

The language changed is basically in two paragraphs to allow owners and, in particular, joint owners of lactating animals to consume raw milk from their own animals:

(b) Any person may purchase a share or an interest in a cow, goat, or other lactating animal or herd when the number of animals or the size of the herd is 10 or fewer

(c) Raw milk may not be dispensed to any person for human consumption unless the dispenser of the raw milk provides notice to the person to whom the raw milk is dispensed of the public health risks associated with human consumption of raw milk. The Commission shall adopt rules providing for notice to persons to whom raw milk or raw milk products are dispensed for human consumption of the public health risks associated with human consumption of raw milk. The rules shall include a requirement that containers of raw milk for human consumption must contain a warning label affixed to the container indicating the public health risks associated with human consumption of raw milk. The rules shall also require the public health notice to be provided by means other than container labels in cases where the raw milk is dispensed into a container that is not provided by the dispenser of the raw milk. As used in this subsection "raw milk" includes raw milk products."