First a little history lesson.
For many of you, this is well known stuff and I’m not divulging any big secrets. For some though, the idea of fresh, raw milk seems rather eccentric or bizarre. If this gets too boring, just skim (haha) on down to the Here and Now.
Once upon a time, milk was just milk. There wasn’t a need to differentiate between pasteurized and raw, especially for those who were blessed with a nearby dairy. Pasteurization did not become the generally accepted treatment for milk until the forties around WWII when foods were becoming more and more processed to extend shelf life. After the war, America became consumed with convenience and modernization and the first super markets opened, fast food restaurants appeared, and the US government was firmly entrenched in influencing the foods it’s citizens would have access to. The USDA started driving policy with health and convenience at the core, only there was less health and more convenience. Crisco was in every pantry as the healthy alternative to lard, margarine displaced butter, and liquid milk had all kinds of things being done to it. Cream had long been skimmed from whole milk for all sorts of delicacies and the leftover milk was a favorite for fattening hogs, but as farming became more vertical and farms became more specialized and monocultured, symbiotic practices fell by the wayside. Dairy farms no longer had pigs and fewer farms had them nearby, so dairies needed something to do with the skim milk. So a campaign was manufactured to tout skim milk as “healthy” since women were starting to compare their bodies to starlets, the bikini was rising in popularity, and it made sense that eating fat made you fat, right?
So now milk’s being divided, pasteurized, homogenized and even powdered. The problem was that folks would long for the rich creamy milk of their childhood and would seek out the old dairyman who’d still sell a few quarts of fresh milk. Well the official position of the USDA and FDA became that the only way milk was suitable for consumption was for it to be pasteurized, so to keep the feds happy states began outlawing or severely restricting the sale of raw, unpasteurized milk. But the people still longed for milk as God had intended it, so they sought it out, legal or not. Why the hoopla? Is flavor really that much of a motivation alone? Or was it something more?
Milk has long been a staple in the diet of omnivorous humans. Milk is a whole food that delivered protein, fat, carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals and probiotics. Throughout the history of man; cows, goats, sheep, camel and even horses I’m told, were a source of sustainable nutrition in the form of milk. At some point someone put some milk in the stomach of a calf for transportation and he later found the milk had turned into something awesome and wonderful, cheese. Cheese, yogurt, butter, and kefir became the means to extend the nutritive qualities of milk since there was no such thing as refrigeration. What was found was that these cultured forms of milk boosted the milks already nutrition and health benefits. Owning a goat or cow for many a family was the difference between life and death. And so, all throughout history, man has relied on dairy. Unpasteurized dairy. That’s right!
Somehow, for thousands of years, people have been risking their very lives by drinking milk because according to the FDA, CDC, and every commercial dairyman; milk is an inherently dangerous food and should not be consumed unless it’s been heated up to kill all the bacteria. But how did the human race survive being constantly inundated with deadly pathogens in their milk? Not only survive but thrive? It’s because milk from healthy, grass fed cows is one of the healthiest foods on earth. Pasteurization was a man-made solution to a man-made problem. Cows who are in crowded conditions, fed a diet heavy in grain and byproducts, and rarely live in sunlight, are going to make toxic milk. Milk that I wouldn’t feed to my dogs. Pasteurization also destroys any beneficial bacteria and enzymes, totally restructures the proteins, and strips it of the naturally occurring vitamin D and calcium milk is supposed to be an excellent source of so it must be artificially fortified. After all that, milk is homogenized to evenly distribute the fat by beating it to bits (we don’t want anyone hurting themselves with shaking their milk do we?)
And so Here and Now.
A few days ago, I received word that a Representative out of Cherokee County by the name of Scot Turner had drafted a bill that would create another designation for raw milk as being “ungraded” and that ungraded raw milk would not be regulated by the department of Agriculture and therefore permitted to be sold for human consumption. At first it sounded a little enticing and attractive. But then I spoke with a few others, and i thought about it for a while. I then came to realize that the Georgia Department of Agriculture would never permit some milk to be regulated, and some of it not. Their job is to protect the masses from choosing to consume potentially lethal substances disguised as food so of cours, they would regulate raw milk intended for human consumption. They’d regulate to the point that most producers wouldn’t be able to meet the standards and would quit selling milk. The regulations and licensing requirements would drive up the cost of milk and likely make it so that only one or two farms would be able to sell raw milk.
Wednesday, February 19 was the hearing before the Agriculture and Consumer Affairs committee. Anyone who wished to speak, could sign up to do so. I chose not to ask to speak since I had no idea what it was that would be said, and I didn’t want to unknowingly incriminate myself. The hearing started with Mr. Turner speaking about an experience where he met a group of folks carrying signs and carrying on about legalizing raw milk. It was to his dismay, he learned that a person in Georgia could not freely purchase raw milk for human consumption. So he decided to take up this issue as a banner for individual rights and liberty. Unfortunately, Mr. Turner never contacted any farmers who were actively selling raw milk labeled for pet food which is completely legal. He never sought their input nor the customers of those farmers. If he had, he would have heard a resounding NO. The current policy on raw milk in Georgia has been quite agreeable for many farmers and their customers. But he did not, and HB 718 was drafted and presented to the Ag Committee. As he gave his presentation, some committee members had incredulous expressions and one even asked, “What’s Pet milk? I’ve never heard of it.”
The room wasn’t quite standing room only, but it was pretty full. It was easy to spot those who came because they feared their access to raw milk was in danger. One easily recognized the moms and grandmothers who on speaking, revealed that they took the health and well being of their families beyond what is generally accepted as “normal”. The there was a small crowd of young professionals with notepads, tablets and smartphones at the ready. I could only guess that these were aids to members of the General Assembly or lobbyists. Then there was a small group of 5 or so middle aged to elderly men who didn’t speak to anyone outside their group and then in a tight lipped manner.
After Mr. Turner spoke, those who signed up to speak before the committee, were called. First, were the raw milk supporters who regularly purchase milk labeled as pet food and are quite happy with it. One in particular came armed with an arsenal of supporting documentation on the nutritional value and safe track record of raw milk. She spoke of how she has built relationships and trust with small farmers she has come to depend upon for the food she provides her family. She ended by stating that she did not support the bill as it was written as she feared it would be detrimental to small farmers. Many of the committee members were intrigued with her presentation and ask a few questions for clarification.
Next was the one and only supporter of the Bill, Iris Peeler who is the head of the dairy program at Berry College in Rome, and whose family owns a dairy farm in South Carolina where retail sale of raw milk is legal. Ms. Peeler supports access to raw milk, but only under government regulation. Following Mrs. Peeler, a fellow stood and announced that he’d like to concede his turn to speak over to the members of the Georgia Dairy Producers Association, giving the commercial dairy farmers the last say. None of them came prepared with written statements or supporting documents. Every single one of them spoke of how inherently dangerous raw milk was and that people need to be protected from it. All they could say to back up their claims was to say “the CDC says so.” They all spoke of how even though they used best management practices, it could not be determined if any one cow was infected or shedding harmful bacteria. The last one to speak was a retired farmer, who told a long rambling tale about even though he grew up drinking raw milk and confidently gave to his children, he stopped when one day his 9 year old son became ill, so ill that he spent weeks at Scottish Rite hospital in Atlanta. That was when he determined that raw milk was too dangerous and stopped drinking it. This was 30 years ago. He also told of how the cow was just designed to get contaminated because her milk supply is below her rectum. He even claimed that pasteurized milk was a superior food for calves, at which I nearly jumped out of my seek to exclaim, “BS!” The final words that rang out were, “We have to protect the children. The risk is too great!” Following the commercial dairy farmers, Gary Black, the Department of Agriculture Commissioner got up to speak. He was careful not to flat out state he was anti-raw milk as he heard that there were people in the crowd who did not trust the Dept. of Ag to do what was right for small farms and their customers. It was also revealed that the FDA had sent a position statement to the committee members with a book of data for their reading enjoyment.
After all the testimony, Mr. Turner was able to give a closing statement. He cited that even though we’ve had outbreaks in spinach, lettuces, and peanut butter; none if these foods were outlawed. It was pointed out by the committee chairman, Mr. Tom McCall, that parties on both sides of the issue did not support the bill and it made it difficult to know exactly how to proceed. Mr. Turner pointed out that several states permit raw milk sales for human consumption, and that if it’s good enough in other states such as South Carolina. One of the Committee members pointedly asked Commissioner Black, why can they do it in South Carolina, but we can’t in Georgia? He didn’t have a very clear, non-political answer for that.
We’ve had it good in Georgia. Raw milk is NOT illegal, so there’s no need for a campaign to legalize it. Seeking approval to sell raw milk as a food for human consumption, will not legitimize it. Raw milk has always been legitimate because even with a label touting that it could be harboring harmful bacteria and is sold as pet food, people can purchase it and do with it what they please. Those who want can get it. No, it’s not available alongside jugs of Mayfield in the grocery stores and it’s not particularly convenient to have to meet a truck at a drop off point, or to have to go to the farm, but food should not be convenient. It’s convenience that has destroyed the American food system and created an overfed, undernourished population.
Please take a moment to express to Scot Turner, firstname.lastname@example.org, that we aren’t oppressed in Georgia. Those who want it can get it, those who produce it can sell it. Fighting for individual liberty and freedom is great and noble, this just isn’t the issue to use to do it with.