Indiana is currently considering several bills that will either legalize or further restrict access to raw milk in Indiana. If we are going to get legislation that is ultimately beneficial to raw milk consumers we will have to make our voices heard LOUD and CLEAR. Make no mistake, industrial food and their lobbying organizations are making their voices heard LOUD and CLEAR that they want to see no raw milk. So if we believe raw milk is worth fighting for, then we are going to have to work for it and be smart about it.
In 2012 Indiana Board of Animal Health (BOAH) was charged with studying the issue related to legalizing raw milk for human consumption. This report outlines how BOAH would intend to regulate raw milk if it were to be officially legalized. Herein I wish to provide my personal comments on BOAH’s report and the regulation possibilities.
First, let us all recognize the efforts of those who were on the Raw Milk Study Panel and the many hundreds of people who sent in their remarks for consideration by the Study Panel. Though it is possible one could object to different statements in the report, one must also make a genuine effort to understand others’ perspectives in how they may come to proffer such remarks, including those which we may disagree with. Seek first to understand, then to be understood.
The first thing we must all understand is that, contrary to popular belief, our system of government is not supposed to be a democracy based on opinions, where two wolves and a sheep decide what's for dinner. In fact, our Founding Fathers despised democracy. If you don’t believe me, go do some homework on why our Founding Fathers set up our Constitutional Republic the way they did. The reason I continue to harp on the “freedom” element in my writing is that many Americans simply don’t “get it” when it comes to knowing what freedom is, and value of it not just for themselves but for everyone else too. One can have an opinion on whether raw milk is good or bad, but that should have absolutely no bearing on the laws governing Hoosier Americans.
The biggest concern I have with the way proposed regulation of raw milk will work is that raw milk will be regulated through an agency of our government, the Board of Animal Health. I am not at all suggesting that people who serve us in the Board of Animal Health are any less than 100% dedicated to genuinely implementing regulations that they feel are appropriate in order to have safe raw milk consumption. The problem lies if they decide to arbitrarily implement regulations that in reality have little-to-no safety benefit but increase the cost of production—or worse yet, if they implement regulations that could even decrease safety.
To put this agency-regulation issue into perspective, take a look at the Environmental Protection Agency’s Renewable Fuels Mandate: We had one of the worst droughts on record last year. Yet the Environmental Protection Agency, with the authority granted to it by congress, decided it was NOT in the best interest of Americans to rescind the Renewable Fuels mandate, which is consuming approximately 40% of our nation’s corn. The EPA argued that there would be no change in grain prices (food prices). Rather than allowing the free market to sort out what is more important for Americans during times of drought, the EPA continued to mandate that food be turned into fuel thus driving up food prices. When few people can afford to pay $20,000 per acre for farm land and a growing number of people cannot even afford to eat, something has gone awry. But they were thinking only of their environmental protection goals, not adapting to the changing reality. Unfortunately, what can we do about it? The EPA doesn’t answer to us, and neither will the BOAH.
In similar fashion, on page 1 of their Raw Milk Report “BOAH believes that pasteurization is a practice that is highly effective in reducing the risk of human illness from pathogens in raw milk. Distributing raw milk for human consumption will increase the risk that someone will become ill from consuming raw milk.” You know, if you only drive a horse and buggy that also reduces your chance of dying in a plane crash. Of course if raw milk is legalized and distributed for human consumption there is going to be increased risk of illness! If more people are drinking raw milk, more people will likely get sick from raw milk—if less people were drinking pasteurized milk, less people will develop illnesses associated with pasteurized milk. What is their point? They are arbitrarily holding raw milk to a standard of “zero tolerance” for risk of foodborne illness which is completely unreasonable, meanwhile ignoring the increased risks of chronic problems such as allergies, lactose-intolerance, and diet-related diseases associated with pasteurized milk. On a side note, this "zero tolerance" foodborne-illness standard is not universally applied to thousands of other foods sold raw. When it comes to legalizing raw milk, the argument of relative risk of raw milk OR pasteurized milk is a moot point. The point should be about people’s freedoms to produce, distribute, and consume as they see fit—to choose what risks they are willing to take. Don’t tell me what milk I can drink, and I won’t tell you how to make your coffee.
BOAH’s complete Raw Milk Report references numerous agencies and organizations that opine why they are against raw milk. Over and over they suggest “raw milk is bad and it should not be allowed.” The funny thing is most of these opinions reference the very same March 2012 CDC study that condemned raw milk. Even though I believe otherwise about raw milk, reading through this report I even began to doubt it. Hello!! This is Psychology 101 in action – repeat the same thing to people nine times, they will begin to believe it as the truth. Our legislators who may not know a whole lot about raw milk, after reading this biased “Study Report,” may likewise form an opinion against raw milk. But the point I make here is this: OPINION SHOULDN'T MATTER. This countries fundamental core principles include promoting the general welfare and securing the blessings of liberty. It is debatable whether raw or pasteurized milk is better for the people, but since neither affect anyone outside of those who knowingly consume them, we should turn to liberty—people’s freedom to be responsible, assume risk, and choose their food.
So how should legal raw milk access be defined?
Testing and regulation
I am of the opinion that the best scenario for everyone will come through free-market competitiveness and transparency between consumer and producer. To be competitive, I must be able to prove the safety of our milk to our consumers through rigorous milk testing. That way our customers can be confident in our product, AND we have a measure of our sanitation standards in order to effectively prevent raw milk illnesses the best we practically can. The testing I'm talking about vs. Grade A regulations are not one in the same. Many Grade A standards do not improve safety and merely increase production costs to the detriment of small- and medium-sized operations. I would want to see these standards modified for the circumstances involved with REAL (raw) MILK production which are different from the issues facing a conventional dairy.
Furthermore, any regulations should not have any biases. The current BOAH-proposed regulation would make raw milk comply with Grade A standards, but Grade A raw milk would not be allowed to contain “Grade A” on the label. Don’t you love the influence of Industrial Dairy? I don’t think there should be a requirement that raw milk farmers have to subscribe to the same set of rules that conventional dairy farmers subscribe to in order to market their milk, but I do believe if raw milk does meet the same standards as any other Grade A operation, I should have the freedom to inform consumers of this information for competitive purposes.
There should absolutely be NO official sell by date! Some farms can produce raw milk that can last only one week, while other, more competitive farms—through different practices—are able to produce raw milk that will last five weeks. Regulating to the lowest common denominator stifles ingenuity and deprives the marketplace of higher value products!
Purdue “milk” experts are exploiting and propagating the common myth that raw milk goes bad quickly, and therefore is advocating for a two day sell-by date. First, they are flat out wrong on this point. Their recommendation would actually lead to INCREASED RISK of illness from raw milk – due to raw milk’s immune systems not having a long enough opportunity to kill or reduce pathogens, namely campylobacter. Sure, there is the possibility that raw milk could go bad quickly, just like most of us have had pasteurized milk from the store or in the school that soured early. Just because I have a hard landing in an airplane every so often does not make me a bad pilot. With all due respect, just because raw milk sometimes goes bad early, or raw milk from certain dairies goes bad early, does not mean raw milk cannot stay good for a longer period of time. This is a dairy management, inventory, consumer responsibility issue. A two-day sell-by date means the entire inventory would have to be turned every two days – meaning a TON of milk could be getting thrown out in order to maintain a consistent supply of “legal” milk two days or less fresh. This one regulation alone would add considerably to the cost of affording people access to raw milk. This whole notion of requiring a two-day sell-by date shows how regulation can make raw milk production overly, unnecessarily expensive and therefore unavailable through over-regulation.
Access to Raw Milk
How could there be ANY restriction of delivery or access to raw milk anywhere? What if you packed raw milk (products) in your child’s lunch bucket? Would that be prohibited? Any suggestion that raw milk cannot enjoy the same (free) market access as pasteurized milk hints again at rigging the rules to pick a favorite. Raw milk can be transported as safely as pasteurized milk.
Furthermore even though milk does not have any addictive properties that I've heard of, for other reasons people are seeking this nearly impossible-to-access product. People are growing more consciously aware of their health choices, and interestingly enough people more and more people are wanting raw milk as the preferred healthier choice. Why are we allowing our government to stifle access and interfere with our lifestyle choices?
I don’t mean to be alarming, but in other news there is talk of there being a national raw milk law protecting children from their parents, essentially preventing parents from giving their children raw milk. This is setting a precedent that children are the property of the state rather than belonging to their parents. This move played before in Nazi Germany where Germans ordered children into Youth Groups where they could be indoctrinated as useful cogs in the Nazi’s war machine. If we think it's okay for our government representatives to vote based on “emotion” or their opinion—good intentioned or not—we are headed toward a dangerous reality. It's imperative that we protect ourselves from public opinion through the hard core fundamental principles of personal freedom and responsibility or we will (continue) to slip into the same scenario as the Germans and so many other totalitarian regimes.
Any raw milk regulations MUST respect each person’s right to choose for themselves and their families.
Wishing you wellness and happiness,
Farmer Mark Grieshop