Proponents of raw milk are busy preparing for their next campaign after lawmakers in Maryland announced they would consider allowing the state's dairy farmers to sell milk straight from the cow. It's no small victory for a group of consumers who feel that milk and other foods are more healthful if they're unrefined by modern technology.
“I prefer the term ‘living whole foods,'” said Mark McAfee, owner of Organic Pastures, a Fresno, Calif., farm that makes pasture-grazed raw dairy products. “The word ‘raw’ has too much of a roadkill connotation to it.”
McAfee, who also developed a certification program called Raw USA, is a leader in the movement that believes pasteurization and ultra-pasteurization remove many nutrients that allow the body to fight off disease and heal itself.
Currently, the market for raw milk is fairly limited; drinkers can purchase products at retail outlets in only seven states, including California. In many others, legislative bans on direct sales have compelled consumers to develop unique share programs.
“We enter into these lease agreements where we pay a farmer to take care of the cow and milk the cow,” said Sally Fallon, president of the Weston A. Price Foundation, which administers the national Campaign for Real Milk. Part-owners of the cow are entitled to the milk.
Leading raw milk proponents include a group Fallon calls “passionate moms,” who have switched their children over to whole foods, including raw milk, and have seen “tremendous changes in their children's health, improvements in their behavior and performance in school,” she said. “And there is nothing that is going to stop them getting this dairy.”
With the majority of states still prohibiting sale of raw dairy products to some degree, much of the purchasing is furtive, akin to the black market. Even the Food and Drug Administration recently issued an updated consumer warning on the dangers of raw milk, which specifically called proponents' claims that raw milk is inherently antimicrobial “myths.” Until science vindicates them, however, raw milk drinkers like Fallon say they'll continue to fight on the grounds of consumer choice. And that's where she expects supermarkets to join the debate.
“I've predicted from the beginning that when demand becomes great enough, and enough people are driving out to farms to get their raw milk, the real force behind legalization is going to come from retailers,” she said.