NY Hearing Officer to Smiths: “Raw Milk Is Raw Milk, Whether It Is Sold or Bartered or Given Away”  


David E. Gumpert

The notion that a hearing officer engaged by New York’s Department of Agriculture and Markets would recommend a ruling in favor of the agency, and against Barb and Steve Smith, is no big surprise. What is surprising is the logic the officer, Susan Weber, used in her 21-page report--just sent last week to the Smiths--which is based on two days of hearings held last January concerning charges against the Smiths and their Meadowsweet Dairy LLC. The Smiths established a limited liability company—really, a type of herdshare—and argued that the LLC placed them outside the tentacles of NY Ag & Markets.

Please use this link to go to the original article and read the comments. They are worth the extra effort.

Even less of a surprise is that the Ag & Markets Commissioner, Patrick Hooker, accepted the hearing officer’s recommendations and ordered the Smiths to abide by state regulations, including obtaining a raw milk permit, if they want to make unpasteurized milk available to their shareholders. Of course, that would mean they couldn’t make other products like yogurt, cream, butter, and buttermilk available. Hooker actually went further than the hearing officer, ignoring even her two modest favorable conclusions for the Smiths-- that no raw-milk sales had occurred, and that the Smiths' milk hadn't violated coliform standards, since none exist in NY for raw milk.

What’s interesting about Weber’s report is that it seems to be telling the Smiths: You may be doing everything correctly in using an LLC to distribute milk to shareholders, but it’s illegal all the same.

For example, to the argument by the Smiths' lawyer, Gary Cox (of the Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund) that New York’s milk laws don’t prohibit herdshare-type arrangements, hearing officer Weber states: “There is the definition of raw milk, which appears to require a sale; there is the consumer who must apparently purchase in order for the milk she or he drinks to be regulated under law; there is the milk plant which must apparently receive milk intended for pasteurization or not qualify as a milk plant. Respondents would have us hang our hats upon these inconsistencies, find them dispositive, and dismiss the State’s case. To do so would fly in the face of common sense and defeat the clear legislative intent to cover the field of dairy regulation for the protection of public health.”

Yes, “protection” over all.

Similarly, she states: “I conclude that the arrangement between its members and Meadowsweet for the distribution of raw milk and raw milk products is not a purchase and sale transaction, but is a distribution of profit based upon the value of the members’ contributions.”

But then she adds, “It is well established that the law cannot be employed for an illegal purpose…Consequently, while members may obtain raw milk and raw milk products at the farm as a distribution from the LLC, I find that the LLC must be in compliance with applicable laws governing manufacture, processing, handling, and distribution of dairy products.”

Shades of Catch-22?

Finally, she expresses concerns about sanitation violations discovered by Ag & Markets, including “the north wall is caked with old manure, chickens were found roaming free in the milking barn,” along with flies, mouse droppings, and spider webs observed. Even though she allows that “the Department offered no evidence that there was any actual injury to the public or any intent to deceive consumers by offering product which was not what it was purported to be,” the claim about unsanitary conditions “was the most compelling”to her.

To Weber, “The Department’s evidence establishes beyond doubt that the conditions at Meadowsweet in October of 2007 were not sanitary, that the products produced, processed and manufactured there may have been contaminated with filth or rendered diseased, unwholesome or injurious to health.”

Never mind that real farms have for ages had chickens intermingling with cows, and have had spider webs and mouse droppings around…or that no members of the LLC-herdshare have become ill, or even made a single complaint to any governmental authorities, after numerous visits to the dairy to pick up their milk.

It’s easy to dismiss this report as inherently biased and also point out that it isn’t yet enforceable because the Smiths have a court case pending against Ag & Markets in state court seeking exemption from Ag & Markets of the LLC-herdshare model.

But the fact is that a quasi-legal opinion has moved the nation's second-largest state a large step closer to rendering herdshares illegal. You can be sure the judge in the Smiths' case will read the hearing officer's report. This NY decision comes after a court in the largest state sided with the California Department of Agriculture a few months ago in refusing to suspend enforcement of the state’s 10-coliform-per-milliliter coliform standard.

In both cases, the voices of the judiciary were essentially saying: You raw-milk people may have logical arguments, but we mortal judge types don’t pretend to really understand this stuff, so we’re accepting everything the regulators tell us, whether it’s true or not, because...they're regulators and, doggon it, we trust them to protect our health. And you few who don’t trust them to protect your health, well, that’s your problem.


Raw milk in cheeses doesn't pose same risk, prof says  



August 09, 2008



Popular cheeses such as Parmesan, Emmenthal and old cheddar are often made from unpasteurized milk, but they don't present the same health risks that fresh raw milk does, an expert at University of Guelph says.

Fully pasteurized milk is subjected to a temperature of 72 C for 16 seconds, which kills most of the harmful organisms in milk so that it's safe to drink.

But there's another process used for milk, called "heat-treating," in which the milk is held at a lower temperature: 55 to 65 C for 16 seconds. This doesn't pasteurize the milk; it kills dangerous bacteria but leaves a wider range of bacteria alive, says food sciences professor Art Hill.

And it's these other bacteria that give the cheeses their flavour.

Meanwhile, the cheesemaking process, which often involves "cooking" the cheese curds for hours at temperatures resembling a very hot bath, is a further guard against harmful bacteria.

So is the aging process.

Overall, the drier and harder that cheese made from unpasteurized milk is, the safer it is to eat. Parmesan cheese has no safety issues, Hill says. Raw-milk cheddar presents more risk, but it's still a very small risk.

Hill said he will eat raw-milk cheddar with no concerns. "But I wouldn't give it to my immune-compromised grandmother."

Cheeses made from raw milk are legal in Ontario, provided they've been aged for 60 days.

Quebec recently changed the law to allow some raw-milk cheeses aged less than 60 days, mostly to allow for the production of raw-milk Camembert.

The rationale is that this cheese is riskier to eat the longer it ripens.

Some of these cheese are made from heat-treated milk, others from milk that hasn't been treated at all.



Skirt The Law With A Herdshare  


Aug 6, 2008

Get Your (Legal) Local Milk

By Samantha Cleaver

Raw, unpasteurized local milk illegal in your state? Still want to get a frothy cup of local milk each morning?

There may be a way around the raw milk laws—a herdshare. When you own the cow getting your raw milk isn’t illegal.

For example, Valerie Taylor with Eat. Drink. Better. is part of a herdshare. She owns 3/25 of Cinnamon, a Jersey cow, who lives on a local dairy farmer’s land and pays $50 per share. Each week she drives to the farm and picks up 3 gallons of milk, at $5.08 per gallon its getting to be a bargain.

The benefits of herdsharing: knowing that your milk comes from cows raised on pasture (instead of in huge, corn-fed barns) and without rBGH (bovine growth hormone). And, for some people, the benefit of drinking raw milk.

To make sure your herdshare is safe, buy milk from farms that are set up to produce it and learn more:

RealMilk.com has information about how to set up a legal herdshare, and raw milk farmers around the U.S.


Dairy Farming Over 8,000 Years Old  


The Press Association

Cows and goats were being milked more than 8,000 years ago, according to new evidence which pushes back the origins of dairy farming by two millennia.

Scientists found fatty traces on ancient pottery that showed they were used to store dairy products.

The findings also suggest that milk processing was taking place as long ago as the seventh millennium BC.

Raw milk residues would not have survived so well over the centuries. The traces found by the researchers are thought to have been left by dairy products such as cheese and ghee.

Although cattle, sheep and goats are known to have been domesticated in the Near East by the eighth millennium BC, there was no early evidence that they were used for anything other than meat.

Until now the first clear evidence of milk production only appeared in the late fifth millennium.

The new discovery arose from an analysis of 2,200 pottery vessels from the Near East and the Balkans.

Residues found in some of the pots contained residues with a particular carbon signature which showed they were derived from milk.

Milking was especially important in north-western Anatolia, the ancient region that covered most of modern Turkey, the scientists reported in the journal Nature.

The international team, led by Dr Richard Evershed from the University of Bristol, wrote in the journal Nature: "Our results provide new insights into the emergence of dairying as a component of the domestication of animals. The appearance of dairy products at early sites in the region is the earliest evidence so far, by one - two millennia, dating back to the start of ceramics in the region; this indicates an earlier date for the milking of domesticated animals than predicted by reconstructions based on other lines of evidence".




Raw-milk fans simmer at seminar

For The Daily News

Lebanon Daily News

Area farmers want to sell raw milk. Consumers want to buy it. And the government wants to regulate it.

Those three sentences sum up the reason for “The Real Deal About Raw (Real) Milk,” billed as a “Farmers and Consumers Freedom and Liberty Seminar,” held yesterday at Cedar Crest High School. More than 250 people registered for the event, sponsored by the Pennsylvania Independent Consumers and Farmers Association and hosted by Sen. Mike Folmer.

Pennsylvania is one of eight states that allows retail sales of raw milk — defined as unpasteurized milk — and one of 28 that allows on-farm sales of raw milk, with permits.

According to Jonas Stoltzfus, PICFA president, the organization is one of a growing number of groups across the country aiming to promote and preserve unregulated farmer-to-consumer trade of locally grown or home-produced food products.

The permit system in place now in Pennsylvania for sellers of raw milk has little to do with health and much to do with a government wish to control farmers, Stoltzfus explained.

“We do not need or want to get permission or use a permit to decide what we eat and drink,” he stated to a cheering crowd. “We are perfectly capable of deciding that ourselves. ... The market will take care of itself by demanding a clean, healthy product.”

Folmer said his interest in hosting the seminar was more than just a wish to highlight information about raw milk.

about freedom and liberty, the Constitution and rule of law,” he said, adding that he believes the land and profits from it are gifts of God, all property is an extension of a person’s life, and attacks on those are attacks on the essence of life.

Two area residents offered personal insight into their attendance.

Dennis Wenger, an area dairy farmer, described an incident in April in which the state stopped him from selling milk, calling it contaminated. Multiple private-lab tests indicated there was no problem, he said. After several weeks and multiple retests, state officials noted there were no problems with his dairy, and his license to sell raw milk was reinstated.

Wenger said he learned two things from the incident: He will never allow the milk tested by the state to leave his farm without a private test, because he doesn’t trust the state; and he no longer believes state officials who say they support the raw-milk industry. The state’s purpose, he said, is to intimidate farmers to keep them from selling raw milk and to stop people from buying it.

Meanwhile, Maureen Diaz said her reason for supporting farmers’ right to sell raw milk is that she believes raw milk is healthier for her children.

“It’s a crying shame if I can’t have the free choice to go to my local farmer and friend and purchase whatever products I want from him,” she said. “I am an intelligent person, you are intelligent people, and we have constitutional rights and freedoms about what we feed our families. It’s my choice. I don’t need Big Brother looking over my shoulder. ...

“I’m an activist mom, and I will continue to be until the government backs off and let’s me make healthy choices for my family.”

Yesterday’s keynote speaker was Sally Fallon Morell, author of “Nourishing Traditions: The Cookbook that Challenges Politically Correct Nutrition and the Diet Dictocrats.” She founded Campaign for Real Milk, dedicated to creating consumer awareness of the health benefits of clean, whole, unpasteurized milk from grass-fed cows.

Real milk — the way nature intended, from cows eating the food they were intended to eat — is the “safest food on the planet,” Morell stressed.

Raw milk from grass-fed cows has built-in protective systems, she said, systems that don’t harm people who drink raw milk and actually provide multiple benefits, she said. There are many more food-borne illnesses caused by eating uncooked eggs and undercooked meat.

Other speakers included Dr. Ted Beals, a retired pathologist and professor at the University of Michigan Medical School; William Taylor Reil, a member of the Communities Alliance for Responsible Eco-Farming and PICFA who has been studying state constitutional law; Rep. Sam Rohrer, who cited the need for both free-market reform and fiscal discipline in spending; and Peter Kennedy, an attorney and vice president of the board of Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund.