Popularity of raw milk growing
(Bangor Daily News, ME)
There is a quiet but strong movement in
Raw milk is being sold in record volume, and the nearly two dozen dairy farms licensed to sell raw milk say its popularity is growing by leaps and bounds, pushed by consumers seeking alternatives to chemicals, antibiotics and artificial hormones sometimes found in conventional dairy farming.
"Oh my goodness," Cecil Linscott
of White’s Orchard Farm in
Raw milk is milk that has not been pasteurized before consumption — in other words, straight from the cow or goat to the consumer without being processed.
"We definitely sell more raw milk than
pasteurized," Doug Obenhaus, grocery manager at
Royal River Natural Foods in
"Customers generally purchase it, as with many of our products, because raw milk is in it’s unadulterated form — just like anytime someone wants a fresh version of something over a canned or frozen product."
At Linscott’s farm, he deliberately keeps his herd small. "This affords me greater control over the quality of the product," he said. He gently brushes the hide of each cow before she is milked, often is heard singing to them, and is gentle and careful. His cows have names, not numbers, like Bert, Half Pint, Cider, Charlene, Buttermilk and Maddy.
This type of personal, hands-on farming is what consumers are looking for.
"People are getting disenchanted with the conventional
food system," Ann Wilson, Linscott’s wife, said
this week. When the couple pulls into a
"There has never been a milk truck pull in this farm," Linscott said. Since 1993, he has sold all his milk raw to cooperatives and markets, ice cream, yogurt and cheese processors, and even delivers a few gallons to local homes.
Fresh from the cow, the milk is bottled by hand in old-fashioned glass bottles, capped and set in icy water to cool down. Almost immediately, the cream begins to rise to the top.
"This is the real thing," Linscott said.
"We are aware that this has always been a segment in
Bickford said that there has never been a serious effort to
eliminate raw milk sales in
Consumers are willing to pay between $4.50 and $10 per gallon for raw cow’s milk, compared to the $2 a farmer usually recoups.
"We want to keep farmers’ options open, while making sure the consumers are comfortable that they are buying a safe product."
Linscott produces about 50 gallons of milk daily and markets it at $4.50 a gallon or $2.75 a half gallon — more than double he would receive from conventional milk processors.
Bickford said milk is the country’s most highly regulated product, and that includes raw milk. "Those folks have to maintain some fairly rigid quality standards set by the Maine Department of Agriculture. There is strong pressure to make sure it is a very high quality product."
Kathy Cotton of the MDAG Dairy Inspection Program said that
in 2000, as part of a major overhaul of the milk rules, the Legislature
affirmed that raw milk could be sold in stores. "Not Pasteurized"
is the required label, Cotton said, and in
"We have seen a large increase in the past five
years," Cotton said. "There are now 20 farms that are licensed in
Bo Gallup at Morris Family Farm in Wiscasset said he sold about 450 gallons, or $3,000 worth of raw cow’s milk last year.
"It is interesting to me when we get calls or drop-ins
from out of state, often New Yorkers, who come by and get 10 or more
half-gallons at a time,"
According to a raw milk advocates’ group, RealMilk.com, "raw milk is nature’s perfect food." RealMilk.com claims that raw milk aids in developing children’s brains and nervous systems, may cure autism, behavior problems, deafness, asthma, allergies and other health issues.
John O’Donnell of Monmouth raises grass-fed beef and after researching their by-products became an avid proponent of raw milk.
"I wouldn’t drink [pasteurized] milk unless I was starving," he said.
"I’m not a scientist, but I did a lot of research while on my own personal quest for a healthy diet," he said. "I believe that the heating of milk, the pasteurization, disables many benefits of milk. The homogenization breaks down the fat in the milk and plays a role in heart disease."
O’Donnell has been drinking only raw milk for seven years. "My immune system has definitely been boosted," he said. O’Donnell flies quite a bit and said that he used to get a cold every time. "Not any more," he said.
This is not a universal opinion.
"We advise not to drink it," Dr. Dora Mills,
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration also advises consumers to beware, stating that it is "inherently dangerous" and should not be consumed by anyone.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states that raw milk is a source of infections from salmonella, E. Coli and other bacteria. Between 1998 and 2005, 1,000 people were sickened and two died from raw milk, the CDC reported.
These sentiments don’t deter believers, however.
"I believe there is some good science behind the benefits of raw milk that reinforces customer demand," Obenhaus said. "I don’t know that raw milk will ever hit the big time market for mainstream customers, partly because of the unwarranted fear that not pasteurizing milk will make them sick — my 5-year-old daughter has drunk raw all her life — and partly because the nature of raw milk —— a short shelf life compared to pasteurized or ultrapasteurized products — requires close relationships with local farms."
O’Donnell said he pays $3.99 for a half-gallon. "I would pay more than that if I had to," he said. "It is that important." 8-01-08
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