The Milk Club

The NYT wrote yesterday of a rising trend of illegal substance use, outlawed by the FDA for twenty years, but used by half a million people in the U.S. The product is raw milk—straight from the udder, just as the cow intended. Currently, most milk in the U.S. is pasteurized, which involves heating it to temperatures at which nasty bacteria (E. coli, salmonella, etc) break down, then cooling it down again and bottling it up. According to raw milk drinkers, the process gets rid of its “rich” taste and beneficial bacteria. But it’s often the only legal way to buy and sell milk:

While its sale for human consumption is illegal in 15 states, New York is one of 26 where it can be bought with restrictions. The chief one is that raw milk can only be sold on the premises of one of 19 dairy farms approved by the state. Clandestine milk clubs, like the one Mr. Milgrom-Elcott joined, are one way of circumventing the law, and there are others.

And the market is growing:

In 2000, the Organic Pastures Dairy Company in the San Joaquin Valley near Fresno became California’s first raw milk dairy with certified organic pasture land. This year its co-founder, Mark McAfee, expects it to gross $6 million — up from $4.9 last year.

It's legal within California, but the only way to ship it across states lines without inciting the FDA’s wrath is to label it as pet food. Admittedly, despite its “natural” appeal, raw milk might not be perfectly healthy (“In 1938, for example, milk caused 25 percent of all outbreaks of food- and water-related sickness”), but it’s hardly the FDA's place to snatch bottles of milk from the hands of full-grown adults.

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  • ||

    I'd be a lot more sympathetic if they weren't feeding it to babies and the quotes weren't from: Mr. Milgrom-Elcott, who is pursuing a doctorate in medieval Jewish mysticism at New York University. "We also bought crème fraîche from the milk club," he said. "It was nearly as ethereal as our fromager's in Aix-en-Provence."

    "Rob Kaufelt and Nina Planck allow their 9-month-old son, Julian, to take sips of raw milk at their home in East Hampton, N.Y. "

    It's just too silly.

  • ||

    Ahhh the perfect evening, a glass of Milk+, rounds of ultra-violence, a bit of the ol' in-out in-out, and top it off with lovely lovely Ludwig Van. Eh Alex?

  • ||

    It's better than those mothers who breast feed way too long...

    I had a neighbor that breast fed until the kids were like 4-years-old. I think if the kid can walk up and say, "Mom, I'm hungry," it's time to stop.

  • ||

    A few places to look if this interests you.

    www.westonaprice.org
    www.realmilk.com

  • Worth It||

    Imagine how pissed this Milgrom-Elcott ponce is that his quote doesn't say fromageur.

  • ||

    It's better than those mothers who breast feed way too long...

    Yeah, giving your kid bacteria-laden unpasteurized cow's milk is better than giving your kid breast milk that's biologically engineered to give the kid the nutrition it needs and help prevent disease.

    Sorry if I'm a bit reactionary... I'll admit the age of four would seem a bit extreme to me. But the World Health Organization recommends breastfeeding until age two, which would violate your "walk up and say 'mom I'm hungry'" rule. Our country has a hang-up with breastfeeding that I'll never understand.

  • excimer||

    clubmedsux,

    It's the breast part. Boobs are evil, didn't you know that?

  • SJE||

    It was my understanding that many of the milk-associated illnesses of the 30s were less to do with nasties that can be treated by pasteurization, and more to do with outright adulteration (in one case, adding plaster powder to make it whiter), or gross negligence (a bit of cow sh*t? never mind!).

    I, personally, prefer the taste of pasteurized milk. But if people want to go out of their way to get the stuff raw, why stop them: its not like these people (who pay $$$ for the privilege) are the poor unwitting consumer that needs protecting.

    As for giving it to their kids: its legal to do it if you are on the farm. What is the frequency of disease in farming families who drink raw milk? In any event, if it IS a bad idea, the people to be punished are the parents. But if an adult wants to do it, like any other supposedly stupid thing (like bungee jumping) and its not INHERENTLY dangerous (like Russian Roulette), then why stop them.

    I would bet that its far more dangerous to swim in the Potomac than drink raw milk. But only the latter is banned. Anyone got stats.

    FYI: more people were sickened by diseases linked to DC tap water than have been sickened by raw milk in quite a while.

  • ||

    Nice picture. Time to hit up the ol' Korova Milkbar.

  • ||

    Yeah, giving your kid bacteria-laden unpasteurized cow's milk is better than giving your kid breast milk that's biologically engineered to give the kid the nutrition it needs and help prevent disease.

    Oh, sorry, I didn't clarify.

    I don't give a rat's ass about the kid, it just annoys me. I certainly wasn't being serious as to the health benefits. I just find a lot of this new age crap to be hokey...

  • ||

    This sounds familiar...like a short story I read called "Lipidleggers"

  • ||

    When I was a kid, back in Vermont, we drank the milk from our cow and grew vegetables in our garden without using anything not provided by Nature and thought nothing of it. (Still don't.)

    It's amusing that in this day of "safe" products, the original versions are commanding a premium price and their health effects are being debated, including FUD passed down through generations.

    BTW, I believe it's "moloko" ...

  • talboito||

    "but it's hardly the FDA's place to snatch bottles of milk from the hands of full-grown adults."

    Folks in these parts don't like it, but it is, statutorily, the FDA's place to do exactly what is being described.

  • ||

    I've never had a problem with government banning the use of overtly dangerous acts that have clear negative externalities associated with them. If some idiot is going to drink milk soaked in e. Coli, an then give it to me despite my best efforts to stay clean, launching an outbreak of deadly, expensive infections, then it's a function of government to stop him.

  • Syloson of Samos||

    You can make creme fraiche at home.

  • ||

    I've never had a problem with government banning the use of overtly dangerous acts that have clear negative externalities associated with them. If some idiot is going to drink milk soaked in e. Coli, an then give it to me despite my best efforts to stay clean, launching an outbreak of deadly, expensive infections, then it's a function of government to stop him.

    Virulent strains of e. coli aren't very contagious. Unless you're eating his feces, you probably shouldn't get all worked up about someone drinking milk.

  • ||

    I should also be clear that if you are eating someone's feces, you should stop.

  • ||

    I'll try anything once, Chris, but that's not the point. The point is, whether it's e. Coli or some other fucked bacteria, I don't want to be exposed to it just because someone else wants to drink milk from a cow's utter.

  • ||

    You can make creme fraiche at home.

    I've tried. Not only did I fail, but my nipples got really sore.

  • ||

    I hear that. It kind of looks like chocolate, so who knows (notwithstanding the smell)?

    At any rate, my point is that it isn't really imposing much of an externality, as it's not that contagious.

  • Ta dum bum||

    You can make NoStar fresh here.

  • Finish your damn sentence alre||

    ...just because someone else wants to drink milk from a cow's utter.

    What? From a cow's utter WHAT?

    Tell me!

  • The TODD||

    *INTERNET FIVE TO NOSTAR!

  • wash your hands!||

    I don't want to be exposed to it just because someone else wants to drink milk from a cow's utter.

    I agree - that's udderly ridiculous. ;)

    Fascinating E. coli fact of the day:

    E. coli are abundant: the number of individual E. coli bacteria in the feces that a human defecates in one day averages between 100 billion and 10 trillion.

  • ||

    good catch; I just woke up...

  • ||

    SJE, almost everything is "INHERENTLY dangerous" to some degree or other. For some activities the danger might be so low as to be considered negligible, but there is almost no activity that doesn't carry some degree of danger.

    At what degree do you draw the line? For you, it looks like it's at Russian roulette. Draw the line a little lower, and it's at driving a car. Draw the line a little lower, and it's at drinking raw milk.

    For me, I think I'd trust adults to draw their own lines.

  • ||

    I do too, normally. But surely there are some lines that we don't trust adults to draw, most often when the results of such line-drawing impose costs on others not party to the line-drawing. I have no idea whether any of the bacteria living in raw milk are dangerous, but the principle should be: if they are, and they are easily communicable, then it's reasonable for the government (even the FEDERAL government) to ban it. If not, then the government ought not be involved. When I read things like "In 1938, for example, milk caused 25 percent of all outbreaks of food- and water-related sickness," I tend to think banning it isn't such a bad idea. That said, I'd defer to those more knowledgeable than I am on this; I'm merely offering that it doesn't necessarily violate libertarian principle to ban raw milk (or anything else).

  • ||

    I've been buying and drinking raw milk for about a year with no adverse effects. Not only does it taste great(lots of fat...yum)I'm able to tolerate it better because it still conatains the natural lactase enzymes which pasteurization damages. Lactase is needed to digest lactose. So many people who are lactose intolerant find that they can drink raw milk with no problems.
    The dairy I buy from has their milk inspected every other day by the state health department.
    They know that their reputation protects their livelihood and therefore take great pains to run a scrupulously clean and safe operation.
    I researched this topic and my source well. Why should I be denied the right by the FDA to buy and consume this product? No one has to be exposed to raw milk unless they choose to be.

  • ||

    It's legal within California, but the only way to ship it across states lines without inciting the FDA's wrath is to label it as pet food.

    And if it's being shipped across state lines it probably should be pasteurized anyway, since the main benefit to it is so that it'll keep longer while shipping.

    As far as adults consuming raw milk being their choice, spot on, etc.

  • ||

    Of course in 1938, electric refrigerators were not a common household appliance. Under 1938 conditions, even pasteurized milk will go bad after a few days.

  • Anonymo the Anonymous||

    Folks in these parts don't like it, but it is, statutorily, the FDA's place to do exactly what is being described.

    Seriously? We had no idea! Let us now revise our entire political philosophy to incorporate this shocking new information.

  • ||

    "straight from the udder"
    has triggered ancient memories of me sainted grandma Ruthless down in Tennessee taking it just that way.
    With it as the breakfast beverage, she would fry me up the duck egg or two I had collected by the branch, along with her biscuits which some would say were too brittle and leathery, but I found had "twist-off caps," so to speak, for easy accessibility for the application of molasses plus the butter I had helped churn.
    Am I old or what?
    "straight from the udder" has helped make me that.
    Versus daid.

  • NY Times first draft||

    While its sale for human consumption is illegal in 15 states, New York is one of 26 where it can be bought with restrictions. The chief one is that raw milk can only be sold on the premises of one of 19 dairy farms approved by the state and must be sucked directly from the cow's teat. [That portion of the law was recently struck down as inconsistent with the ADA due to the difficulty the disabled could face in assuming the requisite position, particularly the wheelchair bound. Please revise. - ed.]

  • ||

    It won't preserve beneficial bacteria, but otherwise, this sounds like a job for irradiation.

  • Someone should draft the NYT a||

    While its sale for human consumption is illegal in 15 states, New York is one of 26 where it can be bought with restrictions.


    Stop the presses! NY State is for sale!

  • ||

    While its sale for human consumption is illegal in 15 states, New York is one of 26 where it can be bought with restrictions.



    ...one of 26 what?

  • Goldwater Conservative||

    Anyone here ever suck off a cow?

  • ||

    People just need to get their panties in a bunch about something. There is nothing wrong with raw milf.... I mean milk... what is wrong is that people have no immunity any more because their systems have been compromised so damn bad due to antibiotics, chemicals and just general abuse... Get a fricken clue.

  • Does that count?||

    Anyone here ever suck off a cow?


    I got down on a duck.

  • ||

    So just to recap:

    I've convinced everyone that it's ok for the feds to ban raw milk.

    Right? Great.

  • Alex DeLarge||

    Got Moloko, droggies?

  • Chico Marx||

    I got down on a duck.

    Vhy-ah duck, vhy-not not a chicken?

  • ||

    Why don't they just put a sticker on raw milk like the ones at restaurants:

    Consuming unpasteurized milk carries a risk of illness.

    There, problem solved.
    Next.

  • ||

    Before pasteurizing, infant mortality was around 80%. Pasteurizng was a big factor in reducing this number. Milk is sterile in the teet unless the cow is sick, so I guess milk strait from the cow's teet wouldn't be that dangerous. Once the milk is out, it can pick up bacteria. You only need a spec of dirt in the bucket to mutiply over a couple of hours before the disease risk shoots up. Today, a dairy farmer can milk in a cleaner barn, so the milk might be safer than in 1938. Still, it's more risk than I would take or recommend. But hey, it's your body, your choice.

  • Thomas Paine\'s Goiter||

    I grew up on a farm and drank raw milk for 18 years. I'm not dead yet.

  • NP||

    "...it's hardly the FDA's place to snatch bottles of milk from the hands of full-grown adults."

    I hate to offend your libertarian sensibility, Juliet, but that is the FDA's place. You may well argue that adults should be allowed to consume whatever they choose, but let's not be so knee-jerk as to deny the purpose of a federal administration or, worse still, not recognize that people may differ in their view of the proper role of the goverment.

  • Cactus||

    Well, gee it's illegal? Someone forget to tell the cows (well cow singular at the moment) I keep outback. I guess that raw unpasteurized milk is going to be the death of me. I suppose it was the death of my ancestors that have done the same thing on this farm for the past century and a half without dropping dead from it. Also fertilized the garden with their supposedly deadly biotoxic droppings without ending up with the salad greens causing e-coli and bloody diarrhea.

    The eggs aren't inspected by the USDA, neither are the chickens or the beef or goats or hogs or turkeys or other edibles that end up on the table. Never have been. Seem to get along just fine. In fact in family history I'd say the government has killed more kin than tainted foodstuffs.

    By the way the .gov is getting their grubby little paws into every farm, chicken coop, henhouse, pig pen, pasture and barn in rural America through NAIS - the National Animal Identification System. One of those "voluntary" programs where they require you to register your premises and get a government ID number along with an ID number for each of your animals. Supposedly for some nebulous reason of homeland security (yeah what isn't)and the prevention of disease but the real reason is pretty obvious to anyone with half a brain.

  • SxCx||

    There was a controversy in Toronto about this a while ago. The farmer's stash was raided like a meth lab. Columnists and talk radio types were calling for all who indulge to be exempted from OHIP, Ontario's state-run/single payer health plan. Either that or continue to ban the practice.

    It was an affirming day.

  • Robert||

    "When I was a kid, back in Vermont, we drank the milk from our cow and grew vegetables in our garden without using anything not provided by Nature and thought nothing of it. (Still don't.)"

    Wasn't it inconvenient to have to squat under the cow whenever you were thirsty?

  • Anonymo the Anonymous||

    I hate to offend your libertarian sensibility, Juliet, but that is the FDA's place. You may well argue that adults should be allowed to consume whatever they choose, but let's not be so knee-jerk as to deny the purpose of a federal administration or, worse still, not recognize that people may differ in their view of the proper role of the goverment.

    And I hate to offend your willfully misreading sensibility, but you know full well that she's making a normative statement criticizing the notion that the FDA should be doing so, rather than making a descriptive statement that the FDA does not, in view of the current legal regime, have that authority. Don't pretend otherwise to make an entirely worthless non-point.

  • PhxFreddy||

    RE: the person who complained about people feeding to baby: Ok so I'm vegetarian. All babies must thus be feed ONLY vegetables.

    When will the tyranny of the spoiled self centered brats end??? Make the rules to suit ME ME ME. And thus since everyone thinks this way NOTHING is legal. Welcome to America. Now go home.

  • NP||

    Anonymo the Anonymous,

    I'm not sure if I can successfully respond to a towering intellect of your caliber who can come up with such well-phrased gems as "willfully misreading sensibility" and "entirely worthless non-point," but I'll address your riposte nonetheless.

    You said I knew that Juliet's main beef was with the scope of the FDA, not with their legal authority to regulate milk or any other food products. Of course I did, but that wasn't the crux of my criticism. What I was in fact objecting to was, again, Juliet's knee-jerk libertarianism: she doesn't seem to have even considered how federal regulation may be beneficial in this case even when she herself notes that in 1938, before pasteurization was federally mandated, "milk caused 25 percent of all outbreaks of food- and water-related sickness."

    For the record, I actually don't think adults should be prohibited from consuming whatever they want, be it raw milk or non-federally approved drugs. But Juliet at least could have suggested that instead of banning raw milk outright, the FDA could allow sales of raw milk while adopting less restrictive satety measures than the one-thing-fits-all pasteurization we have now. Or, if she's just not happy with the FDA meddling in our choices, she could've proposed a number of ways in which the growing private raw milk industry can come up with safety measures of their own that could gain the approval of Capitol Hill. I just couldn't detect such nonideological thinking in Juliet's post.

  • ||

    Currently, most milk in the U.S. is pasteurized, which involves heating it to temperatures at which nasty bacteria (E. coli, salmonella, etc) break down, then cooling it down again and bottling it up. According to raw milk drinkers, the process gets rid of its "rich" taste and beneficial bacteria.



    Has anyone considered the possibility that raw milk's "rich" taste is due in part to the presence of E. coli and salmonella? 'Cause that would be funny.

  • ||

    I personally think homogenization affects taste more than pasteurization.

  • ||

    My family drinks raw milk every day. In order for us to "buy" it from the farms that sell it, we have to own a share of a cow to be allowed to purchase it.

    I have heard of instances where people who are lactose intolerance have no problem drinking and digesting raw milk, but the pasteurized stuff bugs them.

    Salmonella and E.Coli aren't really much of a concern if you buy it from reputable farms who take good care of their cows. I probably have a better chance of getting E.Coli poisoning by swimming in Lake Michigan than I do by drinking raw milk.

  • Jennifer||

    But surely there are some lines that we don't trust adults to draw, most often when the results of such line-drawing impose costs on others not party to the line-drawing. I have no idea whether any of the bacteria living in raw milk are dangerous, but the principle should be: if they are, and they are easily communicable, then it's reasonable for the government (even the FEDERAL government) to ban it.

    They're not easily communicable, in that if I get sick from drinking raw milk, you won't get sick merely from standing downwind of me. You've made a good argument for why it should be illegal to force-feed someone raw milk against their will (and it already is), and you've made a good argument for why it should be illegal to falsely sell raw milk under the "pasteurized" label (and it already is). What you haven't done is made a single decent argument for why an adult who is willing to take on the health risks of drinking raw milk should be forbidden from doing so.

  • ||

    Under 1938 conditions, even pasteurized milk will go bad after a few days.

    Even in the fridge, Raw-Milk will most likely go bad within 3-5 days. But it does freeze rather nicely.

    I've convinced everyone that it's ok for the feds to ban raw milk.

    No, in fact you have convinced people that you don't know what the fuck you are talking about.

    E.Coli isn't really a communicable disease in the way that colds/flus/or even pink eye and the like.

    In fact you are the perfect example of hysterical knee-jerk reactions that should be ignored

  • ||

    Somehow I don't think 1938 data means much today. It seems like sellers of raw milk today aren't feeding a nation, they're dealing with a relatively upscale and/or highly selective group of people. The raw milk movement just doesn't have the same public health implications it did in 1938.

  • ||

    Milk is a nutrient-rich bath. It cultures bacteria quite well. The problem with raw milk isn't that it's raw, it's the various handling and distribution steps. All you farm kids that drank raw milk, you miss the point: it was fine because you were on site; there were no third parties between you and the cow.

    Banning interstate commerce in raw milk in 1938 was a perfectly rational cost-benefit, absolutely constitutional result. Given changes in technology, raw milk should be regulated under HACCP and IS0 22000 standards today.

  • Robert||

    Another legal alternative to pasteuriz'n is making it cheese that's aged long enough.

    Besides having to squat under the cow, how was it having to use only your bare hands to eat, standing or sitting on the bare ground?

  • ||

    "it doesn't necessarily violate libertarian principle to ban raw milk (or anything else)."
    --Greg N.

    Time to sign up for Libertarian Principle 097, then. Even if raw milk started a chain of disease communicable by contact (which it doesn't), that would be trumped by freedom of contract and the right to give your own body what it needs to survive.

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