Outlawing Dangerous Goat Cheese

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For years, my wife and I have been buying goat cheese from a couple of local farmers who never recovered from the-back-to-the-land movement of 1960s at our town's Saturday City Market. It's delicious and if they want to work that hard, it's OK by me. However, zealous legislators eager to protect consumers from eating dangerous goat cheese have been trying to put Satyrfield Farm out of business. How? By requiring these two small farmers to buy expensive equipment and maintain extensive records, just as though they were Kraft Foods.

Now the savvy entrepreneurs have found a way to foil temporarily our solons in Richmond–they no longer sell their cheese, they give it away and accept donations. As the local paper reports they "give away nearly 80 pounds of chevre at the market, and bring home somewhere between $500 and $600, about $200 more than when they sold it."

It's heartening to see residents of the People's Republic of Charlottesville rallying around these two small scale farmers. Perhaps the Institute for Justice which is already battling Virginia's idiotic wine distribution laws could offer them a helping hand?

NEXT: Desert Skiing

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  1. Whoah…Ron…you live in C-ville? No shit!

  2. The insane laws against raw-milk products really get my goat. I don’t know why producers can’t just slap a warning label on it and let consumers make the decision for themselves.

  3. “I don’t know why producers can’t just slap a warning label on it and let consumers make the decision for themselves.”

    Because you might not choose to buy the brand from the large, politically-conected diary producers. So much for free market competition.

  4. Akira gets it. As the DP article notes, this is a case where the legislation caved to our large agri-business lobby, and made it so that even small farms had to go through the same exact procedures they do.

  5. Wait, you mean regulations serve the interests of large, politically-connected enterprises?

    I’m shocked!

    Now do people see why I call myself a “left” libertarian? Because my strongest sympathies are with the little guys who don’t want to be messed with, and my strongest skepticism is reserved for the big guys who talk the talk about markets but want the state to keep the little guy down.

    And I hope IJ takes up their case. IJ rocks.

  6. Actually, the top guys at the IJ are starting to get sucked into the Jack Abramoff story.

  7. I’m sick of the free market’s eliminating old-fashioned small businesses. Government intervention is called for.

  8. I love it – now a black market in raw cheese and milk. There are some farmers in Wis that have done similar things to the “free and donations” concept. I had a swig of raw milk in their kitchen while stopping to buy some turkeys. Delicious. Next up, black market raw eggs.

  9. joe-

    Say it ain’t so! Say it ain’t so!

  10. Now do people see why I call myself a “left” libertarian?

    I don’t see that particular P.O.V. as being “left” or “right”. It’s basically the typical common sense libertarian thought. A truly free market means everyone competes equally. Any outside intervention for personal gain (i.e. government subsidies, regulations, general “mucking up the works”) is counter to those ends.

    Being “for the little guy” doesn’t have to mean “being against the big guy”. If our ruling parties didn’t allow themselves be bought off..errr…persuaded by lobbyists and kept their hands in their own pockets (instead of our’s), the market would survive very well on it’s own accord.

    Probably more fairly too.

  11. Sung to the tune of The Shaggs’ “Philosophy Of The World”:

    And the right-wingers ape what that left-wingers do
    And the left-winger ape what the right-wingers do..

  12. Is this just part of a campaign to eliminate the category of “small farmer”?

    Anon

  13. “Is this just part of a campaign to eliminate the category of “small farmer”?”

    I have to wonder where the John Couger Melloncamps, Willie Nelsons, and other defenders of the “family farm” against evil “agribusiness” stands on these sort of regulations. Will the next FarmAid concert donate it’s proceeds to fight this sort of regulation, or will they side with the diary-giants n the name of “public health?”

  14. Whoops, edit time:

    “Is this just part of a campaign to eliminate the category of “small farmer”?”

    I have to wonder where the John Couger Melloncamps, Willie Nelsons, and other defenders of the “family farm” against evil “agri-business” stands on these sort of regulations. Will the next FarmAid concert donate its proceeds to fight this sort of nonsense, or will they side with the diary-giants in the name of “public health?” It’s always fun to watch ideologes (left and right) try to serve two masters.

  15. Awwwwwww… forget it.

  16. i am confused…just because a large corporation sells more product they are tasked with more regulations? shouldnt the goat farmers be held to the same regulations as any other dairy operation?

    mike

  17. There is a point to avoiding fresh milk cheeses like this. Listeria can sicken/kill/cause women to miscarry if pregnant. Some of these problems can be helped by

    In a different but related matter, I’ve been working on a TB outbreak believed to be due to fresh cheese from Mexico:

    http://www.nyc.gov/html/doh/html/pr/pr022-05.shtml

    NYC HEALTH DEPT. WARNS AGAINST CONSUMPTION OF SOME IMPORTED MEXICAN CHEESES

    It’s killed one kid so far and sickened a number of others. But hey, who wants government regulations, right?

  18. er…forgot the rest of my sentance.

    “…helped by aging cheeses, or using pasteurization (there are 2 kinds of pastuerization…the slower/lower temp one seems to be better for the taste of the cheese).”

  19. This whole thing reminds me of the stories from out of Italy where the European Union was trying to tell small farmers in Italy that they couldn’t sell the rotten moldy cheese (of excellent quality, no doubt) that they had been making for centuries. Come to think of it, I have no idea what happened with all that.

  20. Doc, they sell fresh cheese all over Europe, if I’m not mistaken. Perhaps the problems in Mexico are the result of generally low standards of hygiene?

  21. Doc-
    I’m not pregnant and don’t plan to be. If I promise to assume full risk and responsibility, can I pretty-please spend my own money on Mexican cheese for my own comsumption? I promise not to share it with any children.

  22. mike makes a good point. This is one of those perrennial cases where the question arises of whether it’s fair to remove the shackles from some when others are still shackled. I can’t tell from the article on what basis “small farmers” would be exempted (by the bill that failed), but in general I’m somewhat okay with differential treatment of corporations since they already get favored legal treatment in the form of limited liability.

  23. While I am against regulation, I can say from experience that food poisoning from soft cheese is a mighty unpleasant experience.

    Doc, they sell fresh cheese all over Europe, if I’m not mistaken. Perhaps the problems in Mexico are the result of generally low standards of hygiene?

    That, and they grow their vegetables in raw, untreated sewage. Onions from Mexico were what caused that gigantic Chi-Chi’s food poisoning in Pennsylvania, which if I remember correctly caused numerous hospitalizations (and deaths? can’t remember now if deaths resulted….)

    Yeah, I would say it’s safe to avoid all food and other consumables from Mexico. IMHO. Not a big fan of eating poop. No sir.

  24. Unless it’s a German scheisse video we’re talking about.

  25. Note that this is not a health issue, at least as framed by the linked article. The issue simply seems to be paperwork and record-keeping. Now record-keeping is usually tied to health concerns, but that’s why I was curious about the small farmer/large farmer distinction. Are the large producers just edging out the small producers by imposing legislative burdens on them? I just don’t see why this is worth the effort otherwise. I mean, the whole point is that small producers generally know their customers.

    Anon

  26. I`ve been eating fresh Mexican cheese ( Panela )for 20 years,I bring it (legally ) across the border from Cd. Acuna.Last time I got sick was from eating Swiss bought from a local supermarket
    in a fresh dated package.

  27. Smacky and others-
    Yeah, it’s probably best to avoid Mexican food, but should it be illegal? I’m sick and tired of power-tripping do-gooders threatening to fine me or put me in jail FOR MY OWN GOOD. If I come down with Montezuma’s revenge that is its own punishment, thank you, and I don’t need the government throwing on more.

  28. mike, fyodor:

    It’s not a question of “fair.” For the most part big corps like regulation because it gets rid of pesky small business competition. Basically, just reread what Akira Mackenzie said upthread.

  29. How did humans survive before pasturization/refrigeration/soap?

    I think we’ve been wimpified.

  30. smacky, if you starred in a German scheisse movie, you’d tell us, right?

  31. Jennifer,

    I totally agree with you. I am against government opportunism to take yet another dollar or precious minute from me. I was just relating a personal experience…now about that scheisse video….

    kidding!

  32. Damn, smacky, and here I am trying to make us some money with a few paltry photographs.

  33. smacky, if you starred in a German scheisse movie, you’d tell us, right?

    Sure, joe. sure. No need to fret.

  34. a new state law from selling fresh goat cheese…They hit a roadblock this year when a bill that would exempt small farmers from onerous regulations buckled under the weight of the state?s powerful agribusiness lobby.

    I’m a little confused now about what exactly is going (and has gone) on here. The first time I read the article, I focused more on the second part of what I just quoted, ie the failure of a bill that would “exempt small farmers from onerous regulations.” But reading it again, I noticed the first part, that there’s a new restricting the sale of fresh goat cheese? I guess digamma had it right, and I thought he was just joking! (Well, he was, but maybe in a more direct way than I thought.) Anyway, I’m against regulations but cautious about lifting them selectively. How that applies to this specific situation I’ll leave to others who know more about the specifics of the situation…

  35. How did humans survive before pasturization/refrigeration/soap?

    Um. Many of them didn’t survive. Malnutrition still kills thousands every day in poor places in Africa.

  36. The most sicking cheese that I ever had was when I rented the movie “PUTTY TANG” from Blockbuster.

  37. I am seeing a number of simplistic evaluations of corporations/regulation.
    It is hard to describe in such a way that accurately reflects a variety of situations, but I will try anyway.
    In most cases, industry resists outside forces trying to regulate it. However, once it has happened, of course they do want other businesses coming into that market without having to go to the same trouble they had to go through.

  38. It’s killed one kid so far and sickened a number of others. But hey, who wants government regulations, right?

    Hey Doc-
    Can these regulations be weakening the body’s immune system by purifying everything? Now that I live in the city drinking the purified, chlorinated, and flouridated water, I get the shits everytime I go home to the farm and drink straight from the well. I used to drink it all day, everyday and always had solid poo! What gives?

  39. In most cases, industry resists outside forces trying to regulate it. However, once it has happened, of course they do want other businesses coming into that market without having to go to the same trouble they had to go through.

    Yes, the classic “since I got sodomized, you have to get sodomized too” approach. Is private industry just as fucked up as government anymore?

  40. I welcome these sort of regulations.

    If it wasn’t for the FDA, we might end up like that cesspool of botulism up north.

    Any Chinatown I’ve been to in Canada has those disgusting ducks hanging in shop windows without refridgeration. Nosireee. Can’t have that.

    I’d much prefer something vacuum packed or canned (with allowable amounts of rodent parts) from a conglomerate.

  41. Now do people see why I call myself a “left” libertarian? Because my strongest sympathies are with the little guys who don’t want to be messed with, and my strongest skepticism is reserved for the big guys who talk the talk about markets but want the state to keep the little guy down.

    Actually, I never have, Thoreau. To me, “left-libertarian” has always meant Chomsky and the rest of the squealing idjits who vehemently deny that any of us individual-rights/free-market folks should be allowed to call ourselves “libertarians” without going to the gula-, er, being called evil corporatist bastards. These are the folks who naturally couldn’t give a damn about just leaving the “little people” alone.

    (Personally, I came to libertarianism a little while after a stint as a Democrat. I stopped being a Democrat when I realized they didn’t care any more about civil liberties and individual rights than Republicans did – ie, not much at all. My specific interests in limited government and free markets came a bit later, but I think of them as all aspects of the same thing. This supposedly makes me a “right-libertarian” – though, so does calling myself a libertarian while not screaming “Property is theft!!!” – or just a plain “libertarian”.)

  42. The goat farmers were pressing the Virgina General Assembly to pass a proposal that would have stripped virtually all state regulation of goat cheese produced on a farm and sold from the farm premises or farmers markets. This includes the restriction on selling raw milk cheese. The proposal failed, and the farmers also lost a court decision on the regulations enforced by the state department of agriculture on reporting and equipment.

    Yes, raw milk and raw milk cheese can be dangerous for some people, but for millions upon millions it’s not. It’s almost as silly as banning peanuts and other foods altogether because some people are allergic.

  43. Eric-

    The use of the term “left libertarian” by the people that you describe truly pisses me off. To me, the difference between a left-libertarian and a right-libertarian is merely one of emphasis, not one of philosophy. My stances on issues are pretty standard libertarian fare, it’s just that my priorities are different. I still vote against tax increases and bond measures, I still oppose (most) economic regulations and gun control. I just prioritize other issues.

  44. Maybe I need to coin a different term than “left-libertarian”.

    How about left-leaning but still orthodox libertarian? Just doesn’t have the same ring to it.

  45. thoreau,

    How about “small government liberal?”

  46. I’ll cop to being a left-leaning libertarian. But there’s few who aren’t idiots who can adequately summarize their beliefs in bumpersticker format.

    DITTO, RUSH!

  47. joe,

    wouldn’t that require at least a moderate belief in the big liberal tenets, like wealth redistribution and economic protectionism, but all on a smaller scale?

    anyone who’s read more than 2 or 3 or thoreau’s posts knows he’s not a liberal, small government or not. caring about “the little guy” doesn’t make someone a liberal.

  48. Evan,

    “wouldn’t that require at least a moderate belief in the big liberal tenets, like wealth redistribution and economic protectionism, but all on a smaller scale?” No, it would require a belief in the VALUES behind such programs – greater equality of opportunity, good jobs for working people, concern about the concentration of wealth, etc.

    “caring about “the little guy” doesn’t make someone a liberal.” Siding with the little guy against the powers that be does indeed make one a creature of the left, though adopting populist language or creating phantom oppressors to SOUND like you’re fighting for the little guy doesn’t count.

  49. If dangerous goat cheese is outlawed, only outlaws will have dangerous goat cheese.

  50. joe-

    Well, in matters of politics I side against the government in most cases, and I prioritize those cases where the government is working against the little guy rather than the government working against the big guy.

    But I don’t automatically support any policy that allegedly helps the little guy against the big guy, because many such policies don’t actually work as advertised. Indeed, it’s often the case that such policies actually help the big guys. Or they help a few little guys (e.g. tarriffs protecting some small farmers from cheaper foreign produce) while hurting lots of other little guys (poor families trying to buy food) and helping some big guys (agribusiness companies that collect subsidies while enjoying protection from foreign competition).

  51. Yes, the classic “since I got sodomized, you have to get sodomized too” approach. Is private industry just as fucked up as government anymore?

    Well, since removing the regulations entirely is not on the table, we have to decide what is most fair.
    When the government enters the picture, it is not actually “I got sodomized” (i.e. once), it is being repeatedly and continually being sodomized (just to keep the metaphor consistent). It seems just as fair to say, “I am in business and need to do these onerous things. Why can that person do the same thing and not have to do the same?”.
    Businesses will decide whether there is profit potential given the level of regulation and what the market will bear regarding prices. The government is distorting the market, and whatever business that springs from this will necessarily be affected. To this degree, I don’t think it necessarily reflects on the business itself.

  52. How did humans survive before pasturization/refrigeration/soap?

    Um. Many of them didn’t survive. Malnutrition still kills thousands every day in poor places in Africa.

    Um. If pasteurization/refrigeration/soap had anything whatsoever to do with malnutrition, you’d have a point.

  53. Siding with the little guy against the powers that be does indeed make one a creature of the left, though adopting populist language or creating phantom oppressors to SOUND like you’re fighting for the little guy doesn’t count. (emph mine)

    So what you’re saying is that every leftist govt in history hasn’t really been “a creature of the left”?

    That’s awful convenient for you, isn’t it?

  54. “But I don’t automatically support any policy that allegedly helps the little guy against the big guy”

    That’s where the “small government” part comes in. If you basically share the values, and have some strong opinions about the best tactics…well, welcome to the circular firing squad this is contemporary liberalism.

  55. “But I don’t automatically support any policy that allegedly helps the little guy against the big guy”

    That’s where the “small government” part comes in. If you basically share the values, and have some strong opinions about the best tactics…well, welcome to the circular firing squad this is contemporary liberalism.

    crimethink, I wouldn’t accuse most leftist governments in history of siding against the little guy, so much as failing to side with the little guy effectively. Or, too often, morally.

  56. The big guys are sometimes in the right, the little guys are sometimes in the wrong, and the “powers that be” often are the left.

    Other than these exceptions: joe is perfectly right!

  57. I think it’s one thing to be more sympathetic to the “little guy,” but another to base one’s political principles on helping the little guy whatever that means, or even up to a certain point or whatever. And I’m not just talking about effectiveness. Efforts to redistribute the wealth are ultimately Robin Hood schemes. Libertarianism is based on certain principles about what is right or wrong behavior (and makes no special exception for government, except that it is charged with meting out justice when meting out justice is justified). If one believes in these principles, it automatically follows that following these principles results in those most deserving of legal support are the ones who get it, regardless of whether they’re big or small. If I’m not being clear, ask yourself who’s in the right when a poor/little person robs a rich/big person. Following libertarian principles invetiably yields the most just society, as long as one believes said principles are indeed the most just. I think an underlying facet to libertarianism is the belief that libertarian principles are more or less universally held, it’s only because people are afraid of what the think will be the results that libertarianism itself is so unpopular. I think it’s also part of the libertarian POV that because the underlying principles are good ones, they will generally yield the best results overall in a consequentialist sense, ie, more wealth and fullfillment for more people. But it’s often tough to show that favorable consequentialist effect in any given situation. It’s nice to think that we’re protecting the small farmer by getting rid of this regulation, but if I read what’s going on correctly, the small farmers may be looking for a special privelege by asking to be exempted from this regulation. Libertarianism does not address this issue directly, but I think most of us would say that in lieu of being able to dump the regulation altogether, it should be applied universally. It’s too bad that it’s not obvious that we’re helping the little guy in this case, but if special privelege is what they’re looking for, I don’t think that would be fair.

    I wonder if anyone will read this?

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