The Milk Club


milk, clockwork orange

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.