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Mar 21, 2011 02:05 PM

Raw milk in California - legal, not legal?

Hi Chowhounds,

I've purchased raw milk in LA - at Whole Foods, at the Farmer's market. So please tell me - WHY are the vendors of raw milk products at various farmer's markets getting harassed?

Last year, one very popular vendor (a sweet old grandma type) had cops barging in her house like it was a drug bust and hauled her off to jail for 48 hours before she was finally released. Most recently, a few vendors were arrested publicly...and then released 48 hours later as well.


Thanks for anyone who knows - this is really getting under my skin!!!

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  1. The governments at the Federal and State level for the most part treat raw milk producers as if they were a health threat. You will see many stories where they act as if a farmer was operating a meth lab. It is a constant struggle.

    Some of the parties involved in the enforcement side really believe that raw milk is a danger that it is their duty to protect the public from. Look at the USDA web site and that is how the topic is handled.

    Many of the farmers and special-interest groups (like WAPF) see the root cause of this as the influence of the dairy industry protecting their turf. Dairy is big business, and they see small-farm raw milk producers as the enemy. They have enormous influence at the government agencies through lobbying and sponsoring research that is targeted to show what they want to show. They know their huge and profitable dairy operations are vulnerable because there is no way you can produce safe raw milk that is consistent with their business model.

    So it is all about that.

    For the science and the polemic, see

    3 Replies
    1. re: GrrRendTear

      Because raw milk CAN be very harmful to your health. Combined that with little to no documentation on benefits of raw over pasteurized milk, it's not worth the risk.

      Another view on the topic presented very well. And that website you linked is using a study from 1929 as evidence that milk cures many ailments "...cancer, weight loss, kidney disease, allergies, skin problems, urinary tract problems, prostate problems and chronic fatigue..."; sounds a little too good to be true, and it usually is.

      1. re: mateo21

        I will go you one further than you -- raw milk IS absolutely dangerous and I would never touch it. I sure as hell wouldn't serve it to my kids or anyone else's. That is, if you are talking about the kind of raw milk that the USDA is talking about.

        If you are talking about the kind of raw milk I use the answer is totally opposite.

        In order to make sense of it you need to know what the difference is between these two substances that are called "raw milk."

        What the USDA and the big dairy industry calls raw milk is in a huge tanker truck, collected from multiple factory farms where the animals are crowded together that they pass diseases to each other. The immune systems of these cows are compromised by that and also that they are given unnatural feed that changes their stomach chemistry. So they are given antibiotics to "fix" that, which of course breeds more resistant strains of various pathogens. The fact that hundreds if not thousands of cows milk is collected into one big tanker ensures that any one of those cows' diseases contaminates the whole batch. I won't bother listing the diseases involved. They are horrific.

        The government agencies don't care about that (there is no testing at that stage), because they figure it will all be cleaned up at the creamery by pasteurization. So you get to drink the corpses of dead bacteria. You're welcome to it.

        The raw milk I buy was collected from a pastured cow with its immune system intact and the bacteria that defend against most pathogens active in the milk. It is combined with a few dozen cows in the same pasture. As a result it is clean and has all the nutrients in it intended for baby cows. The government and the dairy industry would have you believe that cows were evolved to assassinate their offspring with their milk. If you choose to believe that I can't do much for you.

        As for the 1929 report -- I don't care about it. In those days they were having tremendous problems with sanitation and there were incredibly gross urban dairies around that produced milk that was positively lethal. That is not the condition today.

        1. re: GrrRendTear

          I just love false equivalencies. "Baby cows" drink milk direct from their mother's teat with minimal exposure to the outside environment. In addition, the immune systems of baby cows are not the same as humans. It's ridiculous to say that because cow's milk is safe for calves that the same milk, having been pumped from the cow, transferred into numerous containers, transported and stored for some period of time, etc. is equally safe for a human.

          I'm not saying, btw, that raw milk is unsafe, only that that particular argument is fallacious.

    2. My understanding is that the multiple layers of safeguards put into place (or, in other words, the massive tangle of hoops a dairy has to jump through) have made it possible but practically untenable for any dairy to market raw milk. This is why Alta-Dena, which for many years sold nothing else, is now completely out of the raw-milk business.

      I think any raw milk that is certified for sale in California will most certainly be safe to drink. It will also probably be quite expensive. All that testing doesn't come cheap.