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Jun 12, 2014 12:29 PM

A question about raw milk sales in NM

This might be more of a legal question than a food question, but I'll ask it here since it's about food and New Mexico. I'm hoping some NM Chowhounds might be lawyers.

As far as I understand, the sale of raw milk is legal in most of New Mexico, but illegal in Bernalillo County. Clear enough. The thing that perplexes me is that apparently people who sell raw milk outside Bernalillo County are legally prohibited from selling it to people who live in Bernalillo County, even if the purchase happens outside BernCo.

How does that work? How can the law limit my ability to do something that's legal in the place where I am doing it based on my place of residence? I can understand if it were a crime for me to buy raw milk outside the county and to bring it in, even if it were just for personal use, but to prohibit its sale to me outside the county?

Factor in that possession and consumption of raw milk don't seem to be entirely illegal in BernCo either. I'm pretty sure I can buy a cowshare of a cow right here in the county and drink all the raw milk from it that I want. I just can't buy it elsewhere in the state.

I get that many laws don't make sense, but can anyone explain the legal principle by which this kind of restriction is even possible?

Thanks, ninrn

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  1. I have a circle of foodie friends and food writers on FB who are in Santa Fe (you may too nin) I'll post this anonymously and see if someone knows.

    1. One very knowledgeable food person in Santa Fe (not an ag lawyer) has this to say. I know you are well aware of De Smet Dairy, nin, which now sells at the Real Butcher Shop in SF, but the comments from the USDA my friend notes here are directly speak volumes about their products:

      "You can buy De Smet Dairy raw milk by ordering it online and meeting them in Albuquerque twice a week. They bring it from Bosque Farms by van. You can also go to their farm and buy it there. You can buy as much as you like, and you don' t have to faff around with "herd shares." It is just $5/half gallon - a really good deal for such lovingly produced milk that is good for you. People are driving in from as far away as West Texas to buy the milk, and the ABQ market is now well established. I don't understand the laws. It does not make sense to me: here in Santa Fe, we can now not only buy Erica and Mike's delicious milk from the SF Farmer's Market but also from the new Real Butcher Shop (at a high premium), after the Saturday market when the milk is restocked in their case for the week. USDA inspectors say the dairy is the cleanest dairy they have ever seen and the De Smets look forward to showing it off to inspectors monthly on top of all the measures they take to keep their "girls" clean and their milk safe on a daily basis. They are wonderful, hard-working, dedicated, and upbeat young people. They are an inspiration. This is the first USDA-approved dairy in the state. It makes no sense for Bernalillo County to be withholding approval; I hope they see the light."

      I'll let you know if I have any more responses on FB.

      2 Replies
      1. re: sandiasingh

        Thanks so much, SS. I was so excited when I learned about the Albuquerque pick-up option for De Smet Dairy milk, but when I emailed to ask about placing an online order, they replied that that since I live in Bernalillo County they cannot sell to me. I'm pretty sure over 30% of New Mexico's population lives in Bernalillo County, so not allowing raw milk dairies access to that market is a nice way to keep them from doing well.

        I still wonder what the legal rationale or precedent is for this. Maybe something left over from prohibition days? And if raw milk is so horribly dangerous, why not just require that it carry a warning label. I seriously doubt it has killed as many people as cigarettes.

        1. re: ninrn

          That is very odd. I know other states are having similar issues. I wonder if the Master Gardeners of BernCo would know? It's a little outside their area, but they may be able to refer you to someone locally who can tell you. My experience with the MG's in Sandoval County has been excellent, and they love tough questions. The only other way to get it then is to go to the Real Butcher Shop in SF. It's on West Alameda next to LaMontanita Coop. But you'd have to drive.

          I have decided against raw milk for myself for health reasons. I drink Super Natural which is not homogenized and they use a low-temp pasteurization process. All certified organic.

          Let me know if you find out anything further and I will do the same.

      2. The original comment has been removed
        1. One more thing: my friend suggested you talk to Erica or Mike who run the store at the Real Butcher Shop in SF where they sell the De Smet milk. They should be able to sort it out for you.

          4 Replies
          1. re: sandiasingh

            Thanks again. I'll do that. Actually, I'm not even sure I want to get raw milk regularly. I have to be careful with foods that have too strong a hormonal effect, and I'm concerned raw milk might. It's just that the laws around this product seem so weird and unfair. Maybe I'll post in general topics, and see what comes up.

            It's good to know about Kalona not being pasteurized at low temp. One thing that kills me though is how all these lovely smaller dairies put so much care into their milk and then sell it in plastic bottles... Oh, well.

            1. re: ninrn

              That's a good point, nin. The other problem is that Kalona is in the heart of Iowa farmland. I have talked to their people about GMO contamination and they assure me their farmers (it's a co-op of Amish farmers) do not use any GMO corn or soy. Hmm. Have to choose our battles, I guess.

              Another good point about the hormonal affect of raw milk which I have not researched. I had estrogen-related BC three years ago, so I am very sensitive to those issues as well. With somewhat of a compromised immune system from radiation (no chemo), I decided not to go down the raw milk path just to be on the safe side. But I'm all for those who do.


              1. re: sandiasingh

                Off topic, but I found this and thought it might interest you:

                Thanks again for everything,

                1. re: ninrn

                  That is quite an amazing and thorough analysis. I'll bookmark this for my files. Thanks so much for posting.

                  Happy Father's Day to you and yours.