Parents Talk: Is Minnesota's Raw Milk Craze Crazy?

A Richfield mom is fighting for it; Ron Paul endorsed it at MN GOP convention.

Would you drink raw milk or give it to your kids or others?

People who say yes have been running into government regulation and law enforcement in Minnesota lately. They include a Richfield mother who got a stern letter from the state Department of Agriculture (see first YouTube video), and two farmers who are facing charges, as reported in the Star Tribune

I'm a past customer of one of the farmers, though it wasn't raw milk I bought. Michael Hartmann's farm in Gibbon, MN, in the 1990s distributed pasteurized organic milk called under the Minnesota Organic Milk (or M.O.M.'s) brand name. Bovine growth hormones were just coming into use and M.O.M.'s was the least expensive (and best tasting) milk around that didn't have hormones.

Then one day I couldn't find M.O.M.'s milk anymore. I heard from the food co-op where I shopped that state regulators were responsible. So I called the Minnesota Department of Agriculture to complain. I reached an official who told me about various infractions at Hartmann's farm and it sounded like meddling bureaucracy to me.

I mentioned that I liked to serve M.O.M.'s milk to my young kids. The bureaucratic tone of the official dropped away. "I would not give that milk to children," he said. Now I felt I was getting personal advice from an expert, not legalese, and I took it.

So I'm not a raw-milk advocate, but I respect other parents' wishes to serve their families foods that you might not find at every Cub or Rainbow. The question is whether raw milk fans are endangering themselves or others, and if they have the right to take that risk.

Presidential candidate Ron Paul drew raucous cheers when he told the state Republican Party convention last weekend, "We will know when the Republic is returned to us—that is, you can drink raw millk whenever you want to." (See second YouTube video, at the 13:17 mark.)

What do you think? Even if you don't want to give your kids raw milk, should the state of Minnesota interfere with others who wish to do so?

Lisa Furgison May 25, 2012 at 04:23 AM
I also grew up on a dairy farm and drank raw milk straight from the tank. We drank it, used it in cooking and poured it on cereal and no one in my family ever got sick.
RichardKClinton May 25, 2012 at 10:18 AM
Put it in this perspective, would you pasteurize human breast milk before giving it to an infant? I'm sorry, but there is no difference, as long as you are sanitary in the process!
Robin Marty May 25, 2012 at 12:31 PM
I would kill to find raw milk, honestly. Since I make my own cheese, I would like to get access to milk as "untainted" and fresh as possible. That way I can either pasteurize it myself, or make cheese, which, if you age for at least 60 days kills off any potential bacteria that could be in the milk. store milk is pastuerized quickly and at a higher temp than necessary to ensure all bacteria is dead, but a lot of the potential for contamination comes from the equipment more so than the milk, which is my they do it that way. It's usable for dairy products like milk and yogurt, but has less flavor and also is harder to get quality curd from. It's created for shelf life and shipping vs drinking and using for other products. I've tried to get milk straight from farmers but it's hard to do, since many are suspicious because of the crackdown. They won't sell, although legally some are willing to trade for other things. So I'm trying to create enough cheese, bread and beer to barter with for more milk to make more goods to barter with. Vicious cycle. I wish I knew a good farm... :(
Dana Habeck May 25, 2012 at 12:52 PM
Far more people get sick from spinach or guacamole than from raw milk. I agree that the potential is there for bad bacteria if conditions are unsanitary or poor temperature levels are common as was the case when milk was delivered in barrels on the back of a horse drawn wagon. If a parent can choose to feed their child macaroni and cheese with a coke for a meal, why in Gods name can't they serve them milk. Which of those options are worse for the child. The real problem is big business can't control or profit from the small farmer. We as a people need to fight for our right to party....even if we are raising a glass of milk!
Erin Winchell May 25, 2012 at 01:29 PM
I would not purchase or drink raw milk because: I cannot see or detect bacteria in my kitchen. Anyone can get ill or die from the wrong amount of the wrong kind of bacteria in milk. While milk directly from the cow should be safe, I do not know if it was contaminated at any point in the milking process. Were the cow's udders clean? The milking equipment? The storage equipment? Unless I'm doing the milking, I cannot know this. I hope the farm is doing everything right, but you never know. This is why milk is tested for bacteria, which as I previously stated, I cannot do. I want my milk to be tested at a lab before I buy it. I do not wish to potentially die or kill someone else just because a product tastes a little better.
anji May 25, 2012 at 01:45 PM
Robin, see www.realmilk.com and on facebook, www.facebook.com/findrawmilk
Grace McGarvie May 25, 2012 at 03:17 PM
The number of people willing to ignore scientific evidence with regard to raw milk and vaccinations, etc. astounds me. Are we a nation of dimwits?
Emily B May 25, 2012 at 03:43 PM
Poorly worded poll folks. It says "Even if you don't want to give your kids raw milk, SHOULD the state of Minnesota INTERFERE with others who wish to do so?" Given the comments are mostly supportive of raw milk, the answer would likely be NO! I wonder how many people misread this question.
Renee May 25, 2012 at 04:36 PM
If the milk is being collected at a milk bank for use by babies whose mothers cannot breastfeed, then it is pasteurized. There are instructions for pasteurizing human milk at home, too, which may be desirable in some cases (e.g., if the mother is HIV positive).
Renee May 25, 2012 at 04:37 PM
The milk also is not sterile inside the cow. If the cow is sick--even if it has no symptoms--the pathogen is likely in the milk.
Chris Steller (Editor) May 25, 2012 at 04:51 PM
Emily B, excellent point. To fix it, I'll add a poll question to address that angle. I hope people who voted on the first question will return for the new one.
Chris Steller (Editor) May 25, 2012 at 04:56 PM
Robin, thanks—I hadn't thought of it from the point of view of a home cheesemaker.
Mae Johns May 25, 2012 at 05:16 PM
Absolutely wrong. A woman's breasts are not right next to her anus. A cow's udders are, which is how E. coli and other bacteria get into the milk. Furthermore, a cow stands in poop and lies in it. And cows are carriers of Salmonella and other bacteria, even if they are perfectly healthy. There are 142 people sick in this country just since January from drinking raw milk that was "sanitary".
Mae Johns May 25, 2012 at 05:18 PM
They can't serve raw milk because raw milk is inherently dangerous. Spinach and guacamole don't come straight from the source with bacteria such as Listeria, Campylobacter, Salmonella, Brucella, and E. coli. Raw milk does. And here's what's worse for a child: kidney failure. Which costs $6 million dollars to treat. And who pays for that? The taxpayer.
Jeremy Larson May 25, 2012 at 06:19 PM
I grew up visiting my grandparents farm and drinking raw milk. We never got sick. The amount of nutrients lost in the pasteurization process is staggering. Emily got it right. The bigger issue here is that this is just one more example of the overreach of the government and attacks on our personal Liberties. The State should not interfere with peoples choice to seek out and find REAL, WHOLE, LOCAL foods compared to the frankenfoods found at the big boxes.
marcy r overby May 27, 2012 at 01:38 AM
We drank raw milk when we would go to the farm every summer.there were 5 kids,no one died or ever got sick. there is nothing like raw mlik...I do agree that there is way to much overreached of goverment attacks on our personl liberties..
Chris Steller (Editor) May 27, 2012 at 09:14 PM
I think I had raw milk once on a field trip to a farm. Everyone else's comments about it are making me thirsty. But did you see a letter to the editor in Sunday's Star Tribune? http://www.startribune.com/opinion/letters/154237795.html: "Minnesota law allows people who wish to bear the risk of illness to drink raw milk, but the Star Tribune puts the public in danger when it implies that there is some question about the whether the risks associated with drinking raw milk are real." Disagree?
Angie May 28, 2012 at 04:10 PM
I drank raw milk until I was 15 and we moved off our 3rd generation family farm. I would come in from playing outside and grab a glass a milk before a glass of water and never got sick. It was actually my job to wash and santize the cow's udders before my dad put on the milker. If I had the option I would give my kid's raw milk without thinking twice about it, actually I would LOVE a glass of raw milk right now!
Wendy Erlien May 28, 2012 at 06:11 PM
Honestly, I've never tried raw milk. Does it taste a lot different than your typical grocery store gallon of milk?
Shakopee Mom May 28, 2012 at 09:58 PM
Angie, but you sterlized and cleaned the udders and I am sure your Dad made sure the equipment was clean and sterilzed. The State NEEDS to make sure that happens,but when some people give their children because of their beliefs the state has the right to protect them from a very serious risk if the raw milk is not safe. The risk is too great to others. Sorry, these same people sue the state for not doing enough if their kids got sick because the raw milk was contaminated.
Shakopee Mom May 28, 2012 at 10:01 PM
Here is an posting from the U of M Veterinary School...interesting facts about sickness and death from raw milk consumption in Minnesota. http://www.cvm.umn.edu/cahfs/prod/groups/cvm/@pub/@cvm/@cahfs/documents/article/cvm_article_237243.pdf
Shakopee Mom May 28, 2012 at 10:13 PM
And here is a Slate article about why we need to pasterize....BTW milk is milk is milk ...no nutriential value is lost due to pasterization. Angie I bet you mom scaled the milk before she refrigerated it. I grew up on a dairy farm in PA and we had to. http://www.slate.com/articles/life/food/2010/07/the_rawmilk_deal.2.html
Shakopee Mom May 29, 2012 at 02:30 PM
Scalded instead of scaled and your mom instead of you mom.
Emily B May 29, 2012 at 03:13 PM
Thanks Chris, much appreciated!
Emily B May 29, 2012 at 03:19 PM
Mae, that is false. Raw milk is NOT "inherently" dangerous. Poor handling is, which is the same reason you can get sick from tainted veggies, fruits and meat. If the MDA folks really cared about food safety, they would get much more serious about monitoring conditions at slaughterhouses. At the federal level, Vilsack is actually supporting allowing chicken producers doing their OWN monitoring. The whole fight against raw milk only exists because it scares the buckets out of Big Dairy.
Emily B May 29, 2012 at 03:33 PM
But to the point of another post, parents are allowed EVERY DAY to feed their kids things like Red dye #40, pink slime and aspartame, not to mention that parents can legally smoke around infants and children, all of which can be toxic or even fatal (maybe not instantly, but over time), yet these things are perfectly legal. The instances of people getting sick from raw milk are minute compared with the food poisoning that happens from perfectly "safe" legally obtained food every day.
Angie May 31, 2012 at 07:01 PM
We never scalded the milk. Everything was clean and sterile with our milking equipment and we had very regular health inspections (which we always got a 100% on) as we did sell it to the local creamery. You are right there are people who will sue for everything and anything.
rob_h78 May 31, 2012 at 07:31 PM
I've tried and didn't like it... Of course if I drank it long enough I am sure it would become "normal" and I would likely not like pasteurized milk.
Mary June 06, 2012 at 03:04 AM
Amazing that nobody mentioned tuberculosis, which can be transmitted between people and cows. If parents insist on buying unpasteurized milk, they should also insist on seeing the herd's tuberculin testing records. The laws requiring pasteurization of milk played a huge role in stopping the deaths of thousands of children in the U.S. Now that TB is appearing in our colleges and schools, it seems irresponsible to think that raw milk is healthier. I also lived on a farm, and I remember raw milk from our cows having the taste of whatever the cows ate. There were times we bought store milk rather than drink our own cows' milk.
Fred Smith September 25, 2012 at 01:25 AM
If this were a posting about drownings and water safety while swimming in lakes....... here's what I'd say: "I bin swimmin' and swimmin' sinse I wuz nee hihe to a grasshopper all my life, in farm ponds and lakes. I never drowneded and my brothurs or sisters or other kinfolk never did drowneded neether. So I know that it never happens......... and the gubmint is just makes up statistics to skeer peeple frum swimmin' an' goin' in the water. Just anuther gubmint takeover of peeple's freedum!" Sounds completely insane but apparently this is the track that a certain vein of a certain segment of a certain political party is going down...... so sad.


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