Most states in the country have significant restrictions on the sale of raw milk, and at first glance, Oregon's seem like some of the less extreme ones. Sales are outright illegal in 20 states, and though Oregon does not allow the retail sale of raw milk, it does allow small organic dairies – with three cows or fewer, only two of which can be lactating at any given time – to sell their product directly to consumers. The catch, however, is that these dairies are prohibited from advertising their product.
Christine Anderson filed a lawsuit on Tuesday in the hopes of changing that. She owns and runs Cast Iron Farm, a two cow dairy and has taken great pains to ensure the process creates the highest quality, safest milk possible, combining modern and traditional methods. The government's concern is that raw milk may carry harmful bacteria like salmonella and E. coli, but such hazards are usually a product of human milk processing, not the cow, itself. Anderson's process minimizes these risks.
Last year, the Oregon Department of Agriculture told Anderson she must remove the milk prices from her website, and as part of this, she has been unable to advertise sales when she has a surplus of milk and is forced to waste much of it, feeding it to her pigs. She also felt compelled to remove information about her milking, bottling and testing methods from her website, because they could also be construed as advertising. The irony of this, as her attorney has noted, is that this actually keeps consumers from accessing information which could help them make safer raw milk choices.
There are a growing number of Americans who consider raw milk to be much healthier than that which is pasteurized.
The pasteurization process destroys proteins, enzymes and probiotics which many consider integral to digestive health. Digestive health has been increasingly linked to overall health, with allergies, infections and even autoimmune disease being connected to digestive issues.
Another issue facing smaller farms is that big corporations like Monsanto and the milk lobby have millions of dollars to advertise their products. They control the public narrative and have the power of the mass media to essentially eliminate smaller competitors.
However, the public is waking up and are concerned about pasteurized milk products that may contain growth hormones. Many countries have already outlawed the artificial hormone rBGH used to inject milk cows in order to maximize production. Starbucks, Chipotle, and Ben and Jerry's state that their dairy products are rBGH-free. Concerns over chemicals, hormones, and drugs in pasteurized milk has helped raw milk sales. The trend to buy local and natural foods continues to be a popular trend in the U.S.
Those in rural communities are fighting draconian laws and regulations imposed by politicians who are influenced by special interests and lobbyists. Farmers like Anderson are filing lawsuits while others are using jury nullification to stand up for their Constitutional rights.
According to the Minneapolis Star Tribune, "a Hennepin County jury found Alvin Schlangen not guilty of three misdemeanor counts of selling unpasteurized milk, operating without a food license and handling adulterated or misbranded food." Each count carried a maximum sentence of three months' imprisonment.
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