One of the saddest stories I have ever written appeared in the February, 1982, issue of The New Farm magazine. It was about a farmer in Iowa who went to jail for selling raw milk. I don’t know if he is still alive and I doubt he wants to stir up an old turd as we used to say so I won’t use his name. I confess to being prejudiced in favor of unpasteurized milk because I grew up on it and drank for most of my lifetime. I still have all my own teeth at age 84, have followed a rather rigorous life in spare time sports and broken only one bone, when I was in my 70s and had no business still playing football. But I am not against pasteurized milk if that’s what pleases you. We are supposed to be free enough in this land of the free and home of the brave, to drink whatever kind of milk we prefer.
The farmer who went to jail for bootlegging milk had a thriving business going, as many as 500 customers. When the law stepped in, one particularly persisted buyer would not take no for an answer. Her doctor had prescribed raw milk for her child and nothing else would do. The farmer decided to ignore the law. The law lowered the boom.
The funny thing was that every time the law tried to stop the farmer, his customer base went up. The case eventually came to court. The farmer presented the evidence from the doctor and from laboratory analyses that showed his raw milk was just as clean or cleaner than the pasteurized. To no avail. The judge paid no attention to the evidence.
Finally undercover agents came to the farm, bought milk, and the farmer ended up spending 30 days in jail for contempt of court. That was the end of the raw milk business. From everything I could glean from the story, the main opposition had come from the Mississippi Valley (pasteurized) Milk Producers Association and the Iowa Secretary of Agriculture office. The pasteurized milk industry did not think it could afford the competition that raw milk dealers might bring. Horrors, maybe the majority of people might switch to raw milk.
I just can’t understand for the life of me why we hang on to laws that have become outmoded. The champions of pasteurized milk can pile tons of evidence on the table showing the risks of drinking raw milk and the raw milk devotees can pile up another table with evidence that today, with modern refrigeration, modern methods of controlling various cow diseases, improvements in transportation, and much better ways to maintain cleanliness in the milk house, raw milk is just as safe as pasteurized. Neither side will listen to the other. The best proof that raw milk is safe is to see how many states and districts do allow raw milk sales. I think Pennsylvania has allowed raw milk for years. Nevertheless we must continue to squabble and fuss and provide lawyers with good incomes all because basically, we must never admit that times change and laws and regulations need to change too.
I doubt that nature ever intended adult humans to drink milk anyway. Isn’t milk for babies? But if milk is okay that does not mean that butter is too. We’ve gone through 50 years of badmouthing butter and now all of a sudden, butter’s okay. Now wheat is bad. Wonder if anyone has thought of pasteurizing all those horrible gluten laden grains. Then there are the food faddists who suddenly get a notion that all greens need to be boiled. No more raw turnips. Maybe poison ivy would be delectable if you cooked the hell out of it.