Take the Raw Milk Consumer Survey

As many as 3% of consumers may prefer their milk unpasteurized, a growing trend that has spurred federal legislation to allow raw milk to cross state lines. As demand grows, we have seen an increase in raw milk blogs, regulatory action in states such as Connecticut and California, and even an increase in raw milk conferences and conference panels. The raw milk discussion remains polarizing. Of the two prominent raw milk symposiums so far this year, one was made up exclusively of raw milk opponents and sponsored by the International Association for Food Protection, and the other was made up exclusively of raw milk advocates.

A third symposium, in planning since the summer of 2008, is noteworthy in having a raw milk consumer on the panel. Called “The Raw Milk Conundrum,” the American Veterinary Medical Association will host the symposium this summer in Seattle. The panel includes regulators from the CDC and FDA, Californian’s favorite love-to-hate dairy safety expert Michael Payne, notorious food safety lawyer William Marler, Barfblog’s Doug Powell, and one raw milk consumer: me.

I have a social science background and a longstanding interest in the philosophy of choice. I am charged with presenting an even-handed paper on raw milk choice appropriate for a scientific meeting. To that end, I am conducting a survey on raw milk consumer information and need your help.

If you consume raw milk and live in the United States, please take this survey. It should take only 10 to 15 minutes to complete. The survey will close April 30. The paper will be available later this fall.

Take the survey now.

15 Responsesto “Take the Raw Milk Consumer Survey”

  1. Eric Reuter says:

    As a producer and consumer of raw milk, I was very interested to read this, and to take the survey. However, I realized very quickly that the survey failed to account for one of the common uses of raw milk - making other dairy products for home use.

    We keep dairy goats for ourselves, and I also work part-time at a nearby goat dairy. We do not drink the milk raw, though I believe it is clean. We use it mostly to make yogurt and various cheeses, which we like better than straight milk in any form. Many other consumers who might not drink raw milk can use it to make completely safe yogurt or dairy products, and I suspect many people who do drink raw milk also make dairy products.

    It drives me absolutely crazy that nowhere in the discussions/arguments about raw milk does anyone seem to realize or care that drinking it is only one way to use raw milk. Even if you think it's dangerous, making most cheeses and yogurts raises the milk past the safe pasteuerization temperature, rendering it safe. Heck, ban drinking raw milk if you want, but allow the sale of the product for use in the kitchen.

    To me, selling raw milk is no different than selling raw meat. It's potentially dangerous if produced or handled improperly, but perfectly safe if (a) from a clean source and/or (b) is prepared in normal ways. Just look at the meat lobby's insistence on safe cooking methods as a solution to contamination. I think eating rare steak is crazy, but we're not forbidden from doing that (even in restaurants), and sales of raw meat are happily labelled with all sorts of government warnings about cooking the meat fully to temperature. Apparently the government is comfortable selling dangerous raw meat to consumers with a warning label and letting them take their own chances, why not milk? What's so inherently terrible about letting me buy raw milk to make into yogurt or cheese, which is as safe as cooking the meat thoroughly?

    Moreover, given that USDA regs allow the butchering and sale of poultry on-farm with no inspections, it is apparently safe for consumers to buy raw chicken from an unlicensed farm to take home and cook/eat as they see fit, but it's terribly dangerous to milk an animal and take THAT product home and drink/prepare it as they see fit. The production, handling, storage, and transport needs of raw chicken are no more or less than for raw milk, so what's the problem?

    I couldn't fill out that survey in good conscience because it was solely aimed at DRINKERS of raw milk. Not only are you missing a major portion of raw milk users, you're doing a deep disservice to farmers as a whole when you leave out all the other uses for the product. Please take the message to your conference that raw milk is an ingredient just like meat, and our policies should account for customers' abilities to make rational choices about the preparation of that ingredient as they are allowed to do for meat and almost any other ingredient.

  2. Amanda Rose says:

    Great comment, Eric. Thank you!

  3. Eric Reuter says:

    Amanda,

    I've posted a longer, two-part version of those comments on my farm blog (click on my name). The first part contains some useful information and stories from Missouri that may help you in your symposium. Thanks for your interest.

  4. TheBovine says:

    Interesting to learn about this upcoming symposium. Will you be the only voice there in support of raw milk? Is there a website for this symposium? I've noted that you comment often on The Complete Patient. I'd do your survey but I'm not in the U.S. As for Eric's suggestion, I'm a raw milk consumer, but not a producer, and I consume most of my raw milk in the form of Kefir (I use the body ecology diet starter). However the kefir making process does not require temperatures in the pasteurization range, but it does involve bacterial culturing similar to yogurt.

  5. Eric Reuter says:

    Readers might also be interested in a comment posted on my blog by the operator of Missouri's sole licensed Grade A raw milk dairy, Greenwood Farms. He notes that, among other things, their raw milk is tested for various pathogens in an on-farm laboratory and comes out at a fraction of the state legal limit. Another line of evidence that raw milk is not inherently dangerous if produced and handled responsibly, just like any other product. Reminds me of Joel Salatin's claim that his chickens tested far cleaner than those in the grocery store, despite the government's insistence that they were unsafe.  Amanda, you might well consider contacting Greenwood Farms to take their story to your symposium...

  6. Amanda Rose says:

    Thank you again, Eric. I'll write more when the survey is complete.

    I'm the only raw milk consumer on the panel and speaking to the issue of choice. There's no website info that I've found. It's been in the works since last summer but I don't know how publicized it will be outside of the AVMA community.

    I recommend getting kefir grains for homemade kefir. You'll save money over time.

  7. Bill Sullivan says:

    Great care needs to be taken when testing raw milk in order to get accurate results. There are a number of tests conducted on our milk that test for bacteria of various types. Many tests require the milk sample to be incubated for 18 hours or greater in order for the bacteria to grow and let us know it is present. Bacteria is always present in raw milk but the USDA has set guide lines for acceptable levels. Many times producers don't even know they are having a problem with a very high bacteria count until four or five days after the milk has been shipped. This is a very large topic with many variables to consider and that is why there is so much concern about raw milk. I don't believe  there is any reason other then to protect the ones who can't protect themselves such as children and elderly folks for these rules. I have received milk quality awards and also have seen bacteria levels that we had to do battle with and that is not uncommon in the dairy industry. I end this comment by saying Be Careful and be sure you have done your homework because the people you will debate have done theirs.

  8. Ali B. says:

    The most compelling argument I've heard against raw milk is one that Marler made in a Culinate Q&A. He argued that the risks today are greater than they've ever been before, because thanks to CAFOs and corn-feeding, we now face more virulent food-borne pathogens (acid-resistant E. coli among them), and that the risks today are much greater than they once were. This is, of course, a great argument for eliminating lots of other things, including hamburgers from CAFOs. However, a reverse-slippery slope argument isn't likely to be very convincing in a debate.

    Marler also did a literature review of raw milk, both pros and cons - you can find links to them here: http://www.marlerblog.com/2009/01/articles/lawyer-oped/raw-milk-irradiation-grain-or-grassfed-meat-and-food-safety/. Might be good prep.

    Not a raw milk drinker myself. However, I do feel like people should be informed of the risks of their choices, and -- assuming those choices don't hurt others -- be allowed to choose.

  9. mark mcafee says:

    Amanda,

    Having attended the NCIMS conference in Orlando Florida and seeing the FDA in action over raw milk, and having dealt extensively with Marler....here is some advice....please take some support with you to the conference. You have been chosen to be used as a public sacrifice and your execution will provide a trophy for the anti raw milk crowd.

    I took your survey and thank you deeply for scientifically researching this topic.

    You need more support....please ask for it....we will come and support you. The FDA and big dairy want to eat your lunch....and show off the trophy of your public lynching when it is all done.

    That is why you are the only pro raw milk person on the panel and none of the heavy hitters have been invited. If they were serious about a dialogue they would have invited Pete Kennedy, Sally Fallon or Dr. Tom Cowan, Dr. Ted Beals etc...This is a token summit and you are about to be hung all by yourself. I deeply respect your effort and wish you the best. Please consider getting more support to show and help you. How come no producers of raw milk were invited????

    Be careful and watch out.

    Mark McAfee

  10. MissSteak says:

    Ali B., you raise a crucial point: I drink raw milk every day, but I would never ever drink raw milk from a CAFO / feedlot / bulk-processing type operation! I want THAT stuff pasteurized -- and fortunately for all of us, it is. If milk is to be drunk raw, it has to start clean, which means it needs to come from properly raised, free-roaming, grass fed, local herds. I think that when people on either side of this particular fence disagree, it's partially because the pro-pasteurizers assume massive dairy facilities (and thus they're quite right to think that a little sterilization is in order) while raw folk assume small-scale, humane, inherently clean husbandry. How could they possibly ever agree. Better for all, IMO, to allow raw milk and then promote and support the local, small-scale agricultural conditions that make this safe and feasible. 

  11. Amanda Rose says:

    Mark,

    It's not a showdown. It will all be fine. Your list of experts is good for a showdown but not for a paper on the philosophy of choice. I doubt it will turn into a brawl, but I could learn judo. 

    Amanda

  12. Michele Jay-Russell says:

    Hi Ethicureans,

    I am a co-organizer of the public health session on raw milk at AVMA this summer.  The purpose of the session is to provide continuing education (CE) for veterinarians.  Due to the size of the convention (multiple concurrent sessions), we had to develop the speaker list a year in advance.  There was a raw dairy farmer from WA state on the program, but he had to cancel.   We are grateful to Dr. Rose for agreeing to travel to the conference and share her information with veterinarians from across the country.  The session is not set-up as a debate and all speakers will be treated with respect. 

    Thanks for the suggestions for other speakers - perhaps we can have a follow-up session in subsequent years to explore the issue further. 

    Michele

  13. MsMondragon says:

    I'd love to help, but I live in Puerto Rico. We have local milk industry, and so far, this is the first time I've heard you can get raw milk commercially. Only fully pasteurized products are available here. The only way you can get raw milk is if you live next to a dairy farm and know thy neighbor. Is there a way to promote this? I would fully support a movement of this kind in my little island!

  14.  I think MissSteak brings up a very good point regarding dairy size and how pro-pasturization/anti-pasturization people think of dairies and dairy production. This is probably why, in my own state of Oregon, you can sell raw milk to consumers without being licensed, but only if you have no more than 3 cows (might be 3 cows on premises only 2 of which are being milked at one time) or 9 goats being milked at a time, no advertising is allowed, the sale has to be direct to the consumer, and it has to be sold on the farm where it was produced.

    <a href="http://www.oregon.gov/ODA/FSD/program_dairy.shtml">From the ODA website -</a>
    The dairy law exempts from licensing a person owning not more than three dairy cows that have calved at least once, nine sheep that have lactated at least once or nine goats that have lactated at least once. The fluid milk from these animals may be sold for human or other consumption only if:

    The person does not advertise the milk for sale
    The milk is sold directly to the consumer at the premises where produced; and
    No more than two producing dairy cows, nine producing sheep or nine producing goats are located on the premises where the milk is produced.

  15. Sally says:

    I agree with Eric's comments about using milk as an ingredient.  We have a self-sufficency based farm where we raise goats, and although we drink the milk, much more of it goes to make cheese.  I don't pasturize the milk we humans drink, but I do pasturize the milk we feed back to kids (to prevent CAE and CL transmission,)  freeze (for winter use/kid feeding,) or make into cheese.  I find my cheese is more consistant with pasturization.
    I also had some trouble answering the true/false questions about milk.  I think the safety of milk is as dependent on how it is handled regardless of pasturization.  That is, carefully handled (and therefore clean)  milk of either status is preferable (and safer) than badly handled (and therefore contaminated) milk of either status.  But the true/false statements did not address handling.