January 26, 2014

The raw milk adventure

It's no secret that we drink raw milk. In fact, I did a little series a couple years ago about why we love it (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3). So the turn of events this past week made life a little bit interesting as we attempted to defend our real-food, raw milk lifestyle.

If you live in South Dakota, there's a good chance that you saw one of the glaring headlines in one of the papers, online, or on the news....


YIKES! Sounds horrifying, right?? Did it conjure up memories of pathogen-infested cantaloupe and people dying from this horrible bacteria? I will admit, all that flashed through my mind too. A friend called and asked if I'd heard. I hadn't, but a quick Google search provided me with exactly what I was looking for. Sure enough, milk from a producer near Brookings had tested positive for listeria. There's only one raw milk producer here, and it's the one we get our milk from. Most certainly, our whole family had consumed the milk.

I did have a minor freak-out moment.

But it was short-lived. I called our producer who gave me his side of the story and a couple things to research, which of course, I did. Here's what I found and why I'm not worried at all about our raw milk:

1. Our state just changed their testing regulations. They took effect in January. So the milk I've been drinking for four years is suddenly unfit for human consumption the same week the new regulations went into effect? Hmmmm.....I don't think so. 

2. There are multiple species of listeria. Ten, that I counted. Only one (l.monocytogenes) causes illness. The state did not release any information about which strain they found. Why? Because they didn't test for any specific strains!!

3. Listeria is a very common bacteria. It is present all the time in the environment, including the species that causes illness (humans have to be exposed to the bacteria in HUGE amounts for it to cause illness). In fact, at any given time, roughly 10% of the population will test positive for listeria.

This was more than enough to frustrate me. Here we go again....the government sticking their noses where they don't belong and making thing difficult for people who want to consume clean, healthy food. Multiple states have banned the sale of raw milk altogether, and others are constantly trying to do the same (including ours).

Honestly, I can't understand why they even care so much?!? Prescription drugs, cigarettes and alcohol are all legal, but kill infinitely more people than raw milk consumption! In fact, since 1975 (when the CDC began keeping stats on raw milk) there has not been one recorded death from listeria in raw milk. Interestingly enough, there have been three from pasteurized milk. My only guess is that if someone did die, the state could be in trouble because they didn't regulate it? I don't know.

Needless to say, I was pretty fired up about my right to raw milk being taken away for what seemed to be nothing but the government giving people the runaround. Wanting to help, I emailed one of the local news stations and offered my perspective as a consumer. Shortly afterward, they asked if they could do an interview.

I look pretty calm, don't I?
I felt like throwing up.

Thankfully, the woman doing the interview was extremely nice and very down-to-earth. She wasn't intimidating at all and made the whole process much more comfortable than I expected.

The whole thing went pretty smoothly. I was worried about saying something stupid, but I think I avoided that, for the most part. Of course, I brushed up on all my facts. Told them everything I knew about the pasteurization process, why raw milk is better, why a positive listeria test doesn't necessarily mean the milk is bad, etc. They taped for me for about 10 minutes, and then took some footage of our kids drinking the milk.

We even got the reporter to try some of it. She was cautious (everyone is the first time) but said she liked it! Props to her for being brave enough to drink the supposed contaminated milk.

All in all, it was a fun experience. Of course, they edited it down significantly and mostly all that I was able to comment on was the fact that I had done my research and determined the whole thing was blown out of proportion. But I'm totally cool with that - this story wasn't about me. Mostly, I was pleased that they took the time to interview our producer and get his perspective. And more than that, they even allowed him to comment about the multiple species of listeria and how the state did not test for specific strains.

Huge thanks to KSFY for being willing to give a solid, factual report on our side of the story!

If you missed it, you can view it here.


  1. Kudos, Virginia!!! I know Aimee and her family really appreciate the raw milk they get there in Brookings. We are not allowed to do that here in Montana. Too many scared for their livelihoods by the big milk industry. Our family had a shared cow when the kids were growing up, back in SD. When that cow dried up and we bought the pasteurized, homogenized sort from the grocery store, we all got colds!! Colleen Jacobson

  2. Thanks for stepping out for raw milk. We are trying to get a law passed in WV to allow any kind of sales. I have to throw out all of my extra milk, I cannot even sell it for pet food.

  3. High fives for your courage. Thank you!!

  4. Good job! We are still struggling with this issue in TX. I have milk goats, and I would be in more trouble if I even gave my milk away than if I sold somebody a joint of marajuana. Absolutely ridiculous. I practice Grade A hygene standards, but can't afford the $2,000. fee to get a license to sell it.

  5. I'm pretty sure the gov. has a war on raw milk because they started "fixing" the price of milk, eggs and grains when FDR began the war on poverty. They control the supply to tinker with supply and demand, paying some farmers to NOT produce so that the market is not flooded and demand remains stable. Extra food is then bought by the gov. and then the food stamp program and food banks distribute the excess. It's one reason why small farms struggle so much; they can never really make a profit because the government prevents it. I imagine there is some fear that if the American people ever wised up and bypassed the grocery store then there would no longer be a fixed price on milk and maybe not of any other staple commodity in the future.

    1. This is exactly what the basis of the problem is!! Add in the fact that Monsanto wants their dairy industry to flourish under their rules that makes their circle of money work and you have a recipe for suppression of food rights. What a racket!!!