By Dr. Mercola
William Winter, a veterinarian, livestock nutritionist, holistic herd health consultant and a chapter leader for the Weston A. Price Foundation (WAPF), is the latest to fall victim to the “food police,” who raided his Minnesota-based private food club. Operating under the name of Uptown Locavore, residents subscribed to this buying club in order to secure a share of farm-fresh foods like raw milk and cheese and meat.
Minneapolis health inspectors, however, obtained a search warrant for the club and sealed all food-containing refrigerators and freezers, preventing Winter from dispensing the products. On his Facebook page, Winter — who has been targeted by health officials in the past — explained that the club’s intention is to provide wholesome food to the people who want it — and it’s fully legal.
“Nothing is for sale to the public … We are not a ‘store.’ This is fully legal in America. However, many of the ground-pounders and officials don’t even know our own American, state, county and city laws. They can come down on us hard,” he wrote.1 Health inspectors cited Winter for six violations related to selling unlicensed dairy products, meat, fish and other foods, in part because some of them lacked labelling.
The Minnesota Department of Agriculture also targeted Winter’s natural food buying club in 2010, halting operations while it investigated the potential “food licensing” issues.2
Meanwhile, tainted foods from lettuce to chicken continue to sicken and kill Americans, yet get health agencies’ golden seal of approval. This includes dairy produced at concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) — the bulk of the dairy products consumed in the U.S. — which have been implicated in a number of outbreaks in recent years.
The War Against Raw Milk and Farm-Fresh Foods Continues
Winter’s is only the latest raw dairy club to be targeted — and potentially shut down — by authorities. According to A Campaign for Real Milk, a project of WAPF, “In Ontario, farmers may be fined $250,000 and sentenced to three years in jail [for selling or distributing raw milk] … Challenges to these laws are now underway. And in spite of onerous penalties, Michael and Dorothea Schmidt of Glencolton Farm provide milk to cow-shareholders in Toronto.”3
Schmidt has been battling with the Canadian government for decades in order to provide safe raw milk to area residents. He has been harassed with threats, surveillance, intimidation and raids, even though no one has ever gotten sick from drinking the raw milk products he provides. Since it is illegal to sell raw milk in Canada, those who wanted to enjoy Schmidt’s raw milk products formed the Glencolton farm share, in which each owned a piece of a cow and could therefore legally enjoy its milk.
The government eradicated this loophole, however, so the shareholders moved to own the farm instead of just the cow, by transforming into the ARC co-op. The government still intervened, however, forcing the members to “operate with caution” out of fear that they might be raided while trying to pick up a gallon of milk. Although members have tried to set up meetings with government officials to outline their concerns and reach an agreeable conclusion, the government has not been interested.4
Why are governments so intent on targeting small operators of food clubs delivering farm-fresh foods to local residents? As long as farmers are prevented from selling to consumers directly, processors can and do price fix the market, ultimately leading to the intentional destruction of small, family dairy farms and consolidation of CAFO dairy farms using taxpayer-funded subsidies.5
Which Foods Are Most Likely to Make You Sick?
Every year in the U.S., 48 million people get sick from foodborne illnesses, 128,000 are hospitalized and 3,000 die.6 Recent foodborne outbreaks in 2018 include salmonella found in eggs produced by Rose Acre Farms, one of the largest egg producers in the U.S., and E. coli in romaine lettuce grown in the Yuma, Arizona, region.
In recent years, we’ve seen additional outbreaks involving CAFO beef, flour, strawberries, frozen vegetables, packaged salads, pistachios and scallops, yet raw dairy products continue to be the acting scapegoats when it comes to foodborne illness. In reality, many foodborne illnesses are actually caused by CAFO meats and eggs, shellfish and pasteurized CAFO dairy.7
Poultry CAFOS are among the worst offenders when it comes to foodborne illness. Case in point, in April 2017, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released a preliminary report stating that 8,547 cases of the more than 24,000 foodborne infections reported in 2016 were caused by campylobacter, bacteria that can cause diarrhea, fever and abdominal cramps (compared to 8,172 caused by salmonella).8
The campylobacter problem on CAFO chicken is so bad that the U.K.’s Food Standards Agency (FDA) urged people to stop washing raw chicken in 2014, as doing so could increase your risk of coming into contact with campylobacter.9
Even the CDC warns against the practice, noting that raw chicken is often contaminated with campylobacter bacteria (and sometimes salmonella and clostridium perfringens bacteria), and states, “During washing, chicken juices can spread in the kitchen and contaminate other foods, utensils and countertops.”10
Yet, there’s no crackdown on poultry CAFOs, shutting them down and forcing them to clean up their acts. Also revealing, while campylobacter is the bacteria responsible for most cases of foodborne illness, leafy greens are actually the No. 1 source of food poisoning in the U.S, accounting for nearly half of all illnesses.11
Meanwhile, even in the absence of a complaint of contamination, farmers and consumers are often harassed over the buying and selling of raw milk. In contrast, Blue Bell Creamery — one of the largest ice cream makers in the U.S. whose ice cream sickened 10 people with listeria, three of whom died as a result, in 2015, was fined just $175,000 for the incident.12
Big Dairy Controlling Milk
Big Dairy works hard to keep milk prices tightly controlled, for their own benefit. It wasn’t that long ago (2011) that a class-action lawsuit on behalf of consumers was filed against a number of dairy companies and trade groups, charging they killed more than half a million young cows in order to artificially inflate the price of milk — a classic price fixing scheme, and certainly not the first, nor likely the last.13
In 2013, the Dairy Farmers of America (DFA) also paid a nearly $159 million fine to settle a 2007 lawsuit alleging the DFA conspired with a number of companies to suppress milk prices by closing bottling plants and stifling competition. In 2010, Dean Foods also paid dairy farms in the northeast a $30 million settlement as part of an antitrust lawsuit.14
Meanwhile, in 2016, the industrial dairy industry dumped 43 million gallons of milk due to a massive milk glut. The glut was the result of a 2014 spike in milk prices, which encouraged many dairy farmers to add more milk cows to their farms. U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) data showed that dairy cows increased by 40,000 in 2016, with a 1.4 percent increase in production per cow. With too much milk and nowhere to sell it, prices tanked.
At the same time, as CAFOs became the norm for dairy farms (even in idyllic-seeming dairy states like Vermont), farmers were forced to grow their herds and increase milk production using artificial (drug and hormone-based) methods, among others (like feeding cows an unnatural amount of grain-based food, 24-hour confinement and increased number of milkings per day).
Now, with a global oversupply of milk and falling milk prices, small dairy farmers are finding it impossible to make ends meet. One Massachusetts farmer who owns a 75-cow dairy farm said he’s only getting 75 percent of the price he needs to break even. Amidst financial crisis, dairy farmer suicides are on the rise and many are forced to diversify into other products, such as pumpkins, sweetcorn and even raw milk.15 But Big Dairy is a powerful lobbying force to Congress in attempts to stop the latter at any cost.
In reality, the Organic Consumers Association (OCA) notes, raw milk could offer a major and much-needed push to rural economies. In fact, if 100 farms in Wisconsin could provide raw milk to 50 local families, it would lead to more than $10 million in “increased wealth and well-being” for Wisconsin residents.16
OCA further noted, “A boost like that is exactly what rural economies need as U.S. dairy farmers continue going out of business at an unsustainable rate. In 1950, there were about 3.5 million farms with milking cows. By 2016, there were only 41,809. Between 2015 and 2016, 1725 dairy farms went under.”17
Why so Many People Drink Raw Milk
In the video above, you can view my interview with Winter, where he speaks about the health benefits and safety of raw milk. When speaking about raw milk, we’re referring to milk that comes from animals raised on pasture, in healthy natural environments. Milk from CAFOs, where disease runs rampant, could not be safely consumed raw!
In contrast, animals raised on pasture are healthier, which means they’re not routinely fed antibiotics, and are allowed to live out their lives as cows should, grazing and feeling the sun on their backs. Cows produce more milk, faster, when they’re fed grain in the barn, as opposed to grazing on grass on pasture, which is why, unfortunately, the CAFO model has flourished. There are problems with pasteurization as well, as noted by WAPF:18
“Pasteurization destroys enzymes, diminishes vitamin content, denatures fragile milk proteins, destroys vitamins C, B12 and B6, kills beneficial bacteria, promotes pathogens and is associated with allergies, increased tooth decay, colic in infants, growth problems in children, osteoporosis, arthritis, heart disease and cancer.
Calves fed pasteurized milk do poorly and many die before maturity. Raw milk sours naturally but pasteurized milk turns putrid; processors must remove slime and pus from pasteurized milk by a process of centrifugal clarification.
Inspection of dairy herds for disease is not required for pasteurized milk. Pasteurization was instituted in the 1920s to combat TB [tuberculosis], infant diarrhea, undulant fever and other diseases caused by poor animal nutrition and dirty production methods. But times have changed and modern stainless steel tanks, milking machines, refrigerated trucks and inspection methods make pasteurization absolutely unnecessary for public protection.”
So if you want to drink milk, grass fed raw milk from a high-quality source is generally superior in nutrition and flavor. It will also help to decrease the likelihood of insulin spikes from the milk sugar, courtesy of the thick layer of cream on top. There’s also no doubt that you should have the option of choosing what to eat and from what sources.
This is why the fight over raw milk stands as a symbol of the much larger fight for food freedom. Ultimately, choosing food that comes from small regenerative farms — not CAFOs — is crucial. If you’re interested in raw milk, here are tips for finding high-quality raw milk sources:
Does the farmer and his entire family drink the milk themselves?
Does the farmer test his milk for pathogens, and can he prove that his product has a low pathogenic population?
Are the cows fed with natural grass on a pasture? If not, what are they feeding the cows?
How long has the farmer been in business producing raw milk?
What conditions are the cows raised in? Do they look healthy?
Is the farm accredited with sanitation standards? In a related note, does the farm have a history of sanitation problems?
Is the milk quickly chilled after collecting?
Are cows given antibiotics and growth hormones? (Remember, organic standards do not allow this practice.)
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