We had an enormous response to our Tuesday show on the topic of raw milk. Our two guests spoke in favor of reducing restrictions and about raw milk and cheese traditions here and in Europe. Below are some of the responses we received.
As many of you know, the dangers and benefits of raw milk have been a hot topic of debate in Wisconsin lately. Other states have had similar public discussions and attitudes toward raw milk often differ by region, culture, and nation--just the kind of diversity we love to hear about! Please help fill in our map--leave a comment saying where you're from and how you view raw milk.
From Nora in Gerber, WI:
"In the 70's and 80"s our family was lucky enough to buy raw milk from a neighboring farmer, so our children grew up drinking raw milk. I used it in cooking and baking and made butter from the cream. I am extremely frustrated that Gov. Doyle chose to not sign the raw milk bill, effectively taking away the choice of informed consumers to purchase a superior product. Yes, pasteurization is necessary for shelf life so people in cities can have a safe product. But to deprive those of us who are willing to pay extra to get milk with all its enzymes intact is, in my opinion, too much government interference."
From Andrea in Illinois:
"When my daughter was 12 months old, she broke out with eczema, head to toe, and we eventually discovered this was triggered by over 20 food allergies. We had to put her on a very strict diet, or she would scratch herself bloody, scream and cry and wouldn't be able to sleep at night. She also stopped speaking. It was a nightmarish ordeal for our family, and doctors seemed unable to help her.
"I have purchased raw milk from a farm in Arkansaw, Wisconsin, several times. The milk tastes delicious and I have never had a problem. However, several years ago, I was one of those people who got E. coli from spinach. It was a very painful attack, and I was horribly ill and was in the hospital for a day. I am a LOT more worried about faceless corporate agriculture that cuts corners and takes chances with my health than I am about the small farmers I can talk to face-to-face and who stand behind their products!"
"Could the raw milk be sold under the marketing label of "homogenize it yourself" or "DIY homogenization" milk with directions of how long to boil the milk -- more or less like the selling of raw hamburger?
If a person chooses to eat raw hamburger, nobody feels sorry for them when they get sick -- why not the same with milk? That way, people could still drink raw milk at their own risk."
From Keith (a dairy veterinarian):
You need an expert in public health and food safety to respond to the opinions of your guest. His comments are not correct.
Cattle normally shed potentially harmful bacteria in their milk without any overt clinical signs of disease in cattle. These pathogens include E. coli, Listeria monocytogenes, and Salmonella species. This is not dependent on diet.
From Ken in Oconto Falls:
I have conflicted thoughts regarding the issue of the recent attempt in Wisconsin to authorize limited sale of raw milk in the state. So I was looking forward to the program aired today on raw milk consumption, expecting a balanced presentation of factual and research based information on the issue. Boy was I surprised and disappointed. Enough so that I felt I had to respond.
I felt today's program did a disservice to listeners who depend on public radio programming to present balanced discussion of controversial issues to help in forming informed opinions. The guests presented information that was primarily opinion not very well based on data or research. For example, Willie, the cheesemakers' comment that the state boy who died of E. Coli may have survived if his parents had fed him raw milk. Or Mr Castell asserting that it
was the powerful commercial dairy interests in the state that convinced the Governor to veto the raw milk bill. He did not mention that the medical and food safety establishment in the state also objected vehemently. While some consumers may have been led to be suspicious of the dairy industry's motives, those groups' concerns should cause any rational person to seriously consider the use of raw milk. I was further disturbed by his "blowing off" of the caller who works in food safety as an agent of big dairy/food industries.
To me the whole concept of "food culture" speaks to a rather elitist and privileged audience. If that was the target audience for this program I would say the target was hit. Food security is a concern for a much larger and growing segment of the population of our state and country. I hope that Wisconsin Public Radio would also have
concern for and be ready to help educate that greater audience about the commercial dairy industry that provides all of us with nutritious, high quality, and safe dairy products from dairy farms and dairy processing plants small and large. By the way, commercial producers along with skilled and creative cheese makers use that milk to produce world class cheeses as demonstrated by the records of national and international cheese competitions.
Today's two guests are definitely committed and have a right to their opinions, but when dealing with the topic of safety of such everyday foods as milk and dairy products I think it is dangerous to carry their opinions and arguments without challenge.
So I hope to see soon, a follow up program that presents an honest and non-judgmental portrayal of the commercial dairy industry, its standards and practices, and the record of protecting the safety of consumers of dairy products; and the food safety and medical community's scientific rationale for their recommendations on consumption of raw milk.
From Julie in Mindoro (a dairy farmer):
"On Tuesday, I heard Mark Kastel, representing the Cornucopia Institute, making generalizations about dairy farms and dairy producers which simply do not hold water, or milk for that matter. We do not graze our cattle, nor do we produce a certified organic product; that being said, it is incorrect of Mr. Kastel to say we therefore could not be of the mindset nor accomplishment of producing a high quality product, nor doing so with the utmost quality of health in mind for our cattle. Successful Wisconsin dairy producers such as ourselves pay attention to forage quality and ration balancing to maintain animal health first and foremost, because healthy cows with healthy rumen flora produce milk most efficiently and stay in our herds. In this day and age, there is nothing romantic about old red barns and cattle on pasture. Taste of milk from cows fed on pasture, bought on farm, tastes good because it is fresh, not because it is raw milk. Allowing the sale of raw milk, against the best advice of people in the fields of food safety, veterinary medicine, and human medicine would be foolish. The potential of disease from foodborne bacteria is real and significant, and has little to do with the categories of grazier or organic producer vs. the category misrepresented by Mr. Kastel: “conventional” dairy producer. Come look me and my husband and our three hundred cows “in the eye”, as one caller described her buying relationship with local food providers, and you will see years of experience, education, and concern for our cows as well as our consumers. Our state needs to continue licensing the production of food which is safe to consume, and not cave in to what “feels” healthy but simply is not so. Mr. Kastel said the Governor ignored public voice—I don’t think so. He listened to the voice of reason, spoken by dairy producers, food scientists, veterinarians, and doctors!
Do you want to drink raw milk? Then buy a cow or a goat, house her, feed her, get her bred, and milk her yourself!"