Should consumers in Sacramento be allowed to buy raw milk anytime they want? After all, Elliott’s Natural Foods on El Camino Avenue near Watt Avenue in Sacramento sells raw milk, cultured raw butter, plain raw butter, raw milk cheese and even raw milk quephor, which is cultured colostrum or raw milk turned into kefir. Organic Pastures of California produces and sells raw milk kefir (quephor). See the site, Fermentation Support Forum • View topic – health codes.
Check out the July 25, 2011 Sacramento Bee and Modesto Bee article by Carlos Alcalá, “El Dorado County farmers challenge food regulations.” You can buy organic raw milk cheddar cheese in many Sacramento supermarkets that have natural food aisles and in the natural food markets in Sacramento that carry aged organic raw milk cheese.
Based in Fresno, Organic Pastures is family-owned, and produces fresh raw dairy products including milk, butter, cheeses and quephor, a drinkable yogurt made from kefir grains in the Russian tradition. The farm has been in operation since 1950 and also provides raw organic beef. In addition to producing dairy products, Organic Pastures also manufactures kombucha, a non-dairy drink made from fermented tea. The cows are naturally raised without any growth hormones or antibiotics.
These cows do not feed on any genetically modified organisms (GMOs). Organic Pastures is recognized by the National Farmers Organization. They are located at 7221 South Jameson Avenue, Fresno, CA 93706. Other California raw milk producers are listed at the site, Organic Dairy Producers in California | eHow.com. The important question to ask farmers is whether their cows or goats are grass-fed or grain-fed. You want milk from grass-fed animals. Other raw milk producers in California are in Petaluma. You have three family farms located in Sonoma, Marin and Mendocino counties.
Now we’ll talk about another farm. When it comes to buying raw milk in the Sacramento and El Dorado areas, you have individual niche farmers, such as the farmer mentioned in the Sacramento Bee article that discusses one specific family farm in Shingle Springs, El Dorado County, a suburb near Sacramento. There two cows are owned by 15 people. The law says the cow’s owner can legally drink the raw milk if the milk is filtered and unpasteurized. You’re talking about a small farm producing milk mainly for the grand kids. But the two cows are owned by 15 people. Should the milk be divided among the 15 owners of the two cows? The milk isn’t being sold to the public in stores, just to the owners of the two cows–15 people only.
That’s the big issue with government regulations and costs: The two cows are owned by 15 people. Here’s the question for you Sacramentans to answer. Should each of those 15 owners be legally allowed to share 1/15 of the raw milk? That would mean dividing the milk into 15 equal parts to share with the 15 owners.
Are each of the owners legally entitled to an equal share of the raw milk produced by the two cows? What do you think? Here’s what the California Department of Food and Agriculture stipulates: According to the California Department of Food and Agriculture, it’s a commercial transaction that’s subject to the state’s dairy food safety laws. Should dividing the milk be subject to dairy food safety laws in Sacramento? Is it a commercial transaction to divide the milk of two cows among 15 of the cow’s owners?
Is the milk being given to the cow’s owners or sold to them? Is it a commercial transaction that’s governed by the state’s food safety laws? Who makes sure the cows are healthy, which if the 15 owners checks to oversee the health of the 2 cows and the safety of the milk? That’s where the state steps in.
The owner of the farm is floating an ordinance for El Dorado County that she thinks would give small producers the right to sell unregulated goods – milk, cheese, home-baked pies and more – directly to the person who consumes them. She will hold a local meeting at her farm on Friday. According to the Sacramento Bee article, there are at least eight other dairy shares in El Dorado County, and others are interested.
What do you think, folks in Sacramento? Is it a private customer when the milk is sold from person-to-person? Should person-to-person sales be regulated by the state’s food safety laws? Or is it a private sale from one owner of the cow to another owner of the cow? Should the sale be regulated? Who protects the person drinking the milk?
Does it boil down to the cost for the two cows to be regulated? That cost is steep for a small farmer. For the farmer of the two cows to be regulated and inspected for milk would cost $100,000. The reason behind the issue is that the famer is not even trying to be in business. She bought a cow in order to get raw milk for a grandchild, according to the Sacramento Bee article, which noted, “She started the herd share when others came to her for raw milk.”
The Department of Food and Agriculture has served her with a cease-and-desist order, according to the Sacramento Bee article. How do you see it? The government sees it as a food safety issue. The farmer is promoting a “Local Food and Community Self-Governance Ordinance,” modeled on ones passed in Maine beginning this year. The El Dorado ordinance, like those in Maine, reads more like the Declaration of Independence than a county law, according to the Sacramento Bee article: “We the People of the County of El Dorado, California, have the right to produce, process, sell, purchase and consume local foods, thus promoting self-reliance, the preservation of family farms and local food traditions.”
Now comment on what you think. Is it about freedom? Or is it about food safety requirements for everyone? In Maine, there’s state law, but there’s also the freedom to make and sell “low risk” foods. The question is what are low risk foods? How loose or strict should home food production rules be? Should the state relax rules on food for home production? How should state laws be changed and at the same time protect the owners of the two cows?
Are you a food activist? What’s your role in agriculture marketing? Is this about safety or government overrestriction? On the other hand, who is looking out for the consumer of raw milk products? And why would the state make it cost $100,000 to be able to sell the milk of two cows to 15 owners. The milk goes to the cow’s multiple owners, not to the public at large buying raw milk in health food stores.
Niche Farming in Sacramento
Other area food activists support the idea. Does the government force people to eat food that’s healthy or not healthy? Is heated milk not healthy? And why? You can check out the UC Davis Small Farm Program website to see what niche farming in Sacramento and Davis is all about and what programs help educate and support the idea of niche farming. See the Small Farm Program – University of California. Just because the food is local doesn’t make it unhealthy or healthy. It’s a neutral matter until the food is inspected by someone. You could consult a food safety attorney.
If you look at the government’s side, the ordinances protect consumers from farmers who believe their product is safe. Someone has to make sure the product is safe. But does the government actually have the staff, resources, and money to oversee every product all the time produced by niche farmers? On the other hand there is a website called Raw Milk Facts that shows you what the state rules define.
Most Sacramento shoppers do not want to eat uninspected foods. No body wants to suffer from illness from microbes in any type of food. Regulation is good for those who buy and eat food and supplements of all types. You have to look at the options other than dropping the safety regulations on foods.
For example, niche businesses that process niche meats could build smaller plants that do business with small producers of meat. The same goes for milk, cheese, and other food products made on a smaller scale for the specialty customers. Maybe you need a set of safe standards for food not widely distributed that costs less to the small, niche farmer.
The problem with raw milk is that more people want it after reading the health issues that change when heated milk is consumed. In Europe you have raw cheese eaten by kids that is supposed to be healthier than the heated and processed cheese you find in most restaurants and supermarkets in the USA. But what costs a lot of money is the research on raw milk. Scientists are studying bovine leukemia viruses, for example.
The issue for the small farmer is that the current safety laws benefit mostly the biggest farms. Some niche farmers think that it’s the large farms that have more concern about public safety. If the small farmer has the energy to check the milk and it checks out clean, how does the public know that the small, niche farmer has the training to look at the milk under a microscope or have the money to pay for a scientist to do that to make sure the milk is guaranteed clean and safe to drink for the young and the old?
It’s an issue because you have people in Sacramento who only drink raw milk. So far, you can buy raw milk in Sacramento in some of the health food stores and a few of the natural food markets here. But as you’ll notice on the container of raw milk you buy in Sacramento or any other store in California, there’s a government warning that’s also printed on labels of raw milk products in all states.
The raw milk container must bear the following labeling: “WARNING: This product has not been pasteurized and may contain harmful bacteria. Pregnant women, children, the elderly and persons with lowered resistance to disease have the highest risk of harm from use of this product.” Just in case you need a reminder, if you’re pregnant, you’re immune system is lowered. And if you’re an older adult, your immune system also is less efficient than when you were younger.
Children also have immune systems that are weaker than adults. So you need to keep a balance. Sacramentans, do you want to be able to buy raw milk, butter, colostrum, cheese, and quephor in health food store coolers? If you want raw milk cheese from organic, grass-fed cows, make sure the label says the cows were grass fed, not grain fed. And if you’re buying cheese, the package will tell you how long the cheese was aged, for example 180 days for some cheeses, or eight months for other raw milk cheeses. Some raw milk cheeses were aged less and some raw milk cheeses are not organic.
So check the label. What you really want if you want a raw milk cheese is that the cheese is organic, has been aged eight months, and what you’d wish for, is that the milk came from grass-fed cows, not grain-fed cows. The best time to buy this type of cheese is when it was made at the time the cows at the new spring and summer grass. But that’s the ideal you’d wish you could see written on the labels of the dairy products.
Check out all my joltleft.com columns
National Children’s Nutrition Examiner
National One-Pot Meals Examiner
Sacramento Nutrition Examiner
Sacramento Healthy Trends Examiner
Sacramento Women’s Issues Examiner
Sacramento Media & Culture Examiner
Sacramento Green Health Examiner
Sacramento Holistic Family Health Examiner
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