For some time now, I’ve been keeping an eye on an on-going battle in America between dairy farmers who provide raw milk, and the various Government and industry bodies that are trying to shut them down, under the guise of what’s best for the community and ‘safe’ food.  Then my friend Ann at Sunnyside Projects sent me a link for Herdshare Australia, a new movement to have raw milk available here in Australia, so I knew some research needed to be done.

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What is raw milk?

Basically, it’s milk straight from the cow, unprocessed (homogenised, pasteurised or contaminated in any way) and full of all it’s original goodness.

What’s the problem with that? If that’s what you want to eat, and can source a dairy farmer willing to sell you their milk directly, more power to you, I say. Unfortunately it’s not quite that simple, in fact in most parts of the ‘developed’ world, it’s illegal.

The concern that the authorities have is that raw milk is full of bacteria. This is actually the way it’s supposed to be – what do all mammal’s feed their infants for the first few months? And do we call that ‘raw’ milk?

Mark McAfee is the owner of Organic Pastures Dairy Co.,
and he has been one of the people leading the charge in support of raw
milk. At a recent lecture in a Seminar Series on Raw Milk hosted by Rutgers University Agriculture Experiment Station,
Mark explained that pasteurisation of milk is used to immobilize
certain bacteria and to extend shelf life, and public health
authorities generally appear convinced that this process is highly
desirable. However, many people believe that the bacteria in raw milk
are what the human body needs to maintain healthy immune systems, with
much anecdotal evidence reporting that chronic diseases such as
arthritis, Crohn’s disease, asthma, ulcers, irritable bowel syndrome or
chronic ear infections are eliminated by a change to drinking raw milk.
These diseases are lumped under the heading "autoimmune problems." The
full report on Mark’s lecture can be found in The Truth About Milk.

If
raw milk is so great, full of all it’s natural goodness, cream,
wholesome flavour and bursting with enzymes, vitamins, minerals and
good bacteria, why can’t we buy it if that’s what we want? Seems
there’s too much of a risk of infection; the authorities don’t trust
that we know what’s best for ourselves.

The second lecture in a
Seminar Series on Raw Milk hosted by Rutgers University Agriculture
Experiment Station, featured attorney David G. ‘Gary’ Cox, who spoke of
his disturbing experiences defending raw milk producers, forcing him to
confront issues including clearly identifying the public interest and
the role of government, and questions like ‘Do we citizens have the
right to produce and consume our own food?’ and ‘Who is government
serving by its actions in the raw milk wars?’. Further notes on Gary’s
report with various examples from his case work can be found in Lactose Intolerance.

So what’s the solution to this mess?

Well
a few smart people have realised that if you own a cow, or even only
own part of a cow, you are entitled to a portion of that animals’
produce. Once you buy a portion of a cow you become a shareholder in
that herd. Shareholders pay a manager (farmer) monthly fees for
boarding, caring for and milking their cows. This arrangement is
similar to owning a share in a crop, racehorse or a bull and is termed
‘Herdshare’, and is now gaining momentum here in Australia at herdshare.com.

Answers to a few other frequently asked questions include:

How will the cows be raised?  Biodynamic or organic farming?
Some
herds may already be organic or biodynamic and some may be in
conversion. Herdshare.com will encourage organic and biodynamic farming
methods but will not limit its herds to only organic and biodynamic.
The increase in income the managers enjoy will assist in their efforts
to easily convert their farm to organic within 2 to 3 years. Thus, in
the spirit of co-operative farming, herdshare owners will shoulder the
responsibility of conversion with their manager.
Will the  milk be pasteurised or unhomogenised?
The milk will come to shareholders straight from the cow. Any processing is the responsibility of the owner.
Can I drink my milk raw?
Processing
of milk is necessary when cows are not cared for in accordance with
farming methods which support cows’ health. Herdshare.com herds will be
farmed in accordance to raw milk certification requirements. Herdshare.com is working with RealMilkAustralia.com
to create a raw milk certification in Australia. Our requirements will
mirror those of Raw milk standards in US. You will know how your cows
are farmed and be able to make an informed decision about how you
process your milk.
How often would the milk be made available ?
The milk will be shared at your local farmer’s market on a weekly basis.
How much does a share in a cow cost?
The
cost of a share in a cow depends upon the value of the cow. If a dairy
cow costs $1,500 a 5% share would be around $75 and will yield about 4
litres of milk per week. A share in a cow lasts until the shareholder
redeems their share.

In short, own your own cows, support your local farmers and take
back control of your food supply. Secure a source of local, organic,
fresh milk. Join a herdshare and help create a sustainable future for
all. The more consumer support we have the easier it will be to lobby
the government for relaxation of laws stopping herdshares or raw milk
consumption in Australia.

And the final words come from Mark McAfee at Organic Pastures Dairy Co.,
‘People can educate themselves directly and make health choices without
the intervention of so-called “experts.” An informed consumer, he says,
is always his best customer.’

What do you think? Is this important? Do we as citizens have the
right to produce and consume our own food? I look forward to your
comments.

 

Useful links for further details:

Herdshare Australia www.herdshare.com

Real Milk Australia www.realmilkaustralia.com

A Campaign for Real Milk www.realmilk.com/

Rodale Institute www.rodaleinstitute.org/nutrition

Weston A Price Foundation www.westonaprice.org/

Organic Pastures Dairy Co. www.organicpastures.com

"The Raw Milk Controversy: Fact & Fiction"
AKA "Raw Milk: The Whole Truth" See four video clips at:
www.youtube.com/profile_videos?user=ChefJem33&p=r

Photo by Bert Werk

Near River Produce - Real food direct from our farm located on the NSW Mid North Coast