Those pesky raw milk advocates are at it again, trying to drum up support for legislation that would permit the sale of raw milk in Maryland.
Maryland currently is among the majority of states that ban the sale of raw milk. State laws are a real hodgepodge. Some states actually allow raw milk on the market, either through direct sales at the farm or in retail stores or both. In other states, humans technically can obtain raw milk because it is sold as animal feed. In 32 states, it is at least possible to buy raw milk through one of these means.
Then there are states like Maryland, where fans of unpasteurized milk slink around in the shadows, trading on the black market.
You may be wondering why anyone would want to purchase much less consume raw milk in the first place. Isn't that terribly unsafe? Turns out many people believe milk in its natural state is more nutritious and better for you than the industrial kind. And of course while federal and state laws restrict raw milk sales, they don't seem to have any problem with huge dairy conglomerates treating their cows with Monsanto growth hormones to increase production. (There's some evidence that those hormones could be a cancer agent.)
The push for uniform pasteurization of milk goes back to the turn of the 20th century when outbreaks of tuberculosis in the tenements of large cities such as New York became a major health concern. Tuberculosis is one of those diseases that occurs in animals but can be transmitted to humans. It thrives in unsanitary dairy and milk handling conditions.
You don't hear much about problems with disease in states where raw milk is permitted, as opposed to the recalls of thousands of tons of beef from meat handling operations supposedly operating under the strictest government standards. In fact, government officials and their agents--from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control all the way down to state inspectors--seem to take special delight in harassing farmers who deal in raw milk, or try every which way to drive them out of business.
Personally, I am not a consumer of raw milk although I would love to have a nearby source for it. Back in my youth, cycling around France, it was possible to stop by the side of the road and fill your drinking bottle with milk fresh from the cow. There are few things as creamy and delicious, and many of us know the delights of raw milk cheeses.
There is a passionate and growing movement of food enthusiasts who believe that individual local farmers--not corporatized agri-businesses--are our best bet for wholesome, flavorful foods. There is a growing belief that consenting adults ought to be able to trade in products such as raw milk and enjoy the benefits of foods produced the way Nature intended. Let's not forget that people were consuming raw milk for thousands of years before Louis Pasteur came on the scene.
Currently, raw milk is outlawed in the District of Columbia, Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia, Delaware and North Carolina. Sales of raw milk are permitted at farms and in retail stores in Pennsylvania.
There may be a small crack forming in Maryland's objection to raw milk. Holly Foster, a cheese maker on Maryland's Eastern Shore, has become the first and only cheese maker in the state chosen for a test study of raw milk cheese making. Until now, Foster has been and continues to make her cheese on a farm in Pennsylvania. (Her cheeses are available at Cowgirl Creamery in downtown D.C.) An article about Foster and her unique arrangement with the State of Maryland appears in the winter issues of Edible Chesapeake magazine.
Today, members of the Maryland Independent Farmers and Consumers Association are meeting with state legislators to push for legalizing sales of raw milk. Wish them luck. You can see what they are up to here. Click on the group's events calendar. For further information about raw milk, check the listing of resources on the lower right-hand side of this page.