Baylen J. Linnekin in the Washington Times:

Federal agents watched the home closely for a year, gathering evidence. Then, in a pre-dawn raid, armed members from three agencies swooped in.

No, this is not a retelling of the lightning U.S. commando attack in Abbottabad, Pakistan, that killed terrorist leader Osama Bin Laden. Rather, the target of the raid late last month by U.S. marshals, a state police trooper and inspectors from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) was Amish farmer Dan Allgyer of Kinzers, Pa. His so-called “crime” involved nothing more than providing unpasteurized, or raw, dairy milk to eager consumers here in the Washington area.

Well, that seems like an overreaction. I wrote about raw milk in 2010, and was surprised by the depth of feeling on both sides. On balance, I think raw milk sales should be allowed. Pasteurization mitigates the risk of food-borne illness, but people can decide for themselves if they want to chance it. 

The other argument against raw milk, from Big Dairy, that an outbreak of illness related to raw milk could damage the industry more generally, but that risk is one we routinely accept with other forms of food, and the dairy lobby, of course, might have an ulterior motive. Allowing raw milk sales, that is, helps small farmers. It's a little bit hard to say how big the market is, as it's largely illicit, but if a farmer sells milk to a distributor, they get about $1.40 a gallon for it. If they sell it directly to the consumer as the premium product of raw milk, they can charge $5 or $6 a gallon. So even though running a raw milk operation has some extra costs--you have to pay for licensing and testing--it would be a boost to small operators. And they could use a boost:
Source: Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board
I don't put much stock in the hocus-pocus benefits that serious raw milk enthusiasts tout, but if you haven't tried it, you might as well, unless of course you're chicken. If you're in Austin, a nearby option is Dyer Dairy.

05/24/2012 18:09

I agree with your point on the raid being an overreaction. There seem to be all too many individuals in regulatory roles who want to conduct themselves like television cops. I'm reminded of when the TARP Inspector General was trying to get authorization for his staff to carry weapons in the field, never mind that these people are (or at least should be) forensic accountants who examine the records of financial institutions.

That said, our food and drug regulatory system long ago crossed the Rubicon with respect to letting "people decide for themselves if they want to chance it." I'm open to the case for broadly rethinking if our current approach should change, but I'm not favorably disposed toward a free pass just for raw milk.


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