Monday, March 29, 2010

Raw milk dairy loses court appeal

On March 11, Lodi's Meadowsweet Dairy lost its most recent court appeal which argued that the dairy is not subject to NYS Ag and Market rules governing the distribution of raw milk.  Raw milk is untreated milk, straight from the cow (as opposed to pasteurized milk, which has been treated with heat to kill potentially harmful pathogens).

From the mid-1990s until 2007, Meadowsweet Dairy held state permits to sell raw milk, and the rules specified that consumers had to come to the farm to buy and collect the milk.  In 2007, the Smith family, who owns the farm, decided that they would form an LLC, where members would pay a capital contribution fee to join and then pay "room and board" for the cows, based roughly on the amount of dairy products they would collect as "dividends."

Today, about 8 cows, which are pastured, provide the milk.  About 100 members from miles away joined the LLC.  Some members collect their dairy dividends at a drop off point in Ithaca.

The legal battle began in 2007, when NYS AG and Market deemed this plan illegal.  According to the state rules, milk had to be sold to each consumer at the farm.  But Meadowsweet, and their legal counsel, Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund, argued that the farm was not selling any milk -- it was simply distributing dividends to its members. The Dairy might appeal court's decision at the next level.

Currently raw milk is only sold by 26 farms in NYS.  Many raw milk consumers claim that it has health benefits that pasteurized milk does not (although the CDC does not support that claim).  Others seek raw milk for certain types of home cheese-making.  In NYS, raw milk contamination has been found a handful of times at different dairies (including 2010 and 2007).

The Ithaca Times and Lancaster Farming reported on the story in early March.

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1 comment:

  1. The FDA just issued a warning about drinking raw milk, after an outbreak of illness occurred in the midwest. The press release also states that "From 1998 to 2008, 85 outbreaks of human infections resulting from consumption of raw milk were reported to CDC. These outbreaks included a total of 1,614 reported illnesses, 187 hospitalizations and 2 deaths. Because not all cases of foodborne illness are recognized and reported, the actual number of illnesses associated with raw milk likely is greater." The press release can be found here:

    Advocates of raw milk counter that contamination of milk can and does happen at any stage --including after pasteurization-- and illness outbreaks from pasteurized milk are underreported.