The Raw Milk Crackdown on the Most Peaceful Among Us

Story at-a-glance -

  • Aggressive armed raids by federal agents against Amish raw milk farmers are not uncommon
  • While Congress has never banned raw milk outright, it is the only food banned in interstate commerce
  • Two food freedom bills have been introduced that would prohibit the federal government from interfering with the interstate traffic of raw milk products
  • The raw milk bills are intended to improve consumer food choices while protecting local farmers from federal interference
  • The fight for food freedom isn’t just for those who love raw milk – it’s for everyone who wants to be able to obtain the food of their choice from the source of their choice

By Dr. Mercola

While Congress has never banned raw milk outright, it is the only food banned in interstate commerce. This makes it challenging (though not impossible) for small farmers to share their raw milk products with people living across state lines.

As a result, private agreements called herdshares are often formed between farmers and individuals, which entitle you to the benefits of owning a "share" of a cow, such as a certain amount of milk each week.

Despite these legal agreements, and the fact that many Americans choose to drink raw milk of their own free volition, aggressive armed raids by federal agents against raw-milk farmers are not uncommon.

Armed Raids Against Amish Raw-Milk Farmers?

In the video above, Liz Reitzig, co-founder of the Farm Food Freedom Coalition, explains the absurdity of holding an armed raid against a peaceful culture such as the Amish (who by definition do not use violence).

One of the most glaring cases involves Wisconsin dairy farmer Vernon Hershberger, who was charged with four criminal misdemeanors for supplying a private buying club with raw milk and other fresh produce grown on his farm.

State prosecutors tried to convict Hershberger for operating a retail food establishment, a dairy farm and a dairy plant without a license. However, since he only supplies food to paid members in a private buying club, he maintained that he was not subject to state food regulations.

The trial has become a symbol for the war being waged against raw milk in the US, where aggressive regulators are attacking small farmers producing wholesome raw food products for loyal customers.

Fortunately, the trial ended mostly favorably for Hershberger, but not before his peaceful farm was raided using military-style tactics (at one point he was subjected to three raids in a three-month period!).

Several of the jurors were so moved by the case that they now want to join Hershberger's buying club to be able to access raw milk for their families, noting that this is an issue of food freedom. Unfortunately, armed federal agents have and will continue to storm through small farms and barns, confiscating milk cartons and computers under the guise of protecting your health, unless drastic legislative changes are made.

Two New Raw Milk Bills Could Protect Farmers from Federal Raids While Allowing Food Freedom

A bipartisan coalition of 20 lawmakers has plans to introduce a series of "food freedom" bills this year. The first two to be released could be a major step forward in the raw milk movement:

  • The Milk Freedom Act of 2014 (HR 4307): The bill would prohibit the federal government from interfering with the interstate traffic of raw milk products, offering relief for small farmers who have been harassed, fined, or prosecuted for distributing raw milk.
  • The Interstate Milk Freedom Act of 2014 (HR 4308): This bill would prevent the federal government from interfering with trade of unpasteurized natural milk or milk products between states where distribution or sale of such products is already legal.

To date, both bills have been referred to the Subcommittee on Health. Congressman Thomas Massie of Kentucky explained that the bills are intended to improve consumer food choices while protecting local farmers from federal interference:1

"As a producer of grass-fed beef, I am familiar with some of the difficulties small farmers face when marketing fresh food directly to consumers. Our bills would make it easier for families to buy wholesome milk directly from farmers by reversing the criminalization of dairy farmers who offer raw milk.

The federal government should not punish farmers for providing customers the foods they want, and states should be free to set their own laws regulating food safety."

Representative Chellie Pingree added:2

"Many consumers want to buy fresh, unpasteurized milk and regulations shouldn't get between them and the farmer who wants to sell it. Given how many food scares there have been involving large-scale producers,

It just doesn't make sense to spend money cracking down on small, local farmers who are producing natural, raw milk and cheese. 
The enforcement of raw milk regulations has been overzealous and needs to be reined in."

High-Quality Raw Milk: Dangerous to Big Dairy But Not to Consumers

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) commonly warns against drinking raw milk, citing numerous "outbreaks" linked to the product. But drinking raw milk produced by grass-fed cows from clean, well-run farms is actually far LESS dangerous than drinking pasteurized milk. In fact, not only does raw milk contain beneficial bacteria that are essential for a healthy digestive system, raw milk also offers protection against disease-causing bacteria.

CDC data show there are about 412 confirmed cases of people getting ill from pasteurized milk each year, while only about 116 illnesses a year are linked to raw milk.3 Even as the CDC continues to report on raw milk dangers, the state of Arkansas has announced that no illnesses have been caused as a result of a recent increase in raw milk sales.

Meanwhile, the CDC stays silent about the proven health benefits linked to raw milk, like the GABRIELA study, which found school-aged children who drank raw milk were 41 percent less likely to develop asthma and about 50 percent less likely to develop hay fever than children who drank store-bought (pasteurized) milk.4 Eventually, as the numbers of raw milk dairies increase, and so too do their happy customers, the CDC may be forced to change its tune, but for now they stay silent, in large part because raw milk is a threat to the industrial dairy industry.

Raw Milk Is Making a Comeback Among 'Discerning' Consumers

Raw milk has been gaining popularity for years now. The conventional dairy industry, realizing this, has redoubled their efforts to make sure that raw milk sales are not able to grow, and certainly not able to become mainstream, where they could begin to threaten their very own livelihoods. If raw dairy really caught on, you would think that the dairy industry would simply follow suit and begin producing raw products to meet the demand. But this would be virtually impossible.

Concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) cannot compete with a small organic, free-range farm because their entire business depends on the milk being pasteurized. In CAFOs, large groups of animals are kept in a small space, oftentimes without natural light or access to the outdoors. The conditions are filthy, with animals standing in one another's waste. Needless to say, harmful pathogenic bacteria naturally thrive in these conditions.

As a result, drinking CAFO milk raw would be extremely dangerous. It must be pasteurized for safety. On the other hand, milk from grass-fed cows raised on smaller, clean farms can be safely consumed without being pasteurized, provided the farmer is committed to providing a safe, quality product.

Most commercial dairy factory "farms'" simply cannot afford to reproduce the conditions required to produce safe raw milk, such as allowing all the cows to pasture and graze on grass, for starters. So, since big business can't produce what consumers want, they're simply seeking to eliminate the raw milk market altogether. This is why Big Dairy's powerful lobbyists will stop at nothing to persuade government agencies to keep raw milk bans in full force.

But what they haven't factored in is the power of personal freedom and choice… and as increasing numbers of Americans demand healthier, more natural food from actual farms, not factories, they are moving proverbial mountains and prompting real legislative change, not just in the realm of raw milk but in many facets of food quality and freedom. Congressman Massie concluded:5

"Today, many people are paying more attention to the foods they eat, what it contains, and how it is processed. Raw milk, which has been with us for thousands of years, is making a comeback among these discerning consumers. Personal choices as basic as 'what we feed our families' should not be limited by the federal government."

Noted Differences Revealed Between Pasteurized and Raw Milk

Public health agencies are quick to say that there are no nutritional differences between raw and pasteurized milk, but research suggests otherwise. The GABRIELA researchers believed that the beneficial asthma effect may have been due to whey proteins, including bovine serum albumin (BSA) and alpha-lactalbumin, in the raw milk, which were destroyed by the heating process in the pasteurized milk. While the study didn't find an association between any health outcomes and the bacterial contents of the milk, it did demonstrate noted differences between raw and pasteurized varieties, which the CDC continues to deny. Additionally, high-quality raw milk has a mountain of health benefits that pasteurized milk lacks. For example, raw milk is:

  • Loaded with healthy bacteria that are good for your gastrointestinal tract
  • Full of more than 60 digestive enzymes, growth factors, and immunoglobulins (antibodies)
  • Rich in conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), which fights cancer and boosts metabolism
  • Rich in beneficial raw fats, amino acids, and proteins in a highly bioavailable form, all 100 percent digestible
  • Loaded with vitamins (A, B, C, D, E, and K) in highly bioavailable forms, and a very balanced blend of minerals (calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, and iron) whose absorption is enhanced by live lactobacilli

Keep in mind that, as with any food, the quality of your raw milk is only as good as the quality of its source. Even if you know your raw milk is coming from a small, local farm it would be very wise to visit the farm in person. Look around and ask questions about the following general conditions, which should indicate a source of high-quality raw milk.

Low pathogenic bacteria count (i.e. does the farmer test his milk regularly for pathogens?) The milk comes from cows raised naturally, in accordance with the seasons The cows are not given antibiotics and growth hormones to increase milk production
The milk is quickly chilled after milking The cows are mainly grass-fed Cows are well cared for

Join the Fight for Food Freedom

The fight for food freedom isn't just for those who love raw milk – it's for everyone who wants to be able to obtain the food of their choice from the source of their choice. Raw milk isn't the only food on the chopping block. Raw-milk cheeses and heritage-breed pigs are also being targeted, and there's no telling what other small-farm, niche foods may be next. So please, get involved! I urge you to embrace the following action plan to protect your right to choose your own foods:

  1. Ask your government representatives to vote YES on both HB 4307 and HB 4308 in support of food freedom of choice. Sign the petition now.
  2. Get informed: Visit or click here to sign up for action alerts.
  3. Join the fight for your rights: The Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund (FTCLDF) is the only organization of its kind. This 501(c)(4) nonprofit organization provides a legal defense for farmers who are being pursued by the government for distributing foods directly to consumers.
  4. Your donations, although not tax deductible, will be used to support the litigation, legislative, and lobbying efforts of the FTCLDF.

  5. Support your local farmers: Buy from local farmers, not the industry that is working with the government to take away your freedom.