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Marler Blog Providing Commentary on Food Poisoning Outbreaks & Litigation

Outbreaks and Illnesses Linked to Raw Milk Herdshares, United States, 2000-2012

A herdshare (a.k.a., cow condo) is a legal fiction created in an attempt to circumvent laws banning the sale of raw milk and laws preventing distribution of raw milk without proper licenses or food safety measures.  Under the fiction, the farmer does not “sell” raw milk, but “sells” a portion of the cow.  The theory – promoted by some – is that rules regarding sanitation, safety and distribution can be ignored because all e own the cow and therefore there is not sale and no rules apply.  It can have consequences as the young raw milk drinkers – and their families – in Oregon are painfully learning:

 

Year

 

Month

 

State

 

Pathogen

 

No. ill

No. hospitalized

 

Comments

 

Reference

2012

Apr

Oregon

E. coli O157:H7

19

4 children (HUS)

4 cow herdshare

OHA

2011

May-Jul

Alaska

Campylobacter jejuni

18

0

~150 cow herdshare

AKDOH

2011

Jun

Michigan

Coxiella burnetii

3

1 (meningitis)

Small boarding facility

FSN

2010

Jun

CO

Campylobacter jejuni and E.coli O157:H7

30

3 (2 children with HUS)

~54 goat herdshare

BCPH

2010

Feb

Michigan

Campylobacter sp.

12

 

~75 cow “grassfed” herdshare and buyer’s club (illegal)

FDA

2009

Mar

Colorado

Campylobacter jejuni

81

1

9 cow “grass only” herdshare

CDPHE

2008

May

California

Campylobacter jejuni

16

1 (GBS)

~1,000 cow organic “grassfed” dairy and beef

CDPH

2005

Nov

Washington

E. coli O157:H7

18

5 (4 children with HUS)

5 cow “grassfed” herdshare

CDC

2006

Sep

CO

Campylobacter sp.

5

4

27 member cowshare

APHA

2001

Nov

WI

Campylobacter jejuni

75

0

26 cow organic herdshare

CDC

*HUS = hemolytic uremic syndrome, a cause of kidney failure; GBS = Guillain–Barré syndrome, a cause of paralysis.

And, just to be fair, here is a comparision chart:  Outbreaks from Foodborne Pathogens in Pasteurized Milk and Pasteurized Milk Cheeses, United States 1998-present.  Note, somewhere between 1% to 3% of people in the U.S. claim to drink raw milk.

  • Randy Francisco

    I thought this was interesting. It is a contract used by a Virginia cow share farm:
    Cow Share Sale and Boarding Agreement Shiloh Acres (“Seller”) and ____________________ (“Buyer”) agree as follows:
    1. SALE AND PAYMENT A. Seller agrees to sell ________ share(s) in _______, the cow to Buyer at a onetime price of $100 per share.
    2. BOARDING OF ANIMALS Seller agrees to provide care and boarding for Buyer’s cow on Seller’s farm for a cost of $30 per month, per share. Care and boarding will include providing shelter, feed, water, and milking of cow daily.
    3. TRIAL PERIOD Buyer and Seller agree to a 30 day trial period, after which either party may opt out of this contract for any reason by submitting written notice to the other party. If Seller or Buyer opts out, the Seller agrees to refund the $100 purchase price and the Buyer agrees to pay the $30 per month boarding fee for that one month.
    4. COW MANAGEMENT Animal ownership comes with some risk. The Buyer is purchasing a share for the productive lifetime of that animal. A good average to count on is a 5 year productive life. When the animal is no longer productive, the Buyer will have first option in the next open share. The share price is not refunded in this event.
    5. COLLECTION AND STORAGE OF MILK A. Seller agrees to milk Buyer’s cow daily and collect and store the raw milk in the Buyer’s 1⁄2 gallon mason jars. The parties agree that Seller may combine Buyer’s milk with milk from Seller’s cows in one storage unit. B. Buyer will be entitled to approximately 1 gallon of raw milk per share per week from Seller, to be retrieved and transported by Buyer at Buyer’s expense. Buyer will retrieve milk at least one time per week on a pre-assigned day of ____________. Seller must approve of any changes made to this initially agreed upon pickup day. C. Buyer agrees to purchase 1⁄2 gallon mason jars with plastic lids for the uniform storage of milk. The Buyer assumes all responsibly for the cleaning, sanitizing, and returning the jars and lids to Seller for refilling. D. The parties agree that because milk is a perishable product, should Buyer fail to retrieve his stored milk from Seller on the agreed day, Seller may, without notice to Buyer, dispose of the stored milk in any way Seller sees fit.
    6. USE AND LIABILITY A. Buyer warrants that all raw milk obtained by Buyer is for his own personal use only, and for no other purpose. B. Buyer agrees that Buyer is aware of any and all risks that may be associated with the use of raw milk, and holds Seller harmless for any damages Buyer may incur by the use of raw milk. Buyer further agrees that Buyer will educate Buyer’s family members and any other persons drinking their milk of the risks associated with the use of raw milk, and releases Seller from any responsibility for education of Buyer’s family members or other persons.
    C. Seller will not be responsible for any incidental, consequential or special damages incurred as a result of the use of raw milk or which arise from the boarding of Buyer’s cow.
    7. SECURITY INTEREST Buyer and Seller agree that Seller will have a security interest in the form of a possessory lien on all cows boarded on Seller’s premises as security for any unpaid boarding fees or expenses which Buyer may incur.
    8. DEFAULT In the event that Buyer defaults on his obligation to pay boarding costs to Seller, Seller may, after giving Buyer notice of default, possess and sell any of Buyer’s shares stored by Seller to offset Buyer’s boarding obligation.
    9. RISK OF LOSS Risk of loss concerning the cow sold under this Agreement will pass from Seller to Buyer upon the signing of this agreement.
    10. FORCE MAJEURE Seller will not be responsible for delays or failure to perform resulting from acts of God; acts of war or civil disturbance; epidemics; governmental action or inaction; fire; hurricane; earthquake; loss of electrical power, or communication; or other causes beyond Seller’s reasonable control.
    11. WAIVER A failure of Seller to enforce any of his rights under this boarding agreement will not constitute a waiver of those rights.
    12. CHOICE OF LAW This contract will be interpreted and enforced in accordance with the laws of the State of Virginia.
    13. ENTIRE AGREEMENT This agreement represents the entire agreement between the parties, and may be modified only by a writing signed by both the parties.
    _________________________________ Buyer
    _________________________________ Date
    _________________________________ Seller
    _________________________________ Date