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Marler Blog Providing Commentary on Food Poisoning Outbreaks & Litigation

Why Some People in Michigan Drink Raw Milk – Vernon Hershberger Stays Free

Apparently today all charges were dismissed against Vernon Hershberger of Loganville, Wisconsin, who leases his cows to a “food buyers club,” and had been charged with operating a retail food establishment without a license, operating a dairy farm as a milk producer without a license, operating a dairy plant without a license and violating a holding order of his dairy products issued by the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP).  Mr. Hershberger was facing apparent contempt of court, which might have included jail.  The news that the charges have been dropped came via a tweet from David Gumpert writer at the Complete Patient.  I am sure more detailed news will follow.

Yesterday, I received a copy of a recent article from Food Protection Trends “Motivation for Unpasteurized Milk Consumption in Michigan, 2011.”  As someone who has been following the controversy surrounding the consumption of raw milk, and has assisted in funding www.realrawmilkfacts.com, I found the survey by Ms. Katafiasz and Mr. Bartlett interesting.  Here is some details about who is drinking raw milk, how much and for how long:

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Here is the detail on peoples thoughts on the benefits and risks associated with consuming raw milk.  There is an interesting inverse relationship between the belief that raw milk is safe and if the government is trustworthly in advising people on what is or is not safe to consume.

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Other findings, although not based upon empirical data, indicated that participants preferred raw milk because of their belief that it was more healthful and easily digested than pasteurized milk, and because they believed that their dairy animals were being handled and raised humanely on their cow or goat share farm. Respondents volunteered other motivations for preferring raw milk, which included beliefs that raw milk was beneficial for heart disease, neurologic disease, acne, and cancer. One respondent claimed that raw milk helped prevent death in infants when fed as formula. Six respondents, in particular, mentioned lactose intolerance, as a reason for preferring raw milk. Eleven individuals claimed that they experienced symptoms of lactose intolerance when drinking processed milks but had no ill side effects from drinking raw milk. Six respondents indicated that they prefer raw milk for making homemade milk products such as cheese and yogurt. In the open-ended questions, twelve respondents indicated they believe that raising cows on fresh, open pasture can minimize the risk of contamination with pathogens by boosting the natural immunity of the animals.

And the issues continue.

  • Kathy Wolfe

    When in my twenties I lived on a farm and milked about 20 of the most beautiful Brown Swiss cows you’ve ever seen. They were raised on pasture supplemented with hay in the winter months. We used pail milkers which we emptied into strainers sitting on top of milk cans which we emptied into our bulk tank. We were classified as a grade B dairy and our milk was sold for cheese production.

    Not all the milk was sold. Every drop our family used came from these cows. We used their milk and the cream we skimmed from the milk to make yogurt, sour cream, curd, ice cream and butter. The milk from our cows was better then anything you could buy in a store then or now. Between the cow and the store shelf something happens to make milk almost unrecognizable. We used to call store bought milk white water. But it’s not pasteurization that accounts for this huge change in quality. You see before we used the milk every drop was heated on our wood stove to a simmer. The ultimate in home pasteurization.

  • Mary McGonigle-Martin

    Thank you Kathy for sharing your story. I think it would be a fun experiment to blindfold some raw milk drinkers and have them taste test raw milk and some of that same raw milk after it was pasteurized on the stove. I wonder if they could tell the difference between the two milks.

  • Bill,
    I wish all the charges against Vernon Hershberger had been dismissed, but that’s not quite the situation. The judge in the case refused to consider a WI request that Hershberger be penalized for allegedly violating his bail terms. The judge said he wouldn’t consider the request because the prosecutors submitted a letter rather than a formal motion. It’s uncertain if the prosecutors will file a motion with their allegations. The judge warned Hershberger that he could be penalized if he’s found to be in violation of his bail terms. Hershberger previously disavowed the bail terms.
    More here:
    http://www.thecompletepatient.com/journal/2012/3/3/hershberger-lives-to-fight-another-dayand-be-first-signer-of.html
    The raw milk study you summarize confirms previous studies about why consumers prefer raw milk. Their lack of trust in public health is particularly noteworthy. Most any private or public organization that received such negative ratings on trust would be taking aggressive action to fix the problem, try to re-build trust. But the public health community seems to not only think it can ignore such findings, but even appears to take pride in such negative ratings. I don’t get it.

  • Melena

    The survey says…raw milk drinkers think they know more than medical professionals. Seems they also think they know more than Wisconsin judges. Hubris. Someone needs to wise up and it’s not “the public health community”.

  • Lewis

    The authors acknowledge the difficulty in identifying the individuals that they need for this survey and rely on the producers to hand out their survey to the “herd-share” individuals.

    I wonder who actually filled out the 56 surveys?

  • Tamara

    So I see now from reading pro-raw web sites that the pro-raw people think that pasteurization removes lactase from milk. But the FDA web site says “There is no indigenous lactase in milk. […] raw milk does not contain probiotic organisms.” Do the pro-raw people think that the FDA is lying ? Have they bothered to do their own scientific analysis to determine whether or not raw milk contains lactase ? (I’m sure the answer is “no”.)
    I’ve also seen the claim that certain people are intolerant to homogenized milk but have no trouble with non-homogenized milk. But a scientific study disputes that claim, the subjects, all self-reported intolerant to homogenized milk, were given both homogenized and non-homogenized (blindly of course), and fully half of the so-called intolerants actually tolerated the homogenized milk better than the non-homogenized.
    It’s as if there’s some bizarre placebo effect thing going on. People believe (because they read the pseudo-scientific propaganda) that raw milk is better for them and then they develop “symptoms” corroborating their beliefs.