The raw milk drinkers and I have not been getting on well lately. Since this is my blog, I do not have to write down all their descriptions of me. However, a few moments on will give you a sense of their animus.

I must admit that I am not blameless. I recently described them to New York Magazine as “a combination of tea baggers and granolas.” I then got quoted in USA Today as pointing out that "[r]aw milk is where the right and left come back together. It’s an intersection for the ‘back to nature’ and the ‘don’t tread on me,’ people — they’re the granola tea-partiers."

But, it was Michael Feldman’s Op-ed in the New York Times, “Crying Over Raw Milk,” however, that was the best, when he coined the phrase “teat party” to describe the political phenomena.

So, is the “teat party" a "farce to be reckoned with" or “udderly ridiculous?”  My suggestion is to spend time on and decide for yourself.

  • Bill,
    I’m sorry if you’ve been treated rudely on my blog. Unfortunately, we all tend to be much less polite on email and blog/listserve comments than we would be in person-to-person meetings.
    While not excusing the personal insults tossed your way, I think it’s worth trying to explain them. I am convinced that a big reason you arouse the ire of food rights proponents who hang out on my blog is that you are one of the few people connected to the public health establishment who will deign to converse with them in any way. So, when you or others from that world appear, my bloggers unload. I wouldn’t take the brickbats as something all that personal, but rather indicative of the alienation that has built up over any number of perceived abuses (many of which I describe at length in my book, “The Raw Milk Revolution: Behind America’s Emerging Struggle Over Food Rights”). The alienation is such that you have, today, Wisconsin dairy farmers actually engaging in civil disobedience, putting their entire livelihoods at risk, to stand up for their right to make natural foods available privately to consumers desperate for their products.
    Why are public health officials so reluctant to explain themselves? The only reason I’ve been able to come up with is arrogance. Why else would they refuse, for example, to testify at a public hearing last month in Boston on regulations they aggressively promoted to limit consumer access to raw milk? Some 50 consumers and farmers testified to the devastating impact of the proposed Massachusetts changes, yet not a single public health official showed up to explain the public health position.
    In that vein, I find the detailed explanation offered by the Minnesota Department of Health about the illnesses associated with the Hartmann dairy very informative. I can’t ever recall public health officials explaining so clearly at the time of an outbreak attributed to raw milk the approach they take to assessing the laboratory evidence.
    What many food rights advocates like myself are asking is that public health people treat illnesses associated with raw milk as they would outbreaks associated with any other food. Help the public understand what’s happening, and work with the farmers to help them fix any problems. A former FDA official stated recently that the time has come to find ways to end the intense battle over raw milk. I couldn’t agree more.
    David Gumpert
    Author: The Raw Milk Revolution: Behind America’s Emerging Struggle Over Food Rights

  • Doc Mudd

    Explain what, Mr Gumpert?
    Each time there is another in a seemingly endless procession of raw milk food poisonings, what is there for public health officials to explain? And, to whom? And to what effect?
    The basic explanation: ‘Well, ya see, uh, another arrogant dumbass, who was, uh, showing off and running with scissors tripped over his own feet, fell and well, as you might guess, he impaled himself. That’s the gist of the story; same as the last dozen impalings, same as the inevitable next dozen. It ain’t no accident. Prevention is out of the question ’cause it’s simply impossible to reason with dumbasses. Good golly, we’ve explained it to ’em about a million times so what the hell is left still to explain to them? Do I have to draw ’em a damned diagram?? See here: scissors in hand…reckless fool running out of control…self-inflicted wound…playmates rushing over and offering up ridiculous excuses for themselves and the afflicted dumbass, advocating for their collective right to run with scissors. It all gets pretty monotonous – running with scissors, fumbling with fireworks, guzzling raw milk, attempting to carry a cat by the tail – it’s all the same silly horseplay.’

  • Lykke

    Look at the people on your blog. You say that you agree with David Acheson’s post:
    But, if he commented on your blog or attended a pro-raw milk seminar, would he be treated any different than Bill Marler and others who tried to reach out from the food safety or regulatory community?
    Your excuse for the obnoxious behavior by raw milk afficionados is that: “I am convinced that a big reason you arouse the ire of food rights proponents who hang out on my blog is that you are one of the few people connected to the public health establishment who will deign to converse with them in any way. So, when you or others from that world appear, my bloggers unload. I wouldn’t take the brickbats as something all that personal…”
    “Unloading” is how to approach people who reach out and try to start a discussion and find solutions to resolve this debate?
    Other than a few fringe anti-government foodies, I cannot imagine why anyone in the overall locavore, slow food movement would support raw milk given its food safety risks, and the negative approach taken by raw milk advocates toward the very people they should be working with to find solutions.

  • Tim Lukens

    Hey Bill, I’m surprised at the comparison / connection of the raw milk activists to the tea party movement. My experience was the exact opposite. The hard core raw milk folks that I knew were also hard lefties. It seemed odd that these folks on one hand wanted and demanded government intervention and controls, grant money etc in most everthing. But on this issue, their sacred cow, they wanted total government hands off. Also the hard core raw folks were also the most obnoxious in regards to their unwillingness to defend their position. Dare question the science and you instantly become part of the government conspiracy. My position is this, you want raw milk. Get your own cow. Don’t ask someone else to take on the liability for your choice.

  • Catherine N.

    I’m a locavore, slow-food, organic, granola woman. I am educated. I grew up in another country, where the food supply was much more like it was here in the 1950s. I also drink raw milk in the summer, getting it directly from the farmer. I do think we need good solutions, because there are risks to drinking raw milk. I would not give it to my elderly parents, or my hypothetical kids. (If I had kids, I probably would buy it and pasteurize it at home for them to drink).
    I drink it because purely on a personal basis, I feel better when I drink it. I lose weight, I have more energy. But I do like that it is regulated in my state. I do want the farmers to have to test it regularly.
    I feel that at the moment, if I eat sprouts or bagged lettuce, I’m running the same risks as drinking raw milk.
    An interesting note, I happened to drive by the farm in Simsbury that used to sell raw milk until people got sick. It looks like its been taken over by the town, and is looking a lot better. I did not drink raw milk from that place, I tried it once, and it tasted awful.
    I worry that raw milk fans don’t realise how different raw milk is, too. Its a different animal…it sours differently (doesn’t curdle after it sours) and it needs to be drunk ASAP, it can’t stay in the fridge for weeks. It can’t be treated the same way regular milk can, which is why its also not a good candidate for a supermarket.
    I’m for legal raw milk, basically. For testing and supervision of the product.

  • Doc Mudd:
    “Explain what?” Explain your reluctance to use real data. Like CDC data from 1973 to 2005 that shows an average of 54 illnesses from raw milk over that 33-year period. Take out illnesses from “bathtub cheese” that raw milk advocates disdain, and the number goes to 49. That’s not a public health crisis. Granted, there’s been a spike in illnesses in the last year, but how about taking the attitude of figuring out what might have gone wrong, and how to fix it, instead of hyperbole.
    “…if he (Acheson) commented on your blog or attended a pro-raw milk seminar, would he be treated any different than Bill Marler and others who tried to reach out from the food safety or regulatory community?” I made the distinction between blog comments and in-person meetings. We don’t know the answer to the part about “attended a pro-raw milk seminar” because, to my knowledge, there has never been a public health person publicly attending “a pro-raw milk seminar.” Not a single one. There are numerous instances of Sally Fallon (Weston A. Price Foundation), Mark McAfee (Organic Pastures), Pete Kennedy (Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund), and myself publicly attending food protection, veterinary, and dairy industry conferences. The discussions have been calm, rational, serious. No hyperbole, no hysterics, no name calling. For further explanation of this radical notion of people with different opinions getting together and talking, take a look at the comment of Scott Trautman (“Proud Wisconsin Dairyman”) following my blog post today.
    David Gumpert

  • Here are some suggestions about raw milk I have made before:
    Raw milk should be sold only on farms that are certified by the state and inspected and tested regularly.¬† Make ambiguous black market milk/cheese sales and “pet food sales” meant for human consumption clearly illegal.
    Raw milk should not be sold in grocery stores or across state lines–the risks of mass production and transportation are too great; the risk of a casual purchase by someone misunderstanding the risks is too great, as well.
    Farms should be required to have insurance coverage sufficient to cover reasonable damages to their customers.
    Practices such as outsourcing (buying raw milk from farms not licensed for raw milk production) should be illegal.
    Colostrum should be regulated as a dairy product, not a nutritional supplement
    Warning signs on the bottles and at point-of-purchase should be mandatory.¬† An example:¬†”WARNING: This product has not been pasteurized and may contain harmful bacteria (not limited to E. coli O157:H7, Campylobacter, Listeria and Salmonella). Pregnant women, infants, children, the elderly and persons with lowered resistance to disease (immune compromised) have the highest risk of harm, which includes Diarrhea, Vomiting, Fever, Dehydration, Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome, Guillain-Barre Syndrome, Reactive Arthritis, Irritable Bowel Syndrome, Miscarriage, or Death, from use of this product.” (emphasis added).

  • Michael Schmidt

    Hi Bill
    do I understand that right?????????
    this warning label is going on spinach, on cold cuts, on peanuts, on hamburgers, on sprouts, on everything which caused outbreaks of real and not imaginary proportions.
    Sorry if I get a little sarcastic may be you should lobby for labelling and demand that your phone nr. Has to be on the label as well.
    I would consider the growing mistrust in your profession as a call to truly reflect who is serving whom.
    Warm regards

  • I find it interesting that someone…a lawyer, no less…finds it impossible to defend the government’s constitutional authority to regulate a person’s nutritional choices.
    Marler, you were offered an opportunity to reach quite a large number of people with that defense, unedited, yet you declined. Perhaps because you know the only way you can win is by avoiding the truth and relying, instead, on tearjerker videos rather than the constitution?

  • Mr. Hayles, like you, I am not a US Constitutional scholar. However, I see nothing in the Constitution nor Amendments about raw milk. Perhaps you should start a drive for a raw milk amendment?
    Also, with respect to the constitution, in my view it is a living document that has the ability to be amended as necessary and interpreted in light of changes in actual reality that exists today in contrast to what existed in the late 1700’s. I think you would agree that our founding fathers view of slavery and women, although perhaps popular at the time, has changed and that is good – right?
    As to your comment about you and I having a debate on your blog about the Constitution. I decline for two reasons, 1) we are both ill-equipped, and 2) I do not want to drive traffic to your blog vs David’s where we have had this discussion before.

  • Mr. Schmidt, your warm regards feel more like warm spit in the face. On labels, I have advocated similar labels on at least two other products – hamburger and sprouts.
    With respect to my profession – I can only speak for myself. I am proud and honored to work for families whose children have been poisoned. I frankly do not care if the product is raw milk or hamburger.
    However, given that there has been at least nine raw milk outbreaks since January, I must admit that your industry’s lack of concern is increasing my case load.

  • Marler, you kill your argument with your own words. Your examples, women’s rights for example, were achieved through a constitutionally allowed process called an amendment, not by ignoring the constitution and giving the rights through legislative or regulatory fiat.
    Also, you are right in that the constitution does not say anything about raw milk. So what? It says nothing about birdwatching or brushing your teeth either, but we probably agree that a law against either of them would be ruled unconstitutional.
    The constitution does not give rights (you might try reading it sometime and you’ll see that), it guarantees rights we already innately have. What the constitution does do is restrict government power…it says what the government CAN do, and the 10th amendment further says that powers not granted by the constitution are reserved to the people and the states…and as you pointed out, it says nothing, anywhere, about raw milk…it doesn’t give government the power to regulate raw milk, so government doesn’t have that power.
    Your own argument defeats you. You’d be SO easy in court.
    You probably have a pretty good grasp on case law as its all that law schools have taught since the 20’s. You are woefully ignorant of constitutional law though, but don’t feel bad…most lawyers are…most, but not all, thank goodness.
    As for not picking up the challenge, the excuse you give is weak. The number of folks who visited JuicyMaters to read my and your blatherings just because you showed up wouldn’t be a hiccup in my bolg stats. There are enough hits there to make a good income from it without your ever showing up, if I wished. I could easily sell advertising…real ads, not click thrus, if I wanted, but I don’t. I want my opinions, on this or any other topic, to be “Bob driven”, not dollar driven to make an advertiser happy.
    Frankly, I think you don’t show up because you already know you are wrong.

  • Veganman

    I can see both sides of this argument, but no one is stating the obvious: It’s not NATURAL for HUMANS to drink COW milk. Period.

  • Tim Lukens

    Wow, since when did case study videos of people with a food borne illness malady, that literally either changed their lives forever or caused death, become “tear jerker videos”. I applaud Mr. Marler for making an attempt at public education about this. E-coli 0157:H7 illness, from raw milk is preventable, it envolves everything literally from the animal teat to the consumers lips, inclusing warning labels. And shame on you folks that are attempting to hide behind the Constitution as your defense. Have you no common sense? The illness rate from raw milk consumption, from commercial volume production sources, appears to be increasing dramatically as more commercial volumes of raw milk becomes available. Like I said earlier get your own cow, and you can deal with the manure yourself that causes the problem to begin with and stop dragging our Constitution through it. With kind regards, Tim

  • Concerned Person

    Michael Schmidt,
    Once again, you’re not behaving as a raw milk guru should. You are just like the rest of the raw milkies; you like to take hits at people instead of having a constructive dialogue.
    Do you feel better now that you took a hit at Bill Marler? Where do you think this will get you and the raw milk movement treating Bill Marler like crap? Wouldn’t it be a better move to have Bill Marler as a friend not a foe?
    Shame on you!