Arkansas’ bizzaro raw milk laws

Thus spake the Ninja Poodles… Seriously, the excerpt below is actually from the blog of the Ninja Poodles, who, one might imagine, roam the state of Arkansas looking for legal sources of raw milk to drink. What they find there truly is bizarre. Read on:

Let me say right at the start here that I do not believe that humans NEED milk, in any form other than from their mothers, as infants. I don’t. I also think that modern industrial dairy practices have given us a product that is a far cry from anything nature ever intended. But the fact is, I love the stuff, and I especially love the stuff that you can make from it, and used judiciously, I believe it can be an important and even beneficial part of a human diet. But the more I learn, the more I know that I don’t want my daughter consuming the quantities of milk that I did as a child, and I want the dairy products she does consume to be of the highest quality, and as natural as possible.

I’ve been killing myself trying to find a source of fresh, raw, grass-fed milk to buy. As it is in most of the country, buying and selling raw cow’s milk is illegal in Arkansas. There is a loophole, apparently, where you can “invest” in a dairy cow, and get paid dividends in the form of milk from that cow. Really–it’s called a “cow share,” and I’d love to find one. I don’t think I’m going to have any luck, though, because it looks like the hoops the farmers have to jump through to offer a cow share are many, and tricky. And it’s painfully obvious that the barriers against this practice have FAR less to do with protecting the consumer from health threats than with protecting the huge and powerful corporate dairy industry from competition.

Hello, Dairy Industry! Yes, I realize you’ve purchased ad space that runs here, and, well, yes, I understand about biting the hand that feeds me, but hey–you want some consumer feedback? GIVE ME BETTER CHOICES. Give me organic, GRASS-FED milk from cows that actually live the lives portrayed in the graphics ON YOUR PACKAGING, that hasn’t been ULTRA pasteurized so that it’s a totally dead product. Release your lobbyists’ stranglehold on the industry so that people like me are able to procure milk products from small, LOCAL farmers. Hey, here’s a thought–if my milk only has to travel, say, a couple hundred miles or less to get to me, then maybe it won’t NEED to be nuked to such an extreme that it has a two-month shelf life!

Honest to gosh, Dairy Industry–all you have to do is give me the OPTION. I swear I’ll pay twice as much for the product I want. From your point of view, it has to be better than what I’m doing now, which is buying LESS milk than I otherwise would. Just my two cents, guys. If you’re gonna keep printing pictures on your milk, yogurt, ice cream, cheese, and butter packages of sleek, shiny, happy cows contentedly grazing on fields of green grass in the sunshine…I just think you might want to consider making that kind of operation a reality for at least a FRACTION of dairy cows. See how we, the consumer, respond. I think you’d be surprised. I mean, it’s not really fair to market on the idyllic image that most of us have about milk-cows, only to pull a bait & switch and send us Frankenmilk in plastic jugs from across the country. Just sayin’.

Anyway, this brings us to goat’s milk. Much, much more of the world is fed on goat’s milk than cow’s milk. Goats are just easier, more convenient, and kinder to the planet as a whole. A goat can thrive in an unforgiving terrain that would not support a cow. Goats are more economical to feed and house. Goat’s milk is easier to digest than cow’s milk. I know where you think this is going, family members, and NO, I have not bought a dairy goat. Yet. But I am doing research and making contacts with those who DO own dairy goats, and planning to go pick up some frozen goat’s milk (and some fresh, if I can find it, though most people seem to freeze it for purchase). What’s amazing to me is that I can buy fresh, clean goat’s milk off the farm for about half the price that I can get it at the store, and it won’t have been zapped of many of its nutrients through ultra-pasteurization, like the kind offered at my grocery store.

And here’s an interesting little tidbit: It IS legal to buy raw goat’s milk in Arkansas. I would imagine that this is because not many people in the general public even think of goats when they think of dairy products (although, doesn’t almost everyone you know enjoy Feta or chevre cheeses?), so the threat of competition to agribusiness is small. But JUST IN CASE, there are laws in place to keep those goat’s milk producers from getting too uppity (or even making a living), and to keep too many consumers from being able to avail themselves of this very viable, and many would say superior, alternative to cow’s milk. I’m sure that many other states have the same laws in place as Arkansas.

In the first place, raw goat’s milk can ONLY be bought or sold on the farm where it was produced. These are called “incidental sales.” So, you know, no sending your product out to stores or anything like that–that might give the common consumer an actual alternative to mass-produced dairy! But don’t worry. The dairy goat farmer doesn’t really have to fret about not being able to market his product in stores or at farmers’ markets, because the government ALSO puts a cap on how much raw milk he’s ALLOWED to sell in the first place! Really! I know, right? Can you imagine any other industry being told exactly how many units of a product they’re allowed to sell? The more you know, the harder it gets to see the USDA as anything but a regulatory agency designed to protect the bottom line of the “Big Guys.”

But back to the raw goat’s milk. It is legal, in Arkansas, to sell up to, but NOT MORE THAN 100 gallons of raw milk per month. I’m not even sure how the government keeps tabs on that count, but that’s the law. 100 gallons. At this point, it becomes clear that the restrictions placed on raw milk are NOT about consumer health, but about favoring Big Agribusiness. If the state of Arkansas were actually concerned about raw milk being, in any way, a health hazard, why in the world would they allow 100 gallons per month of this terrifying substance to be unleashed onto an unsuspecting public? I think the term “incidental sales” pretty much gives us our answer. “Incidental” sales just aren’t a threat, and a sales-cap that means an average of 3 or 4 gallons a day not only limits a consumer’s access to a product, it limits the farmer’s incentive and reward for producing that product. It makes me want to spit nails.

And while many people believe that consumer demand could change this, I have my doubts. If more and more people stop buying from Industrial Dairy in favor of options like raw milk from dairy goat farmers and cow shares, I suspect that we’d suddenly find brand-new legal restrictions on those “alternative” practices. Cow shares are already illegal in a couple of states, unless all the share partners actually form a CORPORATION in order to share that cow and what it produces. It’s very frightening, to me, to think just how much our government controls what food is available to us, and how VERY much the wants of corporations are favored over the needs of individuals.

*steps down from soapbox*

So…if any of my local friends here can point me to anyone who organizes cow shares, or a great local dairy goat farm, please leave a comment or email me.

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15 Comments

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15 responses to “Arkansas’ bizzaro raw milk laws

  1. The 100 gal/month limit is pretty much the same from state to state. That’s what it is here in TX. Go look at http://www.realmilk.com for more info on goat shares. I have 5 dairy does; not enough to be a goat dairy, but plenty to supply my family with milk, cheese, ice cream, yogurt, etc. Although I do not sell milk, or even advertise that I have dairy goats, I get several calls a month from people, who want to buy raw goat milk. So I know that there is a market for it.

    Right now the does are going dry to get ready to give birth to baby goats. But after they kid, I’ll have a little milk left over to sell a few goat shares–enough to pay for the pellets to feed the goats.

    So if you really want your own source of fresh goat milk, buy 2 dairy does (they are herd animals and need companionship) and get started. I suggest that you also buy a cheese press for all the cheese you’ll be making. Trust me, you won’t be sorry.

    • MILK BILL IN ARKANSAS PASSED AND SIGNED ! ACT 1209 Congrats to chef Lee Richardson who worked tirelessly and a Heartfelt congratulations to Representative Randy Alexander and Senator Gary Stubblefield for bringing HB 1536 to the session. Great appreciation of Representatives Charles Armstrong, Bob Ballinger, Jonathan Barnett, Nate Bell Harold Copenhaver, David Fielding, Charlene Fite, Justin Harris, Mary Hickerson, Homer Lenderman, Mark Lowery, Sue Scott David Whitaker and Senators Bryan King, Bobby Pierce, and Jon Woods for Co-Sponsoring and adding much needed support.

  2. Back Porch Farm

    YES!! I have also purchased 2 Nigerian Dwarf does to breed and produce. I am just starting, but at least I am starting. Ever notice how the yogurt you buy is pasteurized then “live cultures” added back in?? Why don’t they just stick with the original cultures?

  3. Donna Hudson

    Well, this is interesting news. I had no idea that farms were limited to unleashing 100 gallons per month of terrifying raw milk onto the public. I do have a comment regarding the need to incorporate to share the milk from a cow. I believe the supreme court recently reinforced the existing definition of a corporation as a person. So if a corporation is a person, then a person is a corporation. Unless I suppose, that “some animals are more equal than others”.

  4. I’m not sure where you’re located, but I have goats milk available in Arkansas. My goats are indeed sleek and shiny and out grazing in the field as I type. :)

    I’m trying to find information on whether I can sell raw cheese. I read somewhere we can but trying to get confirmation.

  5. Andy

    I have about 30 gal of frozen raw goats milk from last month for sale hear in north east arkansas.on the cheese thing i heard as long as its aged 60 days u can sell it.if u look in hooger goat supply they have raw cheader cheese for sale.

    • Dana Dunkerson

      I realize I’m late to the party since you’re posting was in June of 2010. However, I live at Black Oak about 30 miles east of Jonesboro and am looking for a clean source of raw milk. Since I can only get raw cows milk in the summer months when an acquaintance brings it back from Amish country in Missouri, I’d like to try goats milk as well as other raw milk products, cheeses etc–especially if I can get them locally. I can make my own yogurt and do with a food dehydrator. Are you close to my location? Do you have milk available and for how much? Does the thawed goats milk do like raw cows milk after freezing and separate very much?

      Sincerely,
      Dana Dunkerson

  6. Beth

    I live in Southeast Arkansas and milked my 2 does for the first time this year. Most people were amazed at how good the cheese tasted–esp. when they found out it was “goat” cheese. The next step was to convince them to taste the milk. Once they did, word spread like wildfire. It actually tasted better than cow milk. The final taste-test that tipped the scale was the ice cream. There is definately a market out there.

  7. Wow, I was pretty angry that day. ;-P

    Ashley, I’ll be contacting you! I did find a local source, but people ask me all the time for sources, so I’ll want to share.

    What is keeping me from having my own dairy goats is my goat-owning neighbors. I have two neighbors, one right next door, who keep a rag-tag assortment of pygmy goats in pretty sad conditions. I’m afraid of contamination to my goats…am I being paranoid?

  8. Belinda, I’m sorry to say you are not really being that paranoid. There is a disease called caseous lymphadentis (something like that ;)) that is quite contagious. I would want two fences between my goats and other’s goats. You can see abscesses on the goats (most common place us under the ear) and scars from abscesses.

  9. BTW, I would like to see the maximum sales of raw milk off the farm in Arkansas raised to what a small show herd produces. Say 10 goats at 2000 lbs per lactation. 250 gallons a month would do it. Still super small scale.

  10. I know this is late to the party, but in respolnse to the person who asked about cheese-home made cheese can not be sold anywhere in the state of arkansas. It has to come from an approved facility. I’m drowning in raw milk and feta cheese!

  11. AJ

    We give out Cows milk away as pet milk use only, not charge a dime so people will contact Arkansas Politicians and let them know what we want , RAW MILK that is healthy for you, no one has died from it , it is time to make it legal . We will not get rich from it , we will sell it for 3 bucks a gal, as long as we don’t have license fees etc. we just want to offer it openly. People love our milk and cheese.

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