The state steps in it – in Washington

So what’s it like living in a state where raw milk IS legal? It seems from the case described below that even the fact of raw milk being legal doesn’t adequetely protect raw milk users from what looks like arbitrary state interference in their dietary and business affairs. Wasn’t it Pierre Trudeau who came to the public realization back in the 60s that the state had no place in the bedrooms of the nation. So now we might well wonder what the state is doing in our refrigerators? Are they keeping us “safe”? Protecting us from ourselves? Or looking for a midnight snack?

This piece is excerpted from the blog of Kurtwood Farms, a certified grade A raw dairy in the state of Washington, down there in the US and A.

The State Steps In

“For the past two plus years this dairy has had a Grade ‘A’ dairy license. Issued by the Washington State Department of Agriculture, it gives me the right to sell milk, raw milk, to the public. The dairy is inspected, the milk tested, and product deemed fit for human consumption.

Raw milk is legal in only a limited number of states in the Union. Although the Pasteurized Milk Ordinance is a federal document (it also addresses raw milk laws) the states have the right to allow or not allow raw milk within their states. Raw milk is not eligible for interstate commerce. The state of Washington allows raw milk to be sold to the public and I am very fortunate for that law as are my customers.

I sell milk to many private people directly and also in a small general store here on Vashon Island where people can pick up a jug of raw milk where I deliver a few times a week a few blocks from the Farm.

In addition to selling jugs of milk, small cafes on the Island wanted to buy it to use it to make espresso drinks with. Their idea was that people wanted to drink high quality coffee drinks and an excellent local milk would contribute to their fine coffees. As these coffee shops took the milk seriously I agreed to sell it to them. They kept it cold at all times, kept low inventories, had a warning label on the counter where their customers could read it, offered it special to customers not automatically and they only steamed what they needed for that one drink ordered: they didn’t keep large pitchers of warm milk around ever.

The customers loved it. They had the opportunity to read the warning label on the counter, understood it and wanted high quality local milk. They were not interested in low quality milk from large factory farms. They trusted me and my practices.

The King County Department of Public Health inspected these cafes over the past two years and did not see a problem. In one case they did ask for the warning label to be a bit larger so that there was no question that it was raw milk that was being freely offered and that it had a warning associated with it.

Last week one person called the Department of Public Health and informed them that my raw milk was offered for sale at all three cafes. The Department of Health revisited the issue, checked with the State Department of Public Health and required the three cafes pull the milk from their menus.

The State’s opinion is that they are benevolent is allowing the people of the State of Washington to sell and buy raw milk in any form. They believe that the law says that raw milk must be only sold to the end consumer in a sealed container that is sealed at the dairy with a warning label on it. (I do conform to the law — the cafes were selling it not in its original container)….”

And then, from a followup piece, from the same source,

The State steps in, continued

“… A lot of my regular customers are angry. Very angry. They see it simply as a choice issue. For the State of Washington and King County to say that an adult person is simply too stupid to comprehend the concept and potential hazards of raw milk is insulting. Evidently the State feels that people are adequately intelligent to read the warning label on the jug of milk in the grocery store but are simply too stupid to read the warning label on the counter of the coffee shop. I simply do not understand the logic here.

The cafes created small take away notices of what the State did and how to contact them to voice an opinion. I am confident that the lovely bureaucrats in Olympia got a lot of angry personal emails from lots of great people on Vashon. I like that.

The result of this issue for me is that I lost three great accounts and lots of great customers. I keep cows and sell milk because I like the milk and I like the people that buy my milk. Luckily it is winter and the volume of milk is slowing down, but the State certainly cost this dairy at its bottom line. When I am feeling angry it is hard not to think that that is the goal: to push me out of business so that they don’t have to worry about raw milk any longer. When I am in my right mind, I realize that they are not creative enough to plan such strategies.

What is most annoying is that the smug person who felt it was their responsibility to call in to the State concerning raw milk in cafes on Vashon is feeling even smugger. They got their way. The State has told them that they did a great job, they have saved the good people of Vashon Island and by extension all of Washington from their gross inability to read a milk warning label. The bumbling populace can now go about in their illiterate lives; drinking pasteurized swill from the large five thousand cow manure-laden dairies. The nutrient-poor white water will continue to flow, keeping the huge corporate bottlers in business. Thank you Mrs. Smug, you are saving us.”

Read the whole story from the original sources:

The State Steps In

The State Steps In, continued

coverage of the story from the Vachon News

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