A Chilliwack raw-milk dairy has become a de facto cowsmetics counter as jars brimming with only unpasteurized milk are labelled Cleopatra’s enzymatic body lotion while raw cream alone is christened massage cream.
Ordered to stop distributing raw milk for human consumption because B.C.’s Public Health Act considers the product a health hazard, the 22-cow dairy has rebranded to keep raw milk flowing for its 450 Vancouver-area customers.
Disparaged as a “sneaky” way of skirting laws against the sale of raw milk, it’s the latest development in a national campaign that sets public health concerns against consumers who want pure unpasteurized product
In June of 2008, the dairy was identified as a producer and distributor of raw milk. By March 2010, the Fraser Health Authority secured a permanent injunction to stop it from distributing raw milk for human consumption. In response, dairy operator Alice Jongerden labelled the milk as “Not For Human Consumption.” In September, the health authority asked that Ms. Jongerden be held in contempt of court. She was found guilty, but not fined, in December.
She stepped aside in September and Ontario raw-milk dairy farmer Michael Schmidt took over as manager of Our Cows Inc.
The dairy’s half-dozen products all bear labels stating “should not be used for human consumption.”
“We tell customers you cannot drink it. You can use raw dairy products as cosmetics. It’s not a matter of getting round the law. It’s how do we accommodate our customers?” Mr. Schmidt said from his home in Durham, Ont.
The executive director of the B.C. Milk Producers Association considers Mr. Schmidt’s marketing a “big fake.”
“It’s another under-the-table, sneaky way of trying to get around the law,” Robin Smith said.. “It’s cloaking a cow in Cleopatra’s robes.”
At Our Cows, five employees milk and care for the cows and bottle the products. About 70 gallons of milk are produced daily by the Jerseys.
For $150 per month, a cow-share member gets about two quarts of raw-milk products each week.
Since September, Mr. Schmidt, who owns a 40-cow raw-milk dairy, has flown to B.C. five times, “taking all the flack” and preparing to battle for the right of British Columbians to legally acquire raw milk.
“I was reflecting on the arbitrary decree by B.C. regulators to call raw milk a hazardous substance. It’s like calling a human being a criminal,” he said of a product he spent 16 years fighting to distribute in Ontario. Before immigrating to Canada from Germany in 1983, Mr. Schmidt operated a raw-milk dairy.
In January 2010, he was acquitted of all 19 charges related to the distribution of raw milk and raw-milk products in Ontario.
Raw-milk supporters point to the Ontario decision, which stated that because Mr. Schmidt’s raw-milk products were available to only cow-share members they were not considered available to the public.
But in her March, 2010 order, Madam Justice Miriam Gropper wrote: “The question of whether the milk or milk products are distributed to the public or to members of the cow share is of no relevance in British Columbia. Raw milk is deemed to be a health hazard by regulation, and s.15 of the Public Health Act ‘prohibits a person from willingly causing a health hazard.’ ”
Fraser Health Authority is aware that Mr. Schmidt has branded Our Cows raw milk as cosmetics.
“Mr. Schmidt has been very clear and open about his plans,” said spokesperson Roy Thorpe-Dorward.