Why the Raw Milk Institute ignites such controversy within the food movement

From David E. Gumpert on the Complete Patient blog:

“Mark McAfee of Organic Pastures Dairy Co. expresses surprise about the depth of opposition to RAWMI. “I did not know about farmers that absolutely want no help or assistance to develop consumer friendly programs to show the work they do for safety. I did not know that many Cow Share operators reject any kind of exposure and demand absolute secrecy.”

But I wonder, is his surprise that this segment of farmers exists? Is he surprised by the depth of their concerns? Or is he surprised that they “demand absolute secrecy”? Or does he mean “privacy” instead of “secrecy”?

So strong are the feelings, on both sides, that they are difficult to articulate. That leads to frustration. Gayle Loiselle,a plaintiff in the Craig/Zinniker cases in Wisconsin, sums it up when she says, “We need to organize and educate within our communities about the far reaching dangers of highly processed mass produced food and the benefits of sustainably produced nutrient dense food. And not waste our energy arguing over who is more right…that is exactly what the opposition is hoping for.” 

Yes, all this was a lot easier when all we had to do was rail against the state and federal regulators at demonstrations, or express our cynicism during the Raw Milk Symposium. But now that we are looking at creating a new safety-oriented entity that is at once “consumer friendly” and “transparent,” as Mark McAfee puts it, the situation is much more challenging. Partly because we each have a different vision of what all these qualities mean.

Tim Wightman rightfully raises the fundamental question many of us would just as soon not think about: What should RAWMI (or a similar organization) actually do? He’s not sure exactly what it is, but knows what it isn’t. “To supplant wisdom with testing is not the answer and is the very reason we got in this mess in the first place. Balance is the key, in our soils, in our understanding and in our approach to the forces we must align ourselves with. To relegate that balance to testing alone is to ignore the other 75% of what it takes to create a quality product, and takes responsibility away to gaining wisdom and the relationships it forges.”

And then there are a good number of clear-thinking people who have serious problems with the idea of the Raw Milk Institute (or any such additional institutional entity) being a part of the food scene to begin with. Doreen Hannes fears “monopoly,” “control,” and diminished overall dairy quality–all the result of some kind of repeat of the setting of costly organic standards, which resulted in giving the biggest advantages to the biggest players….”

Read it all on the Complete Patient blog.


Filed under News

6 responses to “Why the Raw Milk Institute ignites such controversy within the food movement

  1. nedlud

    When I first started farming (officially, following my marriage and purchase of small farm) in 1980, it was typical around here to both give and to receive help, with other area farmers. Though money was sometimes exchanged, often we helped on a good will basis, reacting to a perceived need. It was a given that we shared this common understanding.

    Over the years, as bureaucracy took more and more hold onto peoples’ lives, this type of thing, this ‘sensing’ of various needs and this volunteering of good will gradually disappeared. It almost never happens anymore. There is also the fact that there are far fewer farmers.

    Fervent bureaucrats really cannot comprehend how easy it is really, to do without them and how much better life actually is, operated on a local, community oriented basis.

    City people also do not understand. They are much more conditioned to acceptance of a large amount of rules and regulations and interference from authorities.

  2. Peter

    I think David said it well. I surmise that it is one thing to complain (state what is not wanted), but it is another to state what is wanted.
    I am glad to see David pick up on there being a possible distinction between private and secret. It has been my experience that some attempt to mischaracterize others by labeling them as secretive, when the may simply be wanting to remain private (and somehow inferring that privacy is a bad thing – as though it is bad to exercise a right – or that privacy equates to lack of strength or courage).

  3. nedlud


    Wendy McElroy, author of above piece, is one of my favorite writers. Some say we are living in ‘interesting’ times, I say we are living on the brink of wholesale slaughter. The bureaucracy, built to serve privilege and to take (and take) from the middle and the poor, is about to run amok, ie., achieve its ultimate end.

    Anyone who defends bureaucracy, in whatever veil it uses to legitimize itself, should reconsider and perhaps even pray.


  4. aed939

    I believe Mark McAfee is well-intentioned, but California has some of the most extreme regulations of all of the states in which retail sales are legal. These regulations act as a barrier to entry, and as a result, there are only two large retail producers in CA–Organic Pastures and Claravale. Other states, such as Pennsylvania, have more reasonable regulations, and numerous small dairies of the scale that fit the definition of a traditional family dairy. It is understandable that these farms may be skeptical of an attempt by a California producer, to author model safety best-practices or uniform model state regulations that could result in more fixed-cost investment requirements.

    Simultaneously, there are small herdshares operating discretely both in California and other states in which the retail sale is prohibited or unduly restrictive. They base their model on the right to consume the milk of their own cow, and to make private contracts for animal boarding. As such, their milk is never sold, and thus a state public health authority that regulates or raids herdshares are overstepping their charge–which is to protect public health in the commerce domain through the regulation of commercial dairies only.

    However, given an understanding of these competing goals, an organization such as the Raw Milk Institute could be useful in promoting the product, education of the public and policy makers, and dispelling negative propaganda. Official policy positions must be released only with consensus from all producers of various business models and the consumers.

  5. deen

    Thanks for the post
    Here is a great video of Mark giving a great overview of the raw milk issue.
    Many others by him on you tube.
    This is a shorter version.for those who just want some quick info and are new to the topic.
    teach teach teach!
    People will make right choices when they have right information.(truth)

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