“Most Sundays, Tyrone Mayorga sets out a cooler in the entrance of his West Village walk-up apartment building, waiting for a delivery van service to fill it with raw, unpasteurized milk. The quasi-legal beverage comes from a creamery co-op that delivers to customers throughout New York City.
“I drink it for the laundry list of health benefits,” Mayorga, 23, said. “I’m all about a return to raw living [and] natural and sustainable food products, no matter the fat content. I also drink it because I like the idea of keeping small farmers in business, knowing my money is being given to honest, hardworking members of my community.”
Most New Yorkers like Mayorga can’t make the two-hour drive upstate to legally buy raw milk. Instead, they buy it in the city’s thriving black market for this specialty dairy item.
Raw milk comes straight from the cow and is milked into a bulk tank and kept cold, before being bottled and sold. About one third of states nationwide prohibit the sale of it, due to concerns that the unpasteurized product may harbor harmful bacteria. Even in states like New York where it is legal, sales are often restricted to the farm where the milk is produced.
Local cooperatives — called co-ops — have milk routes and make deliveries to apartment doors. So far, the state hasn’t had the resources to stop them. Two creamery co-ops servicing the New York City area declined to comment for this story.
For New Yorkers who can make the trek upstate, dairy farms abound. The number of state-approved raw dairy farms has doubled from 10 farms in 2005 to more than 20, according to the state Department of Agriculture and Markets.
The interest among farmers is “mostly driven by consumer demand,” said Kris Danielsen, the department’s culture dairy product specialist.
“There’s also an economic reason,” she said. “The price that farmers are receiving for their milk from pasteurization plants has decreased at the same time that production costs have stayed the same or even increased.”
Directly from the customer, a farmer can receive as much as $10 for a gallon of raw milk — more than double the price of a pasteurized gallon at the local grocery store.