B.C. Status Report – March 2016

BC-status-report imageThis is a presentation that scheduled to be given by a volunteer, Alice Jongerden, via teleconferencing at a recent conference, but last minute technical difficulties made that impossible.  It summarizes the current situation in B.C. of laws which impact herdshares and the movement to change them.

You can download the B.C. Status Report here (.ppsm PowerPoint presentation file with audio, 10 meg) or view it in video format on Youtube.




U of Guelph – Raw Milk Symposium 2016 Presentations

aliceB.C.H.A. volunteer Alice Jongerden was invited and scheduled to give a presentation at the “Raw Milk Symposium 2016 –  Building Bridges for a Canadian Raw Milk Policy” conference at the University of Guelph. Unfortunately, she received the announcement just as the conference started that her talk had been cancelled because of technical problems with teleconferencing.

Her two talks, “What’s up in B.C.?  A Status Report” and “Legal Herdsharing: Exploring How it Could be Done,” will be recorded and full audio versions posted shortly.


We want to hear your positive raw milk stories!

Last month, a raw milk consumer here in B.C. spoke to a staff person at the Ministry of Health, sharing her story about how raw milk is helping her with a serious health issue.   This staff person told her that this was the FIRST positive thing that the Ministry had ever heard from the public about raw milk, the first time they had heard that it has any benefits!

BCHA wants to ensure that the decision-makers hear more accounts of raw milk’s benefits and the positive ways in which it has supported and improved lives.   The government is not going to change a law when they do not see a benefit to citizens in changing it.

Has farm-fresh unprocessed milk played a positive role in your life?  Has it helped you with health, nutrition, or well-being?  What about your agister, your animals, your farm?   BCHA is looking for stories of raw milk, to both publish on this website and to compile and send to the government, to the Honourable Dr. Terry Lake, Minister of Health.   Dr. Lake is the decision-maker who has the ability to change the archaic law from 1988 that makes raw milk the only food for human consumption classified as a “health hazard.”

Let’s educate the government about what the benefits of raw milk have been for us.  Send your stories to, with the subject line “My story.”   Your name and contact information will be kept private unless you tell us otherwise.

BCHA Newsletter Issue 2 Oct 2015

BCHA newsletter imageCome and read our second newsletter, just published – full of news and details about our meetings with the B.C. Government about how to get the law changed (Summary:  It can be done!  We just have to do the necessary work.).   Download this issue in PDF format from:

B.C. Herdshare Association Newsletter – Issue 2 (October 2015)

We are also calling for submissions for our next issue – including classified advertising and news from your community and your herdshare.   Send to and include “Newsletter” in the subject line.

Legalization? What is your opinion?

In 1988, a law was passed in B.C. which made all raw milk a “health hazard.”  This law is now Section 2(a) of the Health Hazards Regulation under the Public Health Act.

Despite the fact that

  • individuals may collectively own property, including livestock;
  • individuals may employ others to care for their livestock;
  • products from livestock – meat, milk, offspring, manure, hides, and wool – are the property of the owners;
  • contracts between livestock owners and agister are private, free-enterprise agreements between two parties;
  • if you own the animal, you are not buying milk from that animal;
  • herdshare owners pay GST on their monthly agistment fees, as this is a service, not a product;
  • over-regulation – imposing costs and standards which producers or consumers are unable to meet – is a form of prohibition, creating a black market;
  • fresh milk produced by procedures intended for direct consumption is not the same as unpasteurized milk produced by methods necessitating pasteurization;

…. health authorities are still issuing cease-and-desist orders to the herdshares they find, with little that the herdshare can do to “fight back.” Some herdshares are hesitant to send test samples to a lab due to fear of being reported to health authorities.  Many herdshares operate in isolation, without that support network that is taken for granted in other agricultural sectors, without even knowing about other herdshares in the same community.

Currently, if a health authority finds about a herdshare, they will likely issue a cease-and-desist order to it. Some health authorities operate on a “complaint driven” basis, but anyone can phone or email a environmental health officer and complain that raw milk is being distributed. An example is the complaint filed with the Fraser Health Authority against the Home on the Range cowshare in 2008 – the complaint was filed by the Ministry of Agriculture. In another case, someone saw two herdshare members privately transfer a jar of milk from one of their cars to another in a parking lot of a local farmers’ market – the market itself was reported to the health authority. In another case, a former herdshare member with a grudge reported the herdshare. This is an excerpt from a sample cease-and-desist letter received by a herdshare last summer:

Herdsharing is unofficially legalized in other provinces, where raw milk is not classified as being a health hazard, and in California (see the California Herdshare Association website). Herdsharing is officially legalized in places such as Colorado, where specific laws set out conditions for herdsharing (see the Raw Milk Association of Colorado website).  The issue is being discussed of legalizing it in B.C.

So, let’s get the discussion going, about what you as a herdshare community member want to see for the future:

  • Do you want to see laws changed in order to legalize consumer access to raw milk via herdsharing?
  • If herdsharing were legalized, what do you as members of the “raw milk community” wish to see?
  • What do you think of the requirements placed on raw milk producers in areas such as Washington state where raw milk is officially legalized:  licensing, registration, training, testing standards, or certification?
  • Would it benefit your herdshare to be able to advertise for new members? To promote your product?
  • Do you have concerns about the financial costs? Prohibitory regulation?
  • What would your ideal model be?

Please email your comments to and we will post them below anonymously, in order to protect your privacy.

Re-evaluating the “Health Hazard” Classification

In British Columbia, there are laws which effectively ban the distribution of unpasteurized milk, based on the presumption that it is a health hazard.  In a law unique to BC, milk which has not been pasteurized is classified as a health hazard under section 2(a) of the Health Hazards Regulation (the only food for human consumption to be classified as such).  The BC Centre for Disease Control states, “There is a good reason why raw milk (unpasteurized milk) is not permitted for sale in Canada – it is not safe to drink” and “Raw milk is unsanitary and may contain feces, urine, and other environmental contaminants from the source animal and its environment. Heat treatment of milk (pasteurization) kills most bacteria in milk.”

But, should these statements be accepted without question? Or, is it perhaps time to review them?

As for the latter statement, pasteurization does not remove these contaminants if a dairy has allowed them to enter the milk.  And artisan micro-dairies producing farm-fresh, unprocessed milk will never allow any of these to enter the milk to begin with.  The following photos of used milk filters – clean and white vs. brown and dirty – show that “pasteurized” does not necessarily mean “clean,” any more than “raw” automatically means “unclean”:


We must also ask the question when hearing about a raw milk-related illness:  Was the illness truly caused by farm-fresh, unprocessed milk produced via appropriate methods?  Or was it caused by milk produced by methods intended for further commercial pasteurization and processing?

Other countries around the world have shown that farm-fresh milk can be safely produced.   One example is Germany, where two types of this product are freely available:  milk sold directly from the farm and certified Vorzugsmilch (see “The German System” (PDF) for more information).   Farm-fresh milk is also sold throughout England – Hook and Son is one such farm.  And in France and Italy, farmers are known for providing fresh milk in convenient vending machines.

We know from recent international QRMA studies that unpasteurized milk can be a very low risk food (see pages 26-30 of the presentation “Unpasteurized Milk:  Myths and Evidence” given at the BCCDC by Nadine Ijaz).  But despite emerging science showing that not all bacteria are harmful and that many are actually beneficial and necessary for our health and survival (e.g. gut microbiota) — in order to legalize farm-fresh, unprocessed milk in BC, it is first necessary to prove to government that raw milk can be produced with low bacteria counts.  We must prove via testing that it is “low risk.” And agisters around the province are providing this proof in their test results.  To show an example, here are the bacteria counts per ml. that pasteurized milk on grocery store shelves must meet:

post-pasteurized standards

Compare with the test results which BCHA-trained agisters are achieving:

Test results - Jul-Mar

Despite these excellent test results, if regional Health Authorities were to discover the location of these three herdshares, the agisters would immediately receive cease-and-desist orders.  No matter how clean it is, farm-fresh, unprocessed milk is classified as a health hazard under clause 2(a) of the Health Hazards Regulation; causing a health hazard is an offence under clause 15 of the Public Health Act; and under clauses 99(3)(a) and 108(1)(c) of the Act, an offender “is liable on conviction to a fine not exceeding $3,000,000 or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 36 months, or to both.”

We believe that it is time to open the conversation again regarding the Health Hazards Regulation, in particular Clause 2(a).  Originally signed into law by then-Minister of Health Peter Dueck in 1988, a Freedom of Information Request shows that there was no public consultation, reports, studies, or any other documentation on file to provide evidence supporting the passage of this law:


The hundreds of dairy farmers supplying farm-fresh, unprocessed milk to their local communities were not consulted in 1988.  The thousands of consumers of these health-building foods were not consulted in 1988.  Twenty-six years later, we feel that it is time for that dialogue to begin, and BCHA is reaching out to begin this dialogue, to advocate for the interests of the herdshare community of British Columbia which created this organization, and to build bridges of understanding and cooperation with those who can change the laws and the policies.  It will be a long road ahead of us, but our community has been here since fresh-milk dairy farmers settled here as pioneers, and we are not going away.