Basic Facts about Raw Milk

(Download “Basic Facts About Raw Milk” to print and give to your MLA)

Facts About Raw and Pasteurized Milk

  • Raw milk from pasture-fed cows, goats, and sheep is highly nutritious and has many health benefits.
  • Not all raw milk is alike.  Pre-pasteurized milk, mass-produced at a commercial dairy farm may contain urine, feces and other contaminants. It MUST be pasteurized in order to be safe. However, if raw milk is produced in accordance with Raw Milk Standards, it is perfectly clean and free from contaminants.
  • Pasteurization is not a guarantee of safety.  In 1998, 75 people in BC got sick from Yersinia pseudotuberculosis in pasteurized milk.  Since 1966 the U.S. CDC has recorded 155 outbreaks,  ~154,000 illnesses, 282 hospitalizations, and 82 deaths from pasteurized dairy products.
  • Pasteurization allows mass-produced milk from factory farms to be made safer. The alternative is raw milk from smaller herds,  carefully handled and free from contaminants. The Raw Milk Institute provides training and on farm food safety plans to produce clean, pathogen-free milk.
  • Raw milk is a specialty food in growing demand from health conscious consumers.

Raw Milk Availability In Other Countries

  • Raw milk is legally available in many other nations including England, New Zealand, France, Italy, Germany, Norway, Sweden, Finland, and Denmark.
  • Raw milk is legally available in 43 American states via retail and farm-gate sales, private buying clubs, and herdshares.   Consumers in the 7 remaining states obtain it via private buying clubs and co-ops which source from out-of-state farms.
  • This is a niche dairy product, not a “fringe” product:  Organic Pastures Dairy sells over a million gallons of raw milk per year in over 700 grocery stores in California.  According to a 2018 FSA survey, 10% of the population of England, Wales, and Northern Ireland drink raw milk (up from 3% in 2012) — that’s over 6 million raw milk consumers.   A 2013 survey showed that 11.6% of Vermont residents consumed it.
  • B.C. is  bordered by three U.S. states where herdshares are legal by state law.  In Washington State, they are licensed and inspected. In Idaho they are registered with the state. The Alaska state regulations recognize that citizens have a legal right to milk from animals they own.
  • Many British Columbians purchase raw milk when cross-border shopping at any of the 112+ grocery stores and 38 licensed farms which sell it in Washington State.   The Ministry of Health confirms that this is perfectly legal.

Raw Milk and Food Safety

  • Legalization of grass-fed microdairy herdshares will not result in increased numbers of disease outbreaks.
  • The Raw Milk Institute’s Risk Analysis and Management Planning (RAMP) on-farm food safety system effectively trains farmers in the production methods for clean, pathogen-free, low-risk fresh milk.
  • The B.C. Herdshare Association provides free training in RAWMI’s RAMP system.
  • International quantitative microbiological risk assessment (QMRA studies) prove that raw milk is a low-risk food.

Raw Milk Laws in B.C.

  • The original Milk Industry Act (1956) allowed certified farms to sell raw milk (Sections 4-6).
  • The regulation defining raw milk as a “health hazard” was created in 1988 (OIC 822/1988) without any public consultation.  It wrongly assumes that all raw milk is the same (see “Re-evaluating the ‘Health Hazard’ Classification”)
  • Raw milk distribution is now punishable under the Public Health Act by a fine of up to $3,000,000 or 3 years jail.
  • Prohibition and the “black market” it created does not protect public health. Consumers are desperate and will buy raw milk of unknown quality from anyone who may sell it.
  • While most commercial farmers drink their own raw milk and some also sell it illegally, many may fear the competition of herdshares once legalized.
  • True herdshares do not sell raw milk.   They are not “private buying clubs” or “herd-leasing” operations.  In a herdshare, a group of consumers legally owns a herd of meat and dairy animals, in order to enjoy the products from their animals.  These livestock owners hire farmers as agisters to board and care for their animals.

Legalizing Herdshares in B.C.

  • As herdshares don’t sell raw milk, they can be legalized provincially without changing the federal law which bans the sale of raw milk.
  • Other provinces have laws regulating raw dairy products that differ from Federal law, so BC could as well. Example:  Quebec law allows raw milk cheeses aged less than 60 days to be produced and sold, whereas Federal law specifies a 60 day aging period.
  • The Raw Milk Institute requires training, on-farm food safety plans, and bacterial testing standards for all of RAWMI-listed farmers.  The modern alternative to the current state of prohibition in B.C. is for government to pass a regulation requiring  a certification program based on RAWMI standards.
  • British Columbians are not asking for federal law to change to legalize sales.   We are asking that  B.C. regulations be created and amended to legalize and register herdshares, so that livestock co-owners can legally access safe, nutritious, fresh products from their own animals.