As some farmers push for more freedom to sell raw milk, an advocacy group reports that nearly 2,000 customers bought more than 53,000 gallons of the unpasteurized product in a recent 12-month period.
For those of you interested in following the raw milk debate, head over to the website of Rural Vermont, which released its annual raw milk report Wednesday morning. Because Vermont doesn't require farmers selling raw milk to register with the state, the Rural Vermont report is the best snapshot we have of what raw milk sales look like on the ground.
To recap, raw milk is unpasteurized. In Vermont, it's sold directly by farmers to consumers, and in almost all cases consumers have to travel to the farm to purchase this milk. Vermont passed regulations in 2009 covering the sale of raw milk, setting out guidelines for farmers intended to protect public health. People who love raw milk really love raw milk — but conversely, public health officials stand firm in their conviction that consuming unpasteurized milk (which hasn't been treated to kill off pathogens and bacteria) could make people sick.
The Rural Vermont report includes the results of a survey and information gathered from farmers at a raw milk summit held in Bethel in October. Rural Vermont received survey responses from 110 farmers, 80 of whom identified themselves as current sellers of raw milk. (The additional 30 were past producers, aspiring raw milk sellers, or farmers interested in the topic.)
Some interesting tidbits:
* Seventy-six farms reported the quantity of raw cow and goat milk they sold between November 1, 2012 and October 31, 2013 — which cumulatively totaled 53,307 gallons. The largest producer sold as much as 9,000 gallons, and the median amount was 240 gallons per farm.
The overall milk sales to nearly 2,000 customers brought in just more than $373,000. The largest per-farm income from raw milk sales reported was $90,000. Farmers selling raw cows' milk reported an average income of $6,718 from the sales.
Some farmers have ceased selling raw milk. When asked to elaborate on why, answers included: "paranoia;" "farm is too far off the beaten path for customers to travel;" and "I have one cow and will not go through the rigmarole that is now involved."
Rural Vermont also presents a number of suggested changes to the current raw milk law, which they say were "consistently raised" by farmers at raw milk gatherings held around the state. These include, among other suggestions:
Develop more reasonable and affordable animal health testing protocols;
Limit regulations for "neighborly scale" sales, which would allow producers to sell very small quantities of milk under less stringent rules;
Allow for the sale of "light processed" raw dairy products such as cream, butter, yogurt, soft cheeses and ice cream;
Remove production limits (which currently cap daily sales for most farmers at 12.5 gallons per day) to allow more sales.