New Jersey is one of several states which explicitly criminalize the sale of raw milk. It’s therefore at the extreme end of a motley array of possible state attitudes. While the federal bureaucracy (no law) also criminalizes the transport of raw milk over state lines*, it’s up to the states to decide what happens within their borders. (The FDA often lobbies against decriminalization.)
[*This includes, according to a recent FDA assertion, the customer himself going to another state to purchase raw milk and then bringing it back home. The government soothingly claims it has no intention of trying to arrest or otherwise sanction such individual purchasers, but it wants to reserve the right to do so. Of course, it was just a year ago, in promulgating its totalitarian brief in the FTCLDF lawsuit, that the FDA claimed it had no aggressive enforcement plans against dairies and raw milk co-ops. That was proven to be a lie within weeks.]
The result is that a few states have regular legal sales, others allow sales from the farm, others explicitly or implicitly allow cow shares (where the customers are technically part-owners of the cow; this was meant to exploit loopholes allowing the farmer himself to drink raw milk from his own cow), while a few like NJ criminalize the whole shebang.
Today in NJ there’s a movement to decriminalize raw milk purchases directly from dairies. (This is characteristic of liberalization campaigns in dozens of other states.) As things stand, the bill has been passed in the Assembly. If it passes the Senate, this will not only strike a blow for freedom but should be a healthy economic step. NJ used to have hundreds of flourishing small dairies. Today it has literally zero direct-to-customer dairies; all NJ milk production is slated for the corporate maw. I’m looking forward to the day I can propose to our farmers’ market committee that we try to organize some kind of raw milk CSA through the market. (I don’t know yet if the bill would allow direct sales at farmers’ markets.)
Raw milk is beneficial to health. It has more nutrients than pasteurized, and is often easier to digest for the lactose-intolerant. There’s plenty of anecdotal evidence that it helps alleviate or send into remission such medical problems as allergies, arthritis, multiple sclerosis, ulcers, autism, ADD, and others. In spite of government scare-mongering, properly inspected raw milk production systems are in fact just as safe as those for pasteurization. Even under today’s twilight regime, the incidence of illness from raw milk is negligible (as the CDC itself admitted, in a report the FDA has sought to suppress). Meanwhile, there’s growing evidence that pasteurized milk has its own health issues.
Why was raw milk criminalized in the first place? It never had anything to do with food safety. It’s the same old story – unlike mass pasteurization, raw milk is not readily corporatizable. Especially with the rise of the movement for healthful eating and concern over the socioeconomics of food, raw milk is a potent competitor to corporatism. So as always, where possible the corporate system simply has the competition outlawed. That’s how capitalism works in the real world, as opposed to the ivory tower. (If anyone thought my language of criminalization and decriminalization was redolent of the marijuana issue, that’s no coincidence. It’s the same kind of corporate-driven outlawry which has no other reality basis.) In a recent example, state thugs in Massachusetts (where cow shares are legal, but being illegally harassed by the state) openly admitted that they’re acting on behalf of Big Dairy, which has been pressuring the state government.
By now, whenever we hear the term “food safety” we have to assign it to the same Orwellian category as “war on terror”. It’s the same scam, meant to drum up the same groundless fear, in order to push through pro-corporate policy which could never prevail in a democratic marketplace of ideas. That’s what happened with the recently passed Food Control bill. (They did get the support of some useful idiots, consumer and food safety advocates. That’s typical of myopic special-interest do-gooders – even where they have subjectively good intentions, they’re incapable of seeing the big picture and the context of their issue within it. Therefore they consistently end up as objective corporate lackeys.)
We the people need to break free of government food control. The government is not on our side in any way. It doesn’t care about the safety of our food, our health, or the vitality of our economies. On the contrary it will happily sacrifice us all, our health and our pursuit of happiness, to the corporate imperative. This imperative dictates that government must also viciously assault the basis of our economic life. Food relocalization is the Archimedean point from which we can move the world away from this corporate feudalism and back toward economic prosperity and political democracy. In the end this will depend upon pure bottom-up citizen action. But any possible system reform, in the rare cases where the politics does make it possible, can help as well. That’s why the raw milk bills pending in NJ and so many other states are important.