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Mercer: Raw Milk and Urban Chickens Mean Death!

...or at least illness and mountain lion attacks.

Earlier this year, Bob Mercer encouraged the corporate-fascist propaganda that opponents of the Keystone XL pipeline and Powertech in-situ uranium mine pose terrorist threats.

Seemingly switching gears, in an opinion column last Sunday, Mercer went easy on Dakota Rural Action for its opposition to Keystone XL and Powertech and instead portrayed DRA's advocacy for raw milk and urban chickens as threats to public health and safety.

First, Mercer says DRA's raw milk advocacy offers puzzling support for unhealthy food:

Listening to many hours of testimony on raw milk, a person could wonder why Dakota Rural Action would be opposed to food safety.

The organization’s position, however, is defense of the little guy.

The argument is that small dairies are threatened by labels warning raw milk can make you sick and labels showing the date of production and the name of the dairy.

The state Department of Health supports the state Department of Agriculture on the new labeling rules [Bob Mercer, "Dakota Rural Action Renews Its Relevancy," Rapid City Journal, 2013.12.01].

Mercer oversimplifies DRA's argument. The labeling portion of the onerous rules imposed by the small-dairy-hating South Dakota Department of Agriculture is not a major obstacle to staying in business. Heck, small dairy operators will happily tell their neighbors and customers their name, the date they bottle their products, and the health facts about raw milk. The large mandatory labels the Ag Department wants will cost producers money, but even more burdensome will be the new battery of tests, well beyond those small dairies already perform in compliance with prior regulations.

Then Mercer turns his criticism to urban chickens, which he says will attract South Dakota's bête noire, the mountain lion:

As for letting people raise chickens in urban areas, a hen isn’t the same as a tomato.

Vegetables and fruit don’t cluck and crow, but they do attract animals. Chickens will attract other types of animals that, by nature, want to eat them and their eggs.

And there is South Dakota’s alpha predator.

Who knows whether chickens would attract immature mountain lions that make their way down from the Black Hills into backyards and neighborhoods [Mercer, 2013.12.01].

Yes, fear the chickens, because none of those trash cans, house cats, or succulent children are attracting pumas.

Dakota Rural Action is trying to protect some basic South Dakota liberties. On Keystone XL, they're fighting for your right to own your land and say who can and cannot use it for industrial projects. On Powertech, they're fighting for your right to drink water and not glow. On raw milk, they're fighting for the rights of producers and consumers to enjoy more choice in the marketplace. And on urban chickens, DRA is fighting for the basic right to feed your family as you see fit. In a purported conservative state consumed with discussions of personal liberty, this support for practical liberty makes Dakota Rural Action very relevant.


  1. Mike Armstrong 2013.12.07

    Lions are often killed near here is southeastern South Dakota. They generally have recently ingested raccoons. They are also known as voracious dog and cat eaters. While they are certainly a threat to caged chickens, it will no doubt be a roaming dog or cat that leads them into the city limits.

  2. chris 2013.12.07

    I get all my best ideas from watching Sylvester and Tweety cartoons.

  3. grudznick 2013.12.07

    Cook your milk, people, and keep those dirty birds out of town.

  4. Douglas Wiken 2013.12.07

    Right on, Grudznick. I never did see the fun in running barefoot in the grass and having chicken manure squeeze between my toes. I never much loved hens that pecked my arm when picking eggs. Chickens are not one of the things that I miss from childhood. We pasteurized all the milk from the farm that we drank. So much for the movie romance of chickens and cows.

  5. Deb Geelsdottir 2013.12.07

    I am so surprised that chickens and milk are even an issue in SD. You've got to be kidding me! SD opposed to basic farming?! Holey moley!

    In liberal/blue/Dem dominated MN people are allowed to raise chickens in their urban back yards. I think the limit is something like 6 hens, no roosters. There are a few snooty, upper upper class'burbs that don't allow it. Might spoil their perfect ambiance that they're paying millions for.

    Now SD is planning to go the way of Minnetonka, Chanhassen, Eden Prairie? Those are the'burbs our pro athletes live in, and the CEOs of Cargill, Medtronic, etc.

    Nuts. Now I know SD has truly gone nuts.

    Oh, MN law does require milk to be pasteurized unless you are using it yourself or selling it to a neighbor or two. Health risks are cited as the reason.

  6. Frank James 2013.12.07

    I think it's important to point out that no one is going to make you have chickens in your back yard or drink fresh milk. I for one support the freedom that allows people to have chickens and drink fresh milk. I grew up on fresh milk as did many of my neighbors. I trust the dairy producers I get fresh milk from because I know them. I don't buy fresh milk from just anyone. I also have back yard poultry and enjoy them as well as the eggs and meat I get from them.

    So remember this is about keeping freedoms open to our citizens not forcing people to do things they don't want to do.

  7. grudznick 2013.12.07

    I, for one, am against my neighbors having chickens in their back yards.

    This is another example of a tiny group of prodigious whiners making a stir.

  8. Rorschach 2013.12.07

    Chickens speak the Republican language. buck, buck, buck, buck, buck, buck

  9. Deb Geelsdottir 2013.12.07

    Why Grudz?

  10. Roger Cornelius 2013.12.07

    If Republicans are against the chickens, I'm for them.

  11. Lynn G. 2013.12.08

    Grudz what if your neighbor who had a chicken coop invited you over for a nice wholesome and tasty breakfast with some fresh eggs, chicken or free range pork sausages, chemical free potatoes and some yummy gravy? Why not top it off with a glass of ice cold fresh and safe raw milk? Would you accept their invitation for a delicious breakfast?

  12. grudznick 2013.12.08

    I would indeed accept an invitation to such a breakfast. It has not happened yet so I must wait for my ride down town to purchase some store-bought eggs, frozen pork sausage, hashbrowns from a bag smothered in country gravy made by a fellow wearing a hair net on his beard.

    I would not drink that uncooked milk. It is unsafe.

  13. Chris S. 2013.12.08

    I grew up drinking raw milk from our farm, as did the rest of my family. Sorry, but calling it "unsafe" is hogwash. Also, my great-grandmother raised chickens, and so did our neighbors, with whom we traded milk for eggs. Apparently it's a miracle I survived childhood.

    It's sad that the hardy plains stock of South Dakota has declined into delicate hothouse flowers who fear chickens and raw milk.

  14. grudznick 2013.12.08

    We should probably not bother inspecting the offal that will be swept from the floor into sausages at this new Northern Beef plant along with whatever it is that cows walk in.

    We could save money by shutting down inspections of Chinese restaurants and donut frying shacks at the state fair.

    We definitely don't need to check on how cold the refrigerators are or how old the produce is at your corner grocery store, because we South Dakotans are a hearty lot.

    Survival of the fittest, that's what I say. And if it's good enough for eggs and milk it's good enough to apply that same philosophy to welfare too. Survival of the fittest indeed. For we are hearty.

  15. Bill Dithmer 2013.12.08

    I hate chickens. There I said it. I don't even like the smell of eggs in the morning no matter how they are cooked. If it weren't for fried chicken and chicken noodle soup I wouldn't have any use for the damn things.

    The first chore that I had in my whole life was chicken wrangler. It started about the time I turned eight and continued until I was in my early twenties. Get up, go check for dead birds, and if there were determine the cause of death, remove the dead birds. Then it was feed, fresh water, and gather eggs to take back in the house for mom. It was the same thing every day of my life while I did it.

    We had two chicken houses, one for the layers, and one for the fryers. Every year we would get a hundred fryers and raise them from chicks, another batch of work. We had one of the only electric chicken pickers in the country so when the chickens were ready a bunch of women would come over and set up an assembly line to get the birds ready for the freezer.

    I would catch em with a wire hook,and kill em, something I got tremendous satisfactionn in doing after taking care of the smelly things. Then it was the womens turn. A couple would dip the dead birds in boiling water, one would be in charge of the picker, and then someone would pick pin feathers and gut those birds. Then a rinse and it was time to put them into containers.

    These same women did a different place every day for a week. I can still remember those girls setting around bragging about how many chickens they dressed in a weeks time.

    The very worst job that a person could have on the ranch was cleaning the chicken house. It started when I was ten at which time I did have some help, but after a couple of years the help disappeared and I was left to do it myself. I asked my Uncle Cars once why that was. He didn't even have to think about it, "Cause I got you boy."

    This leads me to one of the lessons in life that I would guess every kid learns that lives in the country. Chores come first even when it seems like a total inconvenience to you at the time.

    I was eighteen or nineteen at the time. it was the middle of July and stayed hot all night long, perfect for partying but not so good for work the next day. I had spent the night before in town setting at the corner of Black Velvet and Budweiser and came home about four o'clock in the morning. At six someone came in and woke me up to inform me that I should get out and clean the chicken house before it got to hot.

    I was still a little bit inebriated so getting up wasn't the problem. A couple cups of coffee and I was headed out the door, not rock steady but not falling down either. The air conditioning had gone all night and when mom handed me my water jug and I opened that door. Lets just say that "Sunday morning coming down," had nothing on what I was feeling at that moment. That would be the last sane thought that I would have for the next three hours.

    When you clean a chicken house there are several steps to your eventual success. First you have to take the feeder and waterer out, then scoop out from around the legs of the roost, remove the roost, and start to scoop that lovely poop. I knew when I bent over to pick up the water that I was in trouble.

    I needn't have worried about all that booze in my system, I started loosing it about every ten minutes for the rest of the morning. Move the water, stand up and lean against the wall for a little bit. Move the feeder, stand up and lean against the wall for a little bit. And then. Take that first scoop from the floor around the roost.

    The smell of chickens is bad enough, but that ammonia smell along with hundred degree temps in an enclosed chicken house would cause a non drinker to puke. I had no problem however after drinking all night going in that direction. Not drinking was something I vowed to try if I lived.

    When I got the roost out and the pickup backed up to the door I developed a routine. I would scoop eight or ten scoops, puke a little, lean against the pickup for a little while, have a drink of water, and start the process again.

    After taking the pickup and cleaning it out I went back, in the air conditioned house, where I found Uncle Cars, setting in his lazy boy, watching baseball on TV. He had a can of beer on the table beside him, something he never did, and mom was frying chicken. Both of them had big old smiles on their faces. I failed to see the humor in the situation and I definitely didn't feel any love for either of them at that time.

    Never again will I live with or next to chickens. Oh the freedom, never having to smell the damn things, never hearing them cluck, or cackle again early in the morning, and never doing those kinds of chores ever.

    If you want to raise chickens move to the country. Don't do it where the neighbor on either side of you could throw a football to each other across your property. This doesn't make any more sense then pigs or a cow in town.

    If you want chicken buy them from the Hoots the way we do. Don't inconvenience the neighbors because you want to feel rural.

    I don't like raw milk either, but then that's another story about chores.

    The Blindman
    PS remind me sometime to tell you about gathering eggs in the dark.

  16. Jerry 2013.12.08

    Douglas Wiken, all this time, I thought you got brucellosis from eating brussels sprouts.

  17. Jerry 2013.12.08

    I am trying to figure why the great state of South Dakota spends thousands of taxpayer dollars to protect me from purchasing, with my own freedom dollars, natural raw milk. Yet these same, nanny state new republicans do not give a damn about providing healthcare for our poor, that cost taxpayers millions here in South Dakota. That, my friends, is a paradigm and that ain't four nickels either. I think it is protectionism. No please, not protectionism against the possibility of catching something, but the protection of corporate dairy and corporate ag in particular. Why else would they give a care about 30 or 40 head of milk cows? Maybe they could convince me to think another way if they would take care of more pressing human issues than a few folks slurping delicious raw milk, yummy.

  18. Les 2013.12.08

    It appears as though Darwyn Kurtenbach (admin of our SD Dairy for you that don't know or care) now has gasoline drinking converts in Lucas Lentsch and Bob Mercer.
    They've taken away farm fresh in the name of health and freedom.
    Wild Bill, you're not the only one with chicken manure for a hangover cure.
    On to the milk. I was milking cows as a six year old and my teacher would quiz me on why I couldn't put on clean clothes in the morning. They were, I just hit my legs as much as I hit the bucket, pulling that milk took all you had. And the best of it, the milk had a complete layer of what ever fell from the cows body. But, no harm done, I knew that strainer would get it all and it did, just left a little flavor. We did not, know what sick was.
    Oh and, I always keep a little beer on hand for my friends and a small jug of fresh gasoline just in case state dairy admin Kurtenbach wants in on a friendly chat. Unfortunately I may be needing a bigger jug.

  19. grudznick 2013.12.08

    Mr. Jerry, perhaps you missed my post.

    I am proposing that the new libbies, all for freedom of drinking whatever nasty excretion from farm animals they want without cooking it, may no longer whine about government involvement in welfare.

    Cook your milk before others drink it or shut up about the properly executed plans of the powers that be to feed you for free.

    Or, here's an idea...give away all the uncooked milk and free range eggs to the poor!!! Many problems solved. Win win, right?

    Jeezus, put the milk people up there with the teachers union bosses as the biggest whiners this state has ever seen. At least the teachers are deserving people.

  20. Jerry 2013.12.08

    I am sorry there Mr. Grudznick. I thought that a person of your intellect would know what the word paradigm means. I guess that I will have to dig around and find my grandkids crayolas to draw that picture for you. Again, please accept my humble apologies until that time. Gaulllee, you boys in the new republican party are so damn sensitive when a feller points out your shortcomings. Oh, my bride does kind of cook her milk before consumption. She heats that bad boy up in the micro and adds chocolate, she claims it is the nectar of the Gods. Who would have thunk it, milk and and all of that. Just for you, I will inform her of your suggestion. Win win, for sure.

  21. grudznick 2013.12.08

    It is ok, Mr. Jerry. You entertain me so you may continue.

  22. Deb Geelsdottir 2013.12.08

    Grudz, when you say "milk people," do you mean people who are for pasteurized milk, or those opposed?

    I'm also unsure about who your "new libbies" are. I'm a liberal who believes that I ought to follow the model of Jesus Christ in helping the widows, orphans, sick, poor, uneducated, etc., with no questions asked. Does that make me one of your "new libbies"?

  23. supertreat 2013.12.08

    Living here in the Black Hills I know first hand that the local dairy here that sells raw break had at least least one outbreak of contaminated milk that made it to shelves. Drinking raw milk can cause disease - I believe this should be clearly labeled on the packaging by law. The additional testing may or may not be valid - but wouldn't you like to know? Also we do have a serious mountain lion population within the city limits here in Rapid City. My neighbor had a cat looking into his patio doors right on his deck one night- animal control had to be called to track and kill the cat. Also we have issues with cats jumping through screen doors and killing pets in peoples homes - it HAS happened. Why entice them with poultry in people's back yards? IMO these critiques are valid.

  24. chris 2013.12.08

    Bill, have you ever seen that chicken house scene in Napoleon Dynamite?

  25. Sabrina 2013.12.08

    supertreat, there was no outbreak. There was a bad test done by the Dept of Ag, and a lot of bad press that caused a lot of problems. But there have been no disease outbreaks in SD, nor any documented illnesses in SD, that have been linked to our licensed raw milk producers.

    Also, Douglas, we're a brucellosis-free state. We have been for over ten years.

  26. interested party 2013.12.12

    "In a decade in which 21 Minnesotans were sickened in confirmed outbreaks, an additional 530 possible individual cases were logged in state records, and there may have been 20,000 more unreported cases, says a study published Wednesday in Emerging Infectious Diseases, a publication of the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention."

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