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South Dakota, Cheese Industry Fight Raw Milk; Europe Unafraid

Last updated on 2014.07.10

Last month, the state Ag Department, the state dairy industry, and the Valley Queen Cheese factory ganged up to block Senate Bill 126, which would have undone some of the onerous restrictions the state put on raw milk sales last year. While a whole bunch of South Dakotans asked the Legislature to give them a little more freedom to sell and buy locally produced milk, Secretary of Agriculture Lucas Lentsch called raw milk "inherently dangerous."

Guns are inherently dangerous, yet the state recruits gun manufacturers to make and sell their product in South Dakota.

Health Secretary Doneen Hollingsworth said, "Current disease data shows people who drink raw milk have gotten sick.... We should do everything we can to prevent this.”

People who text and drive have gotten hurt, yet the Legislature refuses to impose a statewide ban on that activity.

Big-wheel Republican lobbyist Matthew McCaulley, speaking on behalf of Valley Queen Cheese (one of the big businesses selected by Dennis Daugaard to join his May trade mission to China), complained that if we allow more raw milk sales, "Consumers will have difficulty distinguishing between pasteurized and unpasteurized products." Therefore, "Valley Queen Cheese Factory would be in favor of, as some states have done, a total ban on the sale of raw milk."

You have local dairy producers selling milk they bottled themselves at farmers markets and small mom-and-pop shops. You have Valley Queen Cheese dumping massive quantities of industrial dairy products at the supermarket. Are you really struggling to tell the difference? But hey: when you're a crony capitalist trying to rationalize your request for the nanny state to ban your competitors from the marketplace, you end up saying some silly things.

Meanwhile, an eager reader notes that the nanny states of Europe are making it easier to buy raw milk:

In response to the first-rate benefits of raw milk, several European nations have installed self-service vending machines that provide access to the food 24 hours a day. Brainchild of dairy farmer Michel Cantaloube, the machines have been stationed around France, the UK and Spain – supplying local, sustainable and unpasteurized milk to surrounding communities. The dairy farms involved hope to expand the venture into a similar vending machine for raw yogurt.

Other countries like Italy, Slovenia, Austria, Switzerland and the Netherlands have begun to install their own raw milk vending machines as well [Carolanne Wright, "Europe Embraces Healthy Raw Dairy by Unveiling Fresh Milk Vending Machines," Wake Up World, 2014.03.11].

Bring your own bottle! Please tell me that vending machine moos when you hit the button.


  1. Rep. Stace Nelson 2014.03.13

    I grew up on fresh whole "raw" milk. My brother and sister had perfect attendance in school for many years. We also had a huge garden, canned a lot of our own vegetables, and we grew up on free range chickens, pork, beef, duck, turkey, & rabbit.

    My Grandpa Gerlach lived to 84, still on the farm, and would have lived longer but for those roll his own unfiltered cigarettes. Grandma Gerlach lived to over 102. They drank fresh milk everyday.

  2. larry kurtz 2014.03.13

    Legal cannabis means never having to cry over spilled raw milk.

  3. joelie hicks 2014.03.13

    We need anti bullying laws in a few places besides the schools?

  4. mike from iowa 2014.03.13

    Growing up,we had guns and raw milk. Dad and one brother were accidently shot. Nobody had any problems from drinking the milk and quaffing the thick yellow cream.This could be a teachable moment.

  5. Wayne Pauli 2014.03.13

    I grew up on a dairy farm...we had a pasturizer but my four siblings and I preferred the taste on the whole raw milk. We also did not use seat belts and there were no posted speed limits. Our lawn mower would continue to run if we took our hands off the handle bar. I am wondering now how we all made it through college and that we range in age from 53 to 62 and are all still alive and contributing to our economy. We must be an aberration. No other way to explain it based on the craziness we have going on with our foolish promulgation of laws.

  6. Rorschach 2014.03.13

    Wayne, are you suggesting the government should legalize heroin?

  7. Douglas Wiken 2014.03.13

    I don't quite understand the drive to drink raw milk. It shares something with drinking water out of a sewer line and screaming over a fence so as not to be contaminated with evil rays from a phone.

    I guess if the cow manure and dead flies are strained out of it, it looks like good milk even if not pasteurized.

  8. Jerry 2014.03.13

    When I go into a supermarket and see the huge coolers full of milk, I wonder why we do it that way. What a tremendous cost of energy to cool the milk and keep it cool. If it were done like Europe, you don't cool it until you open it. Milk in Europe has a shelf life of weeks and it is still fresh.

    I think that raw milk has gotten a raw deal from corporate thugs who could care less about raw milk and more about eliminating any kind of competition. They have forgotten the creed they say they live by, capitalism. To them, capitalism means monopolyism so they can charge whatever suits them. Capitalism is supposed to mean opportunities, why are they so afraid of a simple milk cow?

  9. Deb Geelsdottir 2014.03.13

    My growing up was similar to Wayne. The difference now is that the level of pesticides, herbicides, commercial fertilizers, chemically-enhanced feeds, etc., is incredibly elevated. I would need to be very certain that the milk was completely organic. That's awfully difficult when the neighbors are spraying chemicals. I don't want to get one of the new, antibiotic resistant bacterias or infections.

    My preference is raw milk, but my stronger preference is a reasonably healthy life minus losing body parts.

  10. joelie hicks 2014.03.14

    I would be very careful where my milk came from. I wouldn't recommend drinking from a bulk tank from a factory farm. But to my knowledge no one has lost a body part from drinking raw milk. I worry more about eating food that is grown where manure from lagoons which contains the antibiotics, the hormones, the chemicals used to clean the barns etc. The stuff that turns good honest poop into toxic waste. People have died from cantaloupe, not raw milk. Lean finely textured beef is worrisome too. The last I heard it is still in our school lunches. But the state of SD is indignant if you criticise it. All my dairy is organic, raw or pasteurized, my choices are not what is offered by the bulk of dairy production in SD. So getting rid of raw milk will not boost their sales. My guess it is the same for most who drink raw milk. Most do not want dairy that has been fed gmo feed because we are what our animals eat.

  11. mike from iowa 2014.03.14

    Raw milk is one thing in nature that is every bit as white as the rethuglican party. And less dangerous to your health.

  12. Shamrock 2014.03.14

    Almost all of the concerns you raise are red herrings. The cows in factory dairies are pumped full of antibiotics, fed gmo feed that has been treated with herbicides and pesticides, and live in a pool of feces. Pasteurizing the milk does not address these issues. If you consider those things to be a risk, then the milk in the store is just as dangerous as the raw milk you fear.
    This is another example of the GOP claiming that the gov't should not over regulate business, but really meaning that the gov't should only favor big business that receives millions in handouts.

  13. Deb Geelsdottir 2014.03.14

    Shamrock, you said, "The cows in factory dairies are pumped full of antibiotics, fed gmo feed that has been treated with herbicides and pesticides, and live in a pool of feces."

    Exactly. That's just what I was talking about. I drink little milk, though I do use more for cooking. I wasn't very clear, apparently.

    I agree with your comment. We're saying essentially the same thing, with one exception. A lack of a stringent cleanliness standard, like contamination by fecal matter that you referenced, is addressed by pasteurization.

    That type of contamination can result in infections like MRSA, flesh-eating disease, staph, etc. The bacteria that causes those diseases are killed in pasteurization. Illnesses like e-coli and listeria are destroyed by pasteurization.

    Whenever possible I'll stick with organic milk from small farms.

  14. Deb Geelsdottir 2014.03.14

    Joelie Hicks, infections can and do lead to amputations of body parts. That's what I was referring to in my first comment. Sorry I was unclear.

  15. Jerry 2014.03.14

    So then you see what is going on in Europe. They are educated people so they are clear they do not want to loose body parts as a trade off to having a glass of raw milk. They also get the big picture of conserving energy. Think of how much we waste here to cool that milk and keep it cold. Treat milk here like it is treated in Europe. We would find that we need less corn to feed the way too many cows that we have to keep fresh cold milk in the grocery store. You could buy some milk, take it home and only cool it after you open it. Think of how much energy that would save. If it is raw milk, of course you must cool it. As some here say, they would not like raw milk, so for them, process it like they do in Europe.

  16. caheidelberger Post author | 2014.03.15

    Jerry, I've never thought about the energy conservation side of this equation. Thanks for bringing that up. Usually we think that large-scale production is going to be more efficient than lots of small producers. Is there any way to calculate the energy usage of lots of small producers, each raising and milking their own dozen cows, processing and transporting their own product for the local market, versus the Valley Queen model of running huge milk trucks out from and back to a central location, processing everything in one big factory, and then distributing that pasteurized and refrigerated product to more and more distant retailers?

  17. Jerry 2014.03.15

    CAH, I do not think that has ever been accounted for except by these guys.

    It would be best to turn back the clock of time to an age where there were more small producers and less extravagant means to produce milk. That would mean conservation and more locally grown produce. We waste too much energy to get a glass of cold "gold milk". How much does it actually cost when you figure in the subsidies and corruption as well?

  18. Jerry 2014.03.15

    CAH, accompanying that article I submitted is this about milk, a twofer if you will about American milk actually being not so good for your body.

    Those pesky Europeans and American honest plain folk from the heart of common sense, seem to know what is best about what our bodies really need.

  19. June Ohm 2014.03.15

    Raw milk is much healthier as long as the cows are healthy and the milk pail or machine are clean. Pasteurizing kills good enzymes, vitamins, alters proteins- basically, pasteurization kills what made milk good for us in the first place. There was a time before a lot was known about the importance of keeping food production clean that pasteurization saved lives - not any more.

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