Raw milk farmers in Oregon are very limited in the amount we can produce so when looking for raw milk you may have to call/visit a number of farms before you can find availability. In our state, raw milk is not regulated by the government, therefore the consumer must be very discerning. I'm suggesting the following set of guidelines as a tool for all you new-to-raw-milk drinkers who are contemplating adding this wonderful food to your family's diet.
|My girls LOVE their raw milk!!|
Buying Raw Milk Locally If a farmer follows the proper procedures to produce safe, clean, and nutritious raw milk, it is very easy to do so every time. When looking for a farm to purchase raw milk from, I recommend the consumer do the following:
1. Ask for a tour. If a farmer won’t let you tour their property then I would not buy milk from them. When you meet the farmer they should be open to sharing their practices and answering all your questions. Do you trust this person, what they say and do? Ask for references of several customer’s names and numbers who’ve been getting milk from the farmer for some time and call the customers.
2. Look at the cows out in the pasture. Are the cows on tall (at least 4") green grass vs. dirt? Are the cows clean, is the feeding area clean, is the barn clean, how does the place smell? How many cows are on the property vs. the acres of grass? Are the cows rotated to fresh pasture daily? Every 2 or 3 days? Does the farmer have access to irrigation so the cows are on fast-growing grass for 9 months of the year, or is the grass gone by July, meaning the cows are truly grass-fed only 3-4 months of the year? Tall grass pasture keeps the cows cleaner and therefore the milk safer to produce.
3. What does the farmer feed the cows, in addition to pasture? The most nutritious and safest milk comes from grass fed cows on tall, green pasture. These cows should be supplemented with some kind of grain, perhaps rolled barley or oats. They need minerals daily and free choice of salt. Alfalfa and grass hay are the best hay choices if they must supplement or if it's winter and pasture is not available.
4. Look at the milking area. Is it clean? A dirt floor in a barn can be a clean place to milk, look to see if it is free of manure and bedding. How is the milking equipment cleaned? (vinegar/water rinse, hot soapy water rinse, bleach/water rinse). And how are the milk jars sanitized? Where is the milk handled and is that area clean? How is the milk chilled? Is it in an ice bath or just placed in a freezer or fridge (cools down much slower which could allow for illness causing bacteria to grow)
5. Testing. How often is the milk tested for bacteria? Cows should be tested daily to weekly with the California Mastitis Test and at least monthly milk samples should be sent to a lab for cultures. Ask to see the written results of lab tests.
6. Ask if they use organic and/or sustainable farm practices. No hormones; occasional antibiotics only when necessary, 50% or more of the feed coming right off the farm. Regular vaccinations should be used following an organic dairy plan.
Overall, be an informed consumer. Be confident in the choice to drink raw milk so you can educate your friends and family who will ask how you can be sure it’s safe. If you follow these procedures then you will be assured the milk you bring home is safe to drink. Once you bring your milk home make sure it’s kept covered in its container and refrigerated to 37-40 degrees F.
Oregon law allows raw milk sales on the farm only, and only if you are milking fewer than 3 cows or nine goats. With so few cows I am able to look them over thoroughly twice daily to be able to be confident in their good health. I have the opportunity to thoroughly inspect the animal and the equipment because there are no industrialized or huge automated pieces of machinery that might fail. Food produced by hand on such a small scale is very safe if you have an educated farmer who’s passionate about high quality. If profit takes priority over quality, then the quality suffers. Get to know your farmer and where their values lie in regard to this topic.
Consumers of raw milk in Oregon also have the responsibility to educate themselves on the high costs involved with producing hand crafted food on a small scale. If raw milk dairies are following the proper procedures for feeding and handling the cows and the milk, they are lucky if they cover the costs of production. It is a very difficult lifestyle to own dairy cows on this small scale. If you plan on enjoying the remarkable taste and health benefits of raw milk, plan on paying what it’s worth.
|Milk mustaches rawk!!|
Editor's Note: Charlotte is now serving on the Executive Advisory Committee for the newly formed Raw Milk Institute alongside Sally Fallon Morell, Dr. Joseph Mercola, and several other excellent champions of real food. It's been troubling to watch the news of controversial raw milk issues in Oregon from so far away, but I'm grateful to know that farmers like Charlotte are more committed than ever to educating consumers and producers and protecting the rights of the public to access safe, clean, raw milk.
Charlotte passionately believes in the health benefits of a traditional foods diet, especially dairy products from grass-fed cows. She loves sharing time honored traditions of transforming milk into delicious and nutritious cheeses through her classes which are also teeming with nutrition facts and wisdom. Charlotte owns Champoeg Creamery, a pasture based raw milk dairy in St. Paul, Oregon, and is the mother of 3 and a certified Nutrition Wellness Educator.