For Pamela and Ray Robinson, producing raw milk has been an economic lifesaver for their small, organic farm in Hardwick, Mass. Back when they used to send their milk for pasteurization, they earned less than they spent.
“Being conventional dairy farmers wasn’t paying the bills” says Pamela Robinson, a retired nurse midwife whose husband is a fourth generation farmer.
But their new source of income puts them in direct conflict with public health officials, who say raw milk is dangerous.
Massachusetts legislators are currently considering whether to make it easier for boutique farmers to sell raw milk – a measure backed by farmers like the Robinsons and advocates who say raw milk is more nutritious than pasteurized milk, which is heated to kill off pathogens. They say proper farming techniques, including a more stringent routine of cow care, milking procedures and testing, ensure safe milk.
But health officials say that farmers’ good practices can’t guarantee safety, and the extra health benefits come at too high a cost: a 150-times higher risk of food poisoning.
“Don’t drink it!” says Dr. Barbara Mahon, a CDC epidemiologist. “It is one of the likeliest foods there is to carry germs that can make you seriously sick.”
Robinson says she’s frustrated by the current law.
“A lot of our customers come from urban areas,” she says. “All the border states have looser raw milk laws, so we lose business to them.” Continue reading