Richmond, VA—A debate raging across the nation has made its way to central Virginia: in spite of government warnings, more families are choosing to replace gallons of milk from the grocery store with raw milk, straight from dairy farmers.
Raw milk is milk straight from the cow; this milk does not undergo the process of pasteurization. The beverage is as tightly regulated as moonshine.
Recently, Virginia Commonwealth University student Sallie Penn Turner allowed 8News to ride along with her to a West End health food store; Turner picked up her family's weekly supply of raw milk from a cooler in the back of the store.
"We get our milk from a great family farm that's not to far away and they deliver to different drop sites in the area."
Tuner didn't pay a dime when she picked up the milk—she would have been committing a crime if she did. Raw milk is illegal to sell in half the states across the country, including here in Virginia.
Not only is selling raw milk illegal in some areas, drinking it is also controversial. Many health professionals and experts, like Dr. Renee Boyer a professor in Virginia Tech's Food, Science & Technology Department, say drinking raw milk can be risky.
"You can think about raw milk much like you would think of other raw agricultural commodities. Things like raw eggs, raw meat, raw poultry you don't eat those things without cooking them to eliminate any risk of pathogens."
Dr. Boyer adds, "Because it has a high risk of becoming contaminated with food borne pathogens, it's typically recommended not to consume raw milk."
The Center for Disease Control has several warnings about raw milk on its website like this one: "Raw milk can carry harmful germs that can make you very sick or kill you."
Although raw milk is illegal to sell, thousands of people still manage to get their hands on it. There's a loophole in the law that allows for this.
""The way you get around it is by having a herd share program," explains raw milk drinker Sallie Penn Turner. "I own personally 20% of a cow and I'm paying for them to keep it and feed it and maintain it and for "free" I get 2 gallons of milk a week."
With a "buy local" mindset, those in herd shares say the key to safety is to know your supplier well.
Virginia Tech dairy scientist Dr. Bob James admits to trying raw milk.
"With a lot of trepidation and concern," he says of the experience.
His main concern with forgoing the pasteurization process is that it opens the door for bacteria, found naturally on even the cleanest of farms, to make its way into the milk.
"It's a very high risk product; it's very perishable and can support the growth of bacteria."
Despite the risk, many Americans feel the idea of getting milk straight from the source is as old as civilization itself.
For more information about raw milk, please visit the following websites:
The Weston Price Website: http://www.westonaprice.org/
The Farmageddon Documentary: http://farmageddonmovie.com/
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