The largest raw milk-related disease outbreak in Pennsylvania’s history, which sickened 43 people in four states, was traced back to Franklin County’s Family Cow farms. But advocates of the product say they have no intention to stop drinking it and purveyors say they’ve seen no decrease in demand.
“People who are into raw milk are very passionately into it,” said Paul Lawler, dairy and meat manager of the Reading Terminal’s Fair Food Farmstand, one of the city’s leading vendors of raw milk.
He said that the Farmstand carried Family Cow farms raw milk until its voluntary recall in early February, but has not restocked it out of an abundance of caution. They have five other brands to choose from and have seen no decline in sales. “A lot of our customers come from pretty far to buy it because they believe in its different nutritional benefits,” he said.
Lawler personally drinks raw milk because of the richness and superior taste. “It’s like comparing a fine cheese to prepackaged, processed slices,” he said. “They’re not the same product at all.”
“And it creates economic opportunities for farmers – a dairy farmer who’s just selling liquid milk only makes pennies on the dollar, but raw milk is a much more valued product.”
A recent study from the Center for Disease Control concluded that the risks of drinking raw milk outweighed its possible benefits, noting that there were 150 times more disease outbreaks linked to unpasteurized milk than pasteurized during the 13-year review.
“Real milk” advocacy group the Weston A. Price Foundation called the information supporting the conclusion “cherry picked” in a press release, noting that dairy products in total comprised an average of 112 food-borne illnesses per year out of almost 24,000.
“The reason people drink raw milk is they have medical issues that are
not resolvable by traditional medical strategies, so they’re looking for
foods of therapeutic value,” said Kimberly Hartke of the Price Foundation,
who praised the product for its anti-inflammatory and immune system-building
properties and credits raw milk for helping her recover from her own chronic medical condition.
“It does have some healthy, good bacteria – basically, raw milk
is white blood cells and water. It’s the first immune system a mother cow
gives her baby.”