MILK vs. milk

Controversy surrounding a Minnesota farmer’s raw milk trade has brought the “real milk” debate close to home.

By Greg Breining
Photos by Steve Henke
Mpls. St.Paul Magazine

More than 10 years ago, Rae Lynn Sandvig began a “journey” to remedy fatigue, weakness, and foggy thinking—owing, by her own diagnosis, to toxins in her body. “I can tell you what my conjecturing is, but it’s not fact,” she acknowledges. But if her evidence was thin, her desperation was manifest. “There was a point where I, as a mother, was unable to maintain all the activities I needed to in order to keep my family running.”

Her search resulted in a bountiful harvest. “My journey has led me to eat whole foods. Foods that are dense, that are not processed, that still contain probiotic bacteria, enzymes, and good fats. I’m going to put it this way, because this is who I am: I want to eat foods that are as close to foods as God intended them to be made.”

She had local farmers deliver fresh produce to her Bloomington driveway, where a klatch of up to 40 neighbors and community members divided the goods. “You make friendships,” says Sandvig. “It’s all about community and relationships.”

Within the collection was “raw” milk, still alive with nutrients, enzymes, and the natural bacteria pasteurization would have killed off. Because of the potential for milk-borne illness, Sandvig says, “I sought out a farmer where I could look into his farming practices, his philosophies. And I found a farmer whose cows graze on pasture, whose cows get sunshine and exercise. They are loved and taken care of, and the process by which the milk leaves the udder and goes into the bulk tank is totally enclosed.”

With her new diet, she felt stronger. The veil of fogginess lifted. Her husband, Greg, tolerated dairy for the first time in years.

Last summer, the driveway harvest and many friendships came to a crashing end. Eight illnesses from E. coli 0157:H7 had been traced to the milk of Sandvig’s south-central Minnesota dairy farmer, Michael Hartmann. Though neither the Sandvigs nor (to their knowledge) any of the buying circle fell ill, the infection sent four people to the hospital.

The Minnesota Department of Agriculture ordered Hartmann to stop selling until he cleaned up his dairy. Agents seized products at his farm. In June, agriculture agents and local police showed up at the Sandvigs’ home with a search warrant to take products and ask questions about Rae Lynn’s role in the buyers’ group. “They tried to skew it so it looked like I was running a retail operation out of my garage.” She insists she made no money off the sales.

Read more at Mpls. St.Paul Magazine

8 responses to “MILK vs. milk

  1. I am a raw milk convert, and would never drink any else again. With autoimmune diseases, I feel better with raw milk, I love drinking the REAL THING, and its great for baking. But the biggest plus in my book is: I am supporting my local dairy farmer(s) and THAT is SWADESHI. Big Ag Milk: Mooooooove on!

    • grandpappymike

      I agree. You can get fresh mozzarella for homemade pizza is less then an hour from a gallon of raw milk with some lemon juice and a little rennet. You can also get fresh butter, ice cream, yogurt, sour cream, cream cheese, cream for sauces and a host of other things. An what do you do when the milk starts to sour? You make biscuits and pancakes of course. Sour milk is sold in stores as “Buttermilk”, mislabeled for the purposes of marketability.

      Clean raw milk in a clean container does not really go bad and causes no health risks. Look up how clabber is made.

  2. As a raw milk producer, in a state that allows herdshare agreements, and as a former commerical Grade A dairy, we welcome our owners to view our facilities and practices. We are very small, less than a dozen milk cows, and are extremely particular regarding cleanliness and sanitation. We are face to face with those who consume the milk, and we want them to have the freshest, highest quality of milk available. We are able to keep boarding fees reasonable (averaging $5.50/gallon) but are seeing many consumers who are being taken advantage of by outrageous fees, sad to say. We also operate according to the letter of the law in our state, no exceptions.

    • wow… yeah, i pay $10 a gallon and the milk comes from 500 miles away. i’ve tried to find a local raw milk producer but no luck so far

  3. grandpappy: yea, we get buttermilk from the same source and it is raw as well. I use it whenever I bake, esp. in a bread that I make for toasting, primarily. It makes the batter just, ohhh, delectable! My grandad used to drink buttermilk for his stomach problems.

  4. I have read of crackdowns on raw milk producers (Amish, for example) that involvc govt agents descending and inspecting and issuing orders etc.

    What I wonder is this: Why doesn’t the government simply require some kind of labeling of raw milk, together with wording along the lines of: “buying and consuming this product implies I know it is non-pasteurized and I accept whatever health risks may result from consumption”

  5. Great article except for two things, the following statement and no mention of Crohn’s disease (which infects a million Americans and kills people) and the FDA knowing it can be cultured from PASTEURIZED milk.

    “In the 1930s, when most Americans still drank their milk raw, unpasteurized dairy caused 25 percent of all outbreaks of food- and water-borne illness and killed many infants. Two principal diseases were bovine tuberculosis and brucellosis, which commonly infected dairy herds.”

    You make no distinction between industrial herds and milk from normal farms and that is what the big milk industry used to get rid of raw milk and are still using.

    And Crohn’s disease is a real threat from PASTEURIZED milk and must be mentioned repeatedly until people begin understanding the risk from raw milk is almost non-existent. 1 death in more than 57 years.

    Whereas, hundreds die from Crohn’s every year and a million are suffering and the FDA knows and won’t even tell the public pasteurized milk (and butter and ice cream and cheese, etc.) in the stores is contaminated with the Crohn bacterium.

    It’s good to stand up for the value of raw milk, but as part of that, it’s crucial to go after pasteurized milk from the dairy industry and get the public to focus on a real threat to their families.

  6. My raw milk provider has similar wording on the label.

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