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The big picture look at raw milk laws & distribution

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This article comes from the NOFA/Massachusetts 2015 April Issue Newsletter

Suzy Konecky, Beginning Farmer Program & Raw Milk Program Coordinator

If you have been following the NOFA/Mass newsletter and e-blasts, you have likely seen the news that there is currently a bill in the Massachusetts state legislature that would allow for the delivery of raw milk.  Currently Massachusetts’ raw milk sales are allowed only at the dairy where the milk is produced.  Let’s take a step back and look at the big picture of raw milk laws and distribution to provide some context. 

This map shows the legal status of raw milk around the country.  Note that in the key, the highest level of access allowed is the one that it is colored for, but other forms of raw milk distribution may be allowed in any particular state.  According to this map, there are about 38 states (including Massachusetts) where raw milk is available, either through retail sales, on-farm sales, or herdshares.  The remainder of the states do not permit the sale of raw milk for human consumption at all, some only as pet food.  In almost every state raw milk can be sold as pet food if the producer has a commercial feed license, however most states will not issue a commercial feed license for the sale of raw milk for pets.  This map shows only the states where it is known that permits have been granted for raw milk for pets. The only state that expressly prohibits the sale of raw milk for animal consumption is Michigan. 

There are other regulations not depicted here.  In two states there is a limit to the number of lactating animals that can be on the farm (OR & MS).  In some states (MS, KY, RI) only the sale of raw goat’s milk is permitted.  In other states there are limits on the volume of sales (VT, NH, OK), and in two states (KY & RI) raw milk is available by doctor’s prescription only. 

In the 10 states on this map that show allowable retail sales, there can still be intrastate regulations.  For example, in New Mexico retail sales of raw milk are allowed at shops, farmers markets, etc. However, Albuquerque country does not permit the sale of raw milk within the county.  Neighboring counties, such as Santa Fe County, do permit the sale of raw milk, so residents must travel within the state to purchase their raw milk.  The same ability to travel to a neighboring area to purchase raw milk does not apply between states, as the interstate transport of raw milk is not allowed. 

Many states that allow the sale of raw milk do not allow the sale of most raw milk products.  Butter and cheese fall outside the Pasteurized Milk Ordinance (the regulation that deals with the sale of milk), but rather are regulated under the dairy manufacturing laws in a given state.  This is what allows farmers to make and sell raw milk cheese (as long as they have a licensed plant/creamery), if the cheese has been aged for over 60 days. 

This hopefully gives a big picture view of the landscape of raw milk throughout the country.  As we have been working with the legislation in Massachusetts to allow the delivery of raw milk, we look to the successes of other states as inspiration.  Various kinds of legislation related to the sale and consumption of raw milk is brought up regularly in state legislatures.  Raw milk laws do change from time to time, but only with the wide support of consumers and residents.  This map is an inspiration here in Massachusetts, as we are trying to push forth the delivery bill.  It is useful to step back and see the big picture.  This reminds us that we are in a good position with our ability to sell raw milk from our farms, but that it is possible to go further and join those states that have more flexible regulations. 



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