by Jeff Clemetson, Editor
Mark McAfee is more than just the founder of the raw milk dairy Organic Pastures, he is a true believer in his work and his products. And he wants you to believe it, too.
“Raw milk is a people’s food and if people want raw milk, they have to fight for it,” he says. McAfee has fought corrupt regulators and greedy processing organizations ever since he took his grandparents farm and made it into the all-organic, raw milk dairy it is today. He says his background as a paramedic helped him understand the importance of nutrient-rich foods like raw milk and the demand for it drove him to create a dairy that not only produces the raw milk but also bottles and distributes it as well. He is as passionate for his product, which he describes as “the ultimate expression of love,” as he is mad about our corrupt regulatory process that favors large-scale processing of nutrient-depleted pasteurized milk over small, organic operations like his.
Health and Fitness Talk recently sat down with McAfee to discuss the health benefits of raw milk and how small dairy farms like his can survive in the oppressive regulatory climate that bends to Big Ag.
What made you get into selling raw milk.
Well when people start showing up at your dairy and say we want to buy your milk raw and we’ll pay you ten times more for it, it kind of gets your attention. And when they explain that it doesn’t cause asthma, it makes you get better, it doesn’t have the digestive problems like lactose intolerance, it can be digested by everyone – you take notice of it.
My background was paramedic medicine. I was a medical educator for many years with the fresno Country Health Department. It was a pretty fast learning curve for me, I got it real quick that the beneficial bacteria, the enzymes, the good fats, the minerals found in raw milk was the result of 200 million years of perfecting mammalian lactation and that this food was not by mistake that it was very intentional food that would not be processed in any way that it would be raw form fed to babies and children to ultimately optimize their survival. And when people came to us and said we want your milk raw and they started saying these things that made sense to me. And when I heard back from them how it was so wonderful for them and their kids didn’t have asthma anymore, that their ear infections were getting better and there weren’t digestive problems, it wasn’t allergenic – it lit my soul on fire. That’s why we’ve grown so rapidly is because I’m connected directly with my consumer and nobody’s cheating anybody, there’s no processor ripping off either side of the nutrition or the money so it’s all good
Just to clarify, what constitutes raw milk, as opposed to standardized milk, etc.
Raw milk is unprocessed milk that comes directly out of a cow. It is also the same milk that comes out of a mother’s breast so it is mammalian lactation, it’s milk that comes out of a breast or an udder of a cow or sheep or goat or horse or any mammal. It is a whole complete food that is intended for the offspring of that animal that is complete. The offspring of mammals don’t have the digestive tract that is developed enough to digest a partial food. It is a phenomenal food for humans and when we drink goat’s milk, cow’s milk, camel’s milk – all of it is pretty much the same – it’s wonderful nutrition.
And it’s not pasteurized…
Correct. Or homogenized or standardized or anything-ized. It’s right out of the cow. All we do is chill it, make sure it’s nice and cold and test it to make sure there’s no bad bugs in it and that’s all we do.
What about the legal challenges in selling raw milk. Are there any?
In California, selling raw milk has always been legal. There have been no legal challenges to it per se. There were challenges to be being a producer of raw milk, yes but not a legal challenge to the legality of raw milk in California. There’s been all kind of skirmishes in California where we’ve battled the state and the federal government because what we do is so unusual. It’s completely legal, but they’re trying in any way shape or form they can to put a hammer down on raw milk because it represents the best of dairy. It’s the best of what American dairy can do and the processing industry hates that because it shows the serious deficiencies and defects of pasteurization and they do not want those market impacts on them. They’re loosing 1.5 percent market share per year to raw milk because pasteurization’s effect on allergies and lactose intolerance.
What about other states? You said you didn’t have trouble in California, but what about other states?
I didn’t say we didn’t have trouble in California. It’s legal here in California, but the industry here and the politics here, they aren’t particularly happy with us because of the fact we are showing them up. There are nine states that allow the retail sale of raw milk from a store. They include Connecticut, Maine, Pennsylvania, Washington, Arizona and California and a couple states that just allow sales in a couple stores in Utah and South Carolina. Those are the states that allow the retail sale of raw milk and then there are another 20 states or so that allow the on-farm sale of raw milk like Colorado and some other places and then there about 20 states that completely forbid the sale of raw milk at all.
What was the trouble you have had here?
It’s been the regulatory agencies more so than the retailers – regulatory agencies like the FDA. There’s a law in the United States that will not allow you to take raw milk across state lines if it’s in finished product form. So for many years, Organic Pastures Dairy has been selling our raw milk across state lines as pet food and the FDA had no jurisdiction over pet food. What they did was they caught us in a sting operation in 2008 where undercover agents actually called in and ordered raw milk for pets but then in the conversation while ordering said, “Oh, by the way, we are giving this to our kids, too.” And then our personnel here naively said, “Oh yeah, we give it to our kids, too.” And that was enough to get a grand jury to think about getting an indictment against me. And of coarse we settled that entire thing. I said I’m guilty as charged. People want to drink raw milk and if you want to go down and eat cat food, you can. Nothing in the laws says you can’t.
The FDA is extremely adamant about this interstate commerce law and you have to remember that the FDA is absolutely in bed with industrial agriculture and big processing organizations. The NCI, the National Conference of Interstate Commerce of raw milk is an FDA organization and they completely put a hammer down on anybody who is going to take raw milk across state lines because that encroaches on other people’s market share and the FDA is very fascist in that regard. They are a military organization, they wear uniforms, it’s top-down, directive-driven and they use their forces to keep raw milk from crossing state lines so that their buddies in the processing organizations’ interested will be protected.
And it sounds like a conspiracy theory but its a lot worse than that, it’s actually the reality of how they operate. It is a whorehouse, I swear to God. They sell out to the highest bidder. And you know who gets cheated is the farmer and the consumer. The processors are the ones that make out like bandits ripping off the consumer for all the nutrition and they’re ripping off the farmers for all the money. It’s horrendous.
What are your thoughts on the FDA looking at allowing milk producers to put aspartame in certain milk products?
That’s part of the story. The worst part of the story is that they want to get the FDA to change what is called the standard of identity, the SOI. Every legal dairy product in the United States has a standard of identity including raw milk. What that does is it describes in statute law what that product is. And if that statute law says you can have fake fats from whatever in there, then when you make that product you label it as pasteurized milk and you don’t have to actually put what the ingredients are on the label and it is understood that that is what the product is. What they are trying to do is change the law so that chocolate milk by its standard of identity includes this product aspartame and you won’t have to include it on the label. If that’s not corrupt, I don’t know what is.
How is the process of producing and bottling your raw milk different than a standard dairy’s?
A standard dairy produces milk and a creamery processes and bottles it. Dairy’s don’t own creameries. Dairies produce milk and put it on a big truck where it gets mingled with everybody else’s milk. Maybe 50 or 100 dairies put all their milk together in a huge tank and it gets taken down to a local creamery where it gets bottled after processing it. Dairies in America by and large do not have their own processing plants associated with them.
From grass to glass – from the pasture’s grass to the consumer’s glass – we actually control the milk. So we have organic certification on all the pastures. We have organic cows on those pastures. We then take those cows to get milked here on the farm. They get milked by milk machines that are all stainless steel that we make sure are meticulously cleaned. And then we take the milk to the chiller, into our own on-farm transport vehicle with a stainless steal tank on it. Then the milk is taken to our creamery which is located on the farm and it’s kept cold in that who’ll process. We test it. and then filter it through a cotton sock to make sure there’s no miscellaneous hair or anything that might be coming through from somebody making a mistake and then that milk is bottled in our own bottling plant and then it is put on our own trucks out to the stores. The entire chain is managed by ourselves.
What are the benefits of raw milk compared to pasteurized milk?
You have to remember that raw milk is a living food. It is the ultimate expression of love from a mother to a baby. it has all kinds of enzymes and bacteria and fat and mineral and hormones – all kinds of specialized things that we’re just beginning to understand. It’s the most incredible food that a mother can giver her baby to make sure that the baby survives and thrives. The mother creatures antibodies in her milk to help the baby build an immune system. There are sugars in the milk that actually feed bacteria in the baby’s gut. it’s a phenomenal whole food engineered by 200 million years of mammalian evolution. That said, when you pasteurize it, everything that I just mentioned that is good about milk is completely destroyed. Homoginization, pasteurization, standardization destroy practically everything in raw milk including the fats, the minerals are no longer absorbable, the enzymes are completely gone, the bacteria are blasted into little pieces and become very allergenic. It’s not the food it was. And that’s why if you go to the FDA Website right now and type in ‘most allergenic food in America’ it comes up as pasteurized milk. Eight children have died from pasteurized milk since 1998. Not from a bad bug found in milk, but from the allergies in pasteurized milk. Whereas raw milk actually stabilized mast cells and is actually an excellent treatment for asthma, allergies, eczema and ear infections. It’s polar opposite food. And the politics in this country are so corrupt that children are dying, literally, because of the greed to keep market share. That’s how sick this is.
It seems like there is a growing awareness about raw milk and raw foods in general. Do you see that?
We set records every week for our raw milk sales here in California. I was just given a call by a guy named Ty Shock. He owns Shock Dairy. Shock Dairy is com in online as the third dairy in California that is going to have the right to sell raw milk. So things are happening. I support all these farmers that are going to come on board and help us feed our country. There is a big movement across the United States to get this going and support farming and to support consumers and their interests.