A New Survey Helps Us Understand Why Raw Milk Is the New Go-To Product for More Dairies

Raw milk for sale on a central Massachusetts farm.In our debates about the economic impact of raw dairies, we’ve had to speculate, use our personal experiences. There’s been a lot of that going on over the last few days, along with intense debate over safety and Big Ag’s products versus those of smaller farms.

Conveniently, a new study has just come out from the Northeast Organic Farming Association examining in some detail the economic impact of raw dairies in Massachusetts. What it says is that raw dairies have more economic impact than we generally realize, and that the impact is growing rapidly.

The state’s policy on raw milk is similar in important respects to states like New York and Pennsylvania, in that it allows purchases direct from the farm. Actually, it’s more liberal than New York because it allows buying clubs to deliver raw milk to consumers in the Boston area who can’t or won’t travel to farms, but it’s less liberal than nearby states like Connecticut and Maine, which allow retail sales of raw milk.

The study makes for fascinating reading (at least to this raw milk nut). Here are a few of its revelations:

  • Raw milk is produced by 25 of the state’s 189 dairies, or 13% of the total. The number of Massachusetts dairies producing raw milk has more than doubled in the last three years, while the number of dairies has declined dramatically, from 829 in 1980; that means that over nearly thirty years, the number of dairies has declined by more than three-fourths.
  • The dairies producing raw milk had total sales of more than $600,000 in 2008. That may not sound like much, but the report notes “that 12 of the 25 dairy farmers reported that raw milk sales were vital to their farm’s survival,” accounting for more than 20% of their farm’s income.
  • Money earned from raw milk sales “has a lasting effect on the communities where it is sold,” says the study. Not only does the money contribute to other local businesses and taxes, but, “Some farmers also report that consumers who purchase raw milk from farmers build on that habit by purchasing other products from nearby farms, thus further stimulating the local farm economy.”
  • Raw milk revenues are especially helpful in offsetting the costs of maintaining organic standards, since Massachusetts is underserved by organic processors; thus, many are selling organic milk at conventional prices, which are about half organic prices (roughly $1 a gallon versus $2 a gallon).

What the study doesn’t say is that despite the fact Massachusetts doesn’t test the milk of raw dairies for pathogens (it tests coliform, total bacteria, and somatic cell counts), there hasn’t been a reported illness since 11 Boy Scouts came down with salmonella in 1999, and quickly recovered. No weird listeria findings, a la New York Ag and Markets). As we well know, the most notorious case of illness from milk in the state occurred in 2007, when three elderly consumers died from listeria in pasteurized milk, and a pregnant woman lost her fetus. (I researched the subject heavily and wrote an article in the Boston Globe Magazine.

One raw dairy farmer quoted in the study probably said it best, said what the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and its state enforcement partners and large dairy processors are trying their darndest to make sure other conventional dairies never hear: “Selling raw milk is the only way a farmer with limited resources has any chance of running a profitable dairy.”

Look for raw milk to become an ever larger force in the dairy industry.

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20 Comments on "A New Survey Helps Us Understand Why Raw Milk Is the New Go-To Product for More Dairies"

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Sylvia Gibson
June 24, 2009 8:55 am


It is refreshing to hear such positive news.

Mark McAfee
June 24, 2009 12:10 pm

My hat is off for NOFA…..

When I spoke at their convention last year they said that they were dedicated to more research. They did it. Congrats.

In our guts we all know what raw milk does for us. But none of that counts with the FDA or the establishment. What counts is solid research and it is largely missing from mainstream American sources. We need more of it.

In 2007, Stanford University agreed to do an 800 patient study on asthma and how raw milk effects it….the cost $500,000 just to get started. So it did not ever get off the ground. Money equals data. There is the hitch….

NOFA, what you have brought forth is a breath of fresh air. Hard data that shows the paradigm shifting.

Lets do more of this…what ever it takes. I am looking forward very much to hearing what Dr. Amanda Rose’s research has found. I think we should establish a national raw milk research trust and for every gallon of raw milk sold a few pennys should be committed to proving its value and safety scientifically. Lets end the vacume of data on raw milk once and for all.

Mark McAfee

Blair McMorran
June 24, 2009 2:41 pm

Yes! Good news! Good for NOFA-MASS! Colorado has seen similar growth; we started with 16 (legal) producers in 2006 and now we have 41. We need to build critical mass, more economic clout and the consumers will be packing the hearing room for legalizing raw dairy products and allowing easier distribution systems. If regulators want to protect the public, they might consider paying for those milk safety tests.

Mark, love your idea for more research. $500,000 is high but probably realistic for a 5-year study? Remember you have to pay for testing from accredited lab, PhD and MD oversight on study design and implementation, grant & budget writers, administrative services, interviewers, surveys/software for data collection, documentation and peer-review, publications, yada yada ya….sigh….

But I would love to participate and support this effort! I know some microbiologists, epidemiologists, producers and consumers that would contribute, too. Any fund-raisers out there?


Don Wittlinger
June 24, 2009 9:17 pm

To bad we couldn’t have gotten a mere $500 000 for a raw milk study from these guys and they never would have missed it.
"They have spent over $150 000 000 dollars and the pig won’t fly"
NAIS- Slavery or a Civil Rights Issue? by Darol Dickinson
Opposition to NAIS at the "listening" sessions is about 95%.
If NAIS fails perhaps "they" will go back to the drawing boards and still attempt to drive this monster down the American farmers throat via the back door little by little?
Who do "they" represent and what is their motive?
There is a HUGE DISCONNECT between farmers and their regulators how can that be IF the goals are the same FOOD SAFETY?

Mark McAfee
June 24, 2009 10:42 pm

There is a huge problem with good solid raw milk research.

It destroys the germ theory, drug profits, medical paradigm of sick care and completely redirects the entrenched and established cash flow channels.

Smaller Farmers and their communities thrive…..

Huge problem.


Don Wittlinger
June 24, 2009 10:56 pm

Will the naysayers wake up before their health is destroyed like all the rest of us or at lest acknowledge we have big big problems?
Globe Investor
Tastier broccoli, Spinach?
Monsanto and Dole team up.
More colorful and longer shelf life GENETICALLY MODIFIED broccoli, spinach, cauliflower and lettuce are coming to our diner table. Not one word mentioned about nitritional content or any possible adverse effects from consuming these altered manufactured "vegetable things."
What will these "things" do to the children and the elderly that are warned to never ever comsume any raw dairy for any reason?

Blair McMorran
June 25, 2009 5:15 am

Hugh Betcha, "It destroys the germ theory, drug profits, medical paradigm of sick care and completely redirects the entrenched and established cash flow channels."

Sounds like a huge solution to me… :-)

Don, "My spinach gets wilty"?? LOL! They are SO behind – the organic/CSA model fixed that problem decades ago…

You saw what Enron, 9/11, Iraq and economic Whistle Blowers got – a mere mention on the back page, after the spoils had already been taken. That’s the way the system works; greed and corruption will always be around. So you just keep your eyes on the prize and find a crack in the wall, keep educating the humble masses and keep speaking the truth. You are making a difference – just look around. Look right here!

The most permanent change is slow change. There is no way conventional dairies could convert to raw overnight – they’d kill millions, and then the raw milk movement would be stomped out good and long. Let’s just pull one head out of the sand at a time, grassroots style.

June 25, 2009 7:47 am

Articles like one linked to below make me doubt any researchers capable of winning large grants will assist in the endeavors proposed above. What if the research results don’t fit "your" expectations? What if clean grass fed cows aren’t as clean as assumed? Maybe they are, but how will the "movement" react if the data shows something else that doesn’t fit the party line? I’ve got a pretty good idea what would happen…the research would be ignored or falsified like what is done in the link below.


"California statistics concerning outbreaks of food borne illness and milk clearly show that there have been no outbreaks of disease associated with raw milk."

C’mon, where’s the credibility? So long as this is how the movement portrays research and statistics to the media, good luck finding anyone with the right expertise/credentials to help raise funds for raw milk research.

June 25, 2009 9:09 am

One point of clarification. I support the ideas proposed by David and others to conduct the research. My skepticism/negativity stems from the continued misuse of previous data like the BSK study and statements such as the one I quoted from the article. That approach does not foster collaborative research for the majority of scientists (or the ones who review research proposals when making decisions about funding).

Sylvia Gibson
June 25, 2009 10:32 am


I’m not sure who it is you quoted, Mark or Karen Railey, the author of the article. The article isn’t clear if she was quoting Mark or using her own words or a combination.

I’d not heard of her, so did a brief search. She wrote a book about memory decline and nutrition, I haven’t read the book, but would agree that there is some major correlation in those few words. Still haven’t a clue who she is. The health care community has been recently learning about Vit d3 (and many other nutritional induced illnesses). Most people are malnourished because they are not eating the right kinds of foods. Perhaps the highly processed foods are worthless and causing the malnourishment? Wonder if a study will be done to research that?

" So long as this is how the movement portrays research and statistics to the media, good luck finding anyone with the right expertise/credentials to help raise funds""

Closed minds abound from all sides. LMAO This same could be said for the govt AND big business. The govt has a long history of misusing data as do the big businesses. We all know any study can be skewed. We also know that unfortunately, studies are skewed by whomever is funding. Follow the money.

Which is why education is such a key factor is allowing people to make thier own choices. And why people are encouraged to seek out information from many sources.

"no outbreaks of disease associated with raw milk."

I re-read your quote. What diseases have been caused by raw milk? Are you confusing diseases with illnesses? There is a difference.

June 25, 2009 11:30 am


On that part of the quote from the article: "no outbreaks of disease associated with raw milk." It is hard enough to educate a media person that bacteria are different from viruses, let alone explain the nuances between using the term disease vs. illness. I don’t fault her or the people she interviewed for that. It is the overall message that’s the problem. IMHO, the type of rhetoric in that article and many other recent "pro-raw milk" pieces is not likely to attract researchers with the capability to fund and answer some of the questions posed here (questions that are worthy of further study). The value of the research proposed is lost if the goal is to use the data for an agenda/propaganda (note that not all researchers work for big companies and many shun their approaches if strings are attached).

Sylvia Gibson
June 25, 2009 8:13 pm


That type of "overall" message also comes from all sides. I see it as no different than saying drinking raw milk is "playing russian roulette". Or the other so called governmental "facts" that are spewed from the media and govt. et al.

If the researchers are barred from using all information on any part of the studies, then how can they become correct? They are all biased. Wouldn’t they need to take data from all avenues and eliminate what is found not to be correct. But then, as knowledge increases, facts change.

What is a "fact" to one person may not be so to another. That would be calling people liers who’ve said changing thier diet saved or improved thier health. Studies tend to have tunnel vision, not the whole picture. If the whole picture isn’t examined then the facts are skewed, incomplete.

I think the researchers who would do an honest study are hampered for whatever reasons, fear of being shunned, loss of work, etc if they go against tptb’s agenda.

For example; aspartamine was invented as a pesticide or herbicide, it was forbidden for many years, then all of the sudden it is ok for human consumption. What changed? Poison is poison, the chemical make-up didn’t change. Neurotoxins don’t change either. The so called "new" studies regarding aspartimine are so skewed it is really pathetic. Follow the money. Or how about the poison in the infant formula? At first NO amount was considered safe, then even without studies "some" was declared safe. Again poisoning the masses.

Don Wittlinger
June 25, 2009 9:23 pm

Approxmately 90% of the worlds milk is produced by CAFOs and they are in deep financial trouble and a major reason is their attempt to alter and defy the very laws of nature! COWS WERE DESIGNED TO CONSUME GRASS
"Sustainable" dairy farmer shows big gain
The natural way! Not rocket science no studies need just COMON SENSE but sadly comon sense has by design been removed from the minds of most Americans by the nanny state! FEAR and DEPENDENCY is the nanny states greatest tools and who among us has never been affected by it.

Gwen elderberry
June 26, 2009 12:57 am

Thanks, Don, for the NAIS article. The author, Darol Dickinson is in my back yard, so to speak. He moved from out west to Ohio, where he started Dickenson Cattle Company with Texas longhorns, on reclaimed strip-mined land, aka Egypt Valley, named after the shovel, The Gem of Egypt. He wrote a book about it, called "Fillet of Horn."

My grandfather also built a farm – a dairy – but on 700 acres of UNreclaimed strip-mined land, in Egypt Valley. It was considered a small farm dairy. Many a visit was interrupted by Grandpa running out to help someone fill jars out of the bulk tank. It is no longer in existance, but I have been down many of the dirt roads and hiked Egypt Valley many times throughout my life.

I had heard through the grapevine that Darol Dickinson is involved in trying to stop the NAIS. He’s a member of our county Farm Bureau. I don’t know that I’ve ever met him personally, but several family members have. It is encouraging to see farming neighbors published in such a way.

hugh betcha
June 26, 2009 2:07 am

blair, while i might wish i had said these insightful words i believe it was mark m of op dairy. i’m more likely to note that lykes posts no longer pass the sniff test.

"It destroys the germ theory, drug profits, medical paradigm of sick care and completely redirects the entrenched and established cash flow channels."

p.s. we have a new heffer calf here, born tuesday at about 2pm in the pasture. she’s a jersey and will be registered, we just need a name for her…. anyone have a good name?

Brian Keeter
June 26, 2009 4:01 am


I humbly suggest Amagi as a name for your new heifer. Amagi is Sumerian, literally meaning "return to the mother", but was the first recorded word in human history to mean freedom.


I appreciate your frustration with the bias, and I believe you acknowledge that it exists on both sides. Personally, I think it’s folly. So what if studies indicate problems with grass based management? Will it be outlawed? Shall I be jailed for feeding grass-fed raw milk to my children or selling it to willing patrons? How relevant is it, unless of course the results would be used to coerce me? Should studies and results dictate appropriate behavior? Food for thought.


David Kendall
June 26, 2009 10:36 am

I think we should establish a national raw milk research trust and for every gallon of raw milk sold a few pennys should be committed to proving its value and safety scientifically. Lets end the vacume of data on raw milk once and for all.

We need to build critical mass, more economic clout and the consumers will be packing the hearing room for legalizing raw dairy products and allowing easier distribution systems.

THANK YOU MARK AND BLAIR. This is a sound strategy with lots of dividends for both producers and consumers. These studies would open that "crack in the wall" a lot more, and move us towards greater public credibility and acceptance. It would leave less room for the bias and distortions of all vested interests.

I’d bet that among Mark, Blair, Lykke, Amanda and Steve and MANY other passionate contributors on this blog (and others that we know) we have sufficient talents to:

** Initially, hold the reins and maintain focus
** Create a legal funding entity
** Invigorate a funding mechanism (A nickel a gallon from the producers? @ … And how about from passionate consumers?)
** Ask the right questions
** Attract highly competent people with interest in designing and doing the research
** Publicize the research results

@ I would cover my herdshare’s production contribution

I do hope that someone(s) picks up this ball and runs hard with it. Lets individually, not miss the opportunity to make a real difference.

With all the increasing interest in real milk, we can do it if leadership will just step forward.

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. Margaret Mead

Mark McAfee
June 26, 2009 10:34 pm


I love you idea of getting all sides together and executing your list of progressive ideas.

I have bad news for you…..it can not happen unless we can connect with those that naysay our raw milk vision….they have no names, the FDA refuses to speak or be spoken too.

I am sorry to say that we are on our own and the grass roots is our base. My door is always wide open. I would love to meet at a Raw Rilk Complete Patient Summit and do great things.


David Kendall
June 27, 2009 12:53 am


Thank you for responding.

I did not mean to specifically include FDA, USDA, Public Health, etc in this project. My intension was / is to create a funding and research mechanism via raw milk producers and consumers. If the FDA, et al want to play, fine, but their participation is not critical. If significant players from real milk groups got significantly involved, this could have legs.

There is enough money, interest and talent among real milk dairies and drinkers to pull off adequately funded research… if those who are good leaders (not just good talkers) will step forward.

Regarding personal and economic health, those who espouse all sides of real milk issues should have the opportunity for input, but always within the context of establishing data that can be used to gain a deeper understanding of the benefits and limitations of real milk.

David Kendall
June 27, 2009 11:39 pm

Last March 7th, miguel wrote the following:

"My niece was visiting today. She has three young children with multiple allergies to milk, soy, peanuts, wheat, etc. This seems to be very common these days. These allergies can be life threatening and she has to be very careful what they come in contact with. Milk, even organic milk, can cause an acute reaction. However the milk from our grassfed cows does not cause any reaction. I found this research (below) and it made me wonder if there is some kind of connection between the bacteria in the cows digestive system and the bacteria in these children’s digestive systems that is responsible for these allergies. Benadryl, a childrens antihistamine is the treatment for an acute attack.


"In the 1940s and 1950s, Dougherty and his colleagues (Dougherty, 1942; Dain et al., 1955) studied the impact of ruminal acidosis, and noted that grain feeding also promoted ruminal histamine production. Histamine is a powerful inflammatory agent, and they concluded that there was direct correlation between the histamine level of ingesta and the well being of the animal. Histamine is formed from the decarboxylation of the amino acid, histidine, and even a small conversion of histidine to histamine can be toxic (Suber et al., 1979).

In the 1950s, Rodwell (1953) isolated histidine decarboxylating lactobacilli from sheep and horses fed grain-based rations. The potential involvement of lactobacilli was consistent with the observation that lactobacilli are highly pH-resistant bacteria that accumulate in the rumen when animals are fed an abundance of cereal grain. However, recent work indicated that histamine-producing lactobacilli could not be isolated from cattle that were fed 90% cracked corn or a commercial dairy ration (Garner et al., 2003)

Ruminal histidine enrichments from dairy cattle yielded a new bacterium that was classified as Allisonella histaminiformans (Garner et al., 2003).

A. histaminiformans is an obligate histidine fermenting bacterium that does not utilize other energy sources, produces histamine 3-fold faster than even the best lactobacilli and grows at pH values as low as 4.0. A. histaminiformans is not found in cattle consuming hay, but it is found at high numbers in cattle fed dairy rations."


The role of histamine in the etiology of rumen acidosis has not been definitively described, but a variety of studies have shown that histamine can decrease rumen motility and increase the severity of laminitis (Aschenbach and Gabel, 2000; Takahashi and Young, 1981). The involvement of histamine in laminitis is supported by the observation that anti-histamines can be used as a treatment (Nilsson, 1963). Oral administration of histamine to cattle that were not acidotic did not induce laminitis, however, histamine is not absorbed rapidly from the rumen unless the pH is acidic (Aschenbach and Gabel, 2000).

Recent work indicates that the rumen has a previously unrecognized bacterium that produces histamine, A. histaminiformans. A. histaminiformans is a highly specialized bacterium that is only able to convert histidine to histamine. Because A. histaminiformans is a highly pH-resistant bacterium, it is better able to compete with other histidine-utilizing bacteria when the pH is low. A. histaminiformans could not be isolated from cattle fed hay, but it is found at high numbers in cattle fed dairy cattle rations. The ability of A. histaminiformans to grow in the rumen is promoted by acidic pH and a nutritional factor derived from silages (particularly alfalfa silage).

The nutritional factor appears to be a small positively charged molecule, but further work will be needed to define more precisely its exact nature. The observation that the growth factor can be derived from alfalfa silage could have practical significance. Logue et al. (2000) noted that dairy cattle fed grass silage had a significantly greater incidence of laminitis and foot lesions than cattle that were fed non-fermented dry forage"

Does anyone test their milk for the presence of A. Histaminiformans? Does pasteurization prevent multiple allergy syndrome? Should we be concerned about the presence of this abnormal bacteria in the cows manure and therefore in the milk? What does the FDA have to say about this dangerous pathogen. Obviously this bacteria affects the cow’s health negatively. Does it affect our health when we drink the milk?

Lets get answers to these questions.

Another example of the trouble you can get into when you don’t know enough about your bacteria: Oxalobacter formigenes is a beneficial bacterium that we need in our gut.

" 90% or urinary calculi are calcium oxalate stones. Oxalobacter formigenes is an oxalate degrading bacterium, colonizing the GI tract in humans. This study demonstrated a relationship between urinary oxalate levels and the intestinal bacterium, oxalobacter formigenes. The absence of the bacterium in the intestines appears to result in a higher risk of recurrent oxalate stone disease by causing hyperoxaluria."

Tunuguntla HSGR. Can the Recurrence of Oxalate Stone be prevented? Role of Tunuguntla HSGR
in Stone Recurrence. Journal of Urology 165:246A, 2001.

Oxalobacter Formigenes is easily eliminated from our gut by some antibiotics and preservatives. It is in raw milk.

If we want to take the approach to food safety that finds a bacteria to blame for each illness, we will be very busy as these are just two of the thousands of new bacteria that are being discovered every day. Will we have to test each day’s milk for a few thousand separate bacteria? The presence of one causes a disease while the absence of another causes a different disease. "

This kind of research and its implications would help move the agenda of real milk in a useful direction – if brought out from obscurity. If further studies clearly tied dairy cow diets to specific aspects of people’s health, "the crack in the wall" of BigDairy and BigPharma would continue to expand.

Does insightful and passionate and right-on miguel still read this blog?