Raw milk is in the political spotlight once again as the "food freedom" movement gains bipartisan support in Washington. While some Republicans, like former Texas Rep. Ron Paul, quietly fought the raw milk cause for years — demanding the federal government stay out of the nation's dairy consumption — as Politico reports a growing number of Democrats are co-sponsoring related measures, including Colorado Rep. Jared Polis and Maine Rep. Chellie Pingree.
Consumer rights, supporting small farms, food fads, and the demand for less regulation all mix together to form the heart of the food freedom movement. Kentucky Rep. Thomas Massie, a favorite among libertarians, recently introduced two bills concerning raw milk, including the wonderfully-named Interstate Milk Freedom Act of 2014, which supports the right of consumers to eat what they like, however unhealthy it may be. The bills would let consumers buy directly from producers, putting an end to the “criminalization of dairy farmers who offer raw milk,” Massie said.
Given the strain in rebellious, anti-government strain in the raw milk battle, it's interesting that urbanite foodies (read: progressives) are also taking part in movement. Joel Salatin, who is something of a food and farm freedom celebrity, applauds the inclusion of “urban foodies” and environmentalists. “It does make for some very strange bedfellows,” he told Politico. “When I give speeches now, the room is half full of libertarians and half full of very liberal Democrats. The bridge is food.”
Raw milk supporters claim there are boundless health benefits — as long as the milk-producing cows are healthy — including components that strengthen the immune system. But raw milk by definition skips the pasteurization process, meaning the end product could contain E. coli and salmonella bacteria. States are currently allowed to regulate the sale of raw milk within their own borders, but the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have reported that 75 percent of raw milk disease outbreaks have come from the 21 states where its legal to sell non-pasteurized products. Still, despite the health risks, it sounds a little bit safer than the anti-vaccine movement.