Environment, Education, Energy: Policy to People

Return of the Milkman: Oklahoma Lawmakers Study Raw Milk Delivery

Donald Ray prepares a cow for milking on his step-father's small dairy farm in rural Creek County.

Logan Layden / StateImpact Oklahoma

Donald Ray prepares a cow for milking on his step-father's small dairy farm in rural Creek County.

The state Department of Agriculture says the number of Oklahomans choosing raw milk over pasteurized is growing.

But currently, the only way to get a hold of any is to physically drive to a dairy farm and buy it directly from the producer.

It’s illegal to deliver or advertise raw milk in Oklahoma — for now.

State Rep. Ken Walker, R-Tulsa, led an interim legislative study Sept. 17 over the impact of legalizing raw milk delivery and advertising, where several Oklahomans testified about the benefits of the unpasteurized product.

Edmond Naturopathic practitioner Michele Menzel says she recommends raw milk to all her patients, and her own family.

“Raw milk was a huge part of my healing, as well as my son, who had frequent bronchitis, frequent high fevers,” Menzel told the legislative panel. “And this changed his little world.”

Mother of four Joanna Francisco credits raw milk with the good health of her children, too.

“In the amount of time that we’ve been using raw milk we haven’t had any sickness. In fact, our kids haven’t been to the doctor in — I think eight years.”

Rep. Walker says he’s been drinking raw milk his entire life, and its health benefits aren’t in dispute. What’s at issue is access to it.

“There is a consumer base for raw milk. More and more, folks are going back to the way it used to be, buying things organic, growing their own,” Walker says.

The state Department of Agriculture's Blayne Arthur says drinking raw milk comes with some risk.

Logan Layden / StateImpact Oklahoma

The state Department of Agriculture's Blayne Arthur says drinking raw milk comes with some risk.

He hears from raw milk producers who would like to deliver to their customers, or at least meet them halfway, like Donald Ray, who’s worked on his step-father’s small Creek County dairy farm for the past three years.

Ray says he has customers from as far away as Norman as he goes through the process of milking the cows, pumping the raw milk into a large vat to be cooled, and pouring himself a glass.

Raw milk is delicious. It’s richer and creamier than grocery store milk, which has all been heated to kill microbes and bacteria, some of which are actually good for you.

But Blayne Arthur at the state Department of Agriculture says there is reason for caution here. Pasteurized milk is almost 100% safe. There are no guarantees with raw milk.

“There are things like E. coli 0157, Campylobacter. There’s also Salmonella, Listeria, Tuberculosis, Brucella. I mean those are things — since there is no pasteurization — I think consumers really want to be knowledgeable about,” Arthur says.

Getting sick off of raw milk is rare. But it practically never happens with pasteurized milk. And Arthur says she isn’t necessarily against drinking raw milk, she just thinks its best for customers to go to the farm and see the milking operation for themselves.

Right now that’s the only way to get raw milk in Oklahoma. There are a few resources online, but because producers can’t advertise raw milk, customers are on their own to find a dairy farm to buy from.

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  • Any supposed cure from raw milk is nothing more than wishful thinking.

    However, the fact that people have been sicked and have died from raw milk or eating fresh raw milk cheeses is fact.

    A raw milk foodborne illness outbreak in my state (MIssouri) cost over $400,000 to investigate. Now, you all want your tax money going to this?

    • Logan Layden

      There is certainly a greater risk with raw milk. The CDC reports that between 1996 and 2003, 99 percent of the milk consumed in the U.S. was pasteurized. Raw milk made up less than 1 percent, though it accounted for more outbreaks than pasteurized during that same time. From 1996-2003 there were about 200 raw milk-related hospitalizations in the U.S.

    • Cliff Chism

      Food recalls happen all the time, even in commercial plants. It’s going to happen. I’ve been drinking raw milk for the last 6 years. My allergies (which were medically diagnosed) are now all but gone (I’ll admit that when I mow ragweed in the pasture, it sometimes flares a little). In fact, I no longer have any symptoms of lactose intolerance as long as I don’t buy pasteurized milk from the store. So, while you might state your opinion as fact, I have real experience with it. By the way, if it cost your state over $400,000 to INVESTIGATE an incident, you have bigger problems than raw milk. One of our raw milk dairy in Oklahoma put it’s entire herd down, just because one cow MIGHT have been exposed to a rabid animal and then paid for treatment to all their possibly afflicted customers. They did this voluntarily and they have even more customers today.

    • ML Benson

      Check out the real facts about Raw Milk at http://www.RealMilk.com Take Notice of all of the supporting studies and references.

    • Kristen

      Why would tax money be allocated towards any private market milk producer any more than the cost of an investigation of food borne illness caused by any other food? Surely you do not believe it logical to outlaw the sale of every food that results in state investigation expenditures related to food borne illnesses? people have been sick and died from every food product on the planet I imagine, the most common food borne illnesses are not raw milk or cheese.

    • Linda Webb

      Shelley, I know this is a very old post, but you really need to get some facts straight. I grew up on raw milk, NEVER missed a single day of school due to illness. I then joined the military and off the farm and started drinking that , so called milk, that when heated so hot to kill off the bad, it killed of 90% of the good. They even had to add back some of the vitamins. Since then I have a lot of health issues. Also if the processing of these dairy products is so great, why has there been so many ecoli outbreaks, from these factories.

      • Anecdotal recounting is not the same as detailed scientific investigations. Just because you’re lucky doesn’t mean others aren’t.

        Or do you think the children who have been sickened by raw milk somehow deserve what they got?

  • Terri

    Oh, raw milk (and their farmers) will get the blame for lots of problems. Nevertheless, more people have died from pasteurized milk and grocery store produce than have died from raw milk. The FDA and the CDC have manipulated their data to “show” the dangers of raw milk; however, savvy people who know how to read the data, including my husband, have proved the propaganda. In addition and in fact, the chief cause of food borne illness is lettuce, then fruits and vegetables, then chicken. Yet, our government does not insist that we pasteurize these foods. Again, from the data, you are at least 35,000 times more likely to contract illness from other foods than from raw milk. I suggest you look at http://www.realmilk.com. We need to remember that the government’s agencies are not looking after you, the individual. They look out for their industries. Follow the $$$

  • Miss Jo

    Been drinking raw milk my whole life, the two times I got food poisoning from dairy products it was Hiland brand milk. I almost got sick off of several other companies, but luckily someone was around me that has a sense of smell (I, sadly, can’t smell much of anything).

  • fred

    As far as I know, jersey cows have been around for thousands of years, and their milk proteins are long branch chain amino acids. The black and white dairy cows are hybrids. Their milk proteins are shorter, the Pasteurization process shortens these chain even more. The shorter the protein chain the worse the milk is for you. Also, the cows are considered A-1 or A-2, google A-1and A-2 cows, and read a little about it its very interesting.
    Knowledge is power.
    Fuck the other team.
    Thanks for reading.

    I buy all of my dairy, chicken, beef, eggs from grahmen dairy ESE of Tomball, Texas.

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