January 15, 2007

The raw milk debate

The issue of selling raw milk directly from farms has been popping up a lot lately. Farms in Ontario have been raided, or are being threatened by the Dairy Farmers of Ontario (DFO). The farm owner in question argues that they can't afford to sell the milk produced in their small operation through the dairy marketing board, so why not do it this way! In my opinion, its a pretty clever plan! Instead of directly selling the milk, you sell shares in the cows. As a shareholder, you are entitled to drink the milk produced by "your cow". Granted, it would be hard to determine what milk comes from what cow, but that's a minor detail. You could go to the farm and pick up your glass bottles of milk once a week, or however often you need to. What kills me is that its apparently ILLEGAL for farmers to take their own raw milk off their property. If I was a farmer and wanted to take a container of unpasturized milk with me to drink somewhere other than my home, it would be illegal. That seems a little extreme.

We give the kids organic milk at home. Maybe unnecessary, but I feel better knowing that at least their milk is more "natural" than the usual hormone laden milk that is pumped out at large farms. But even organic milk is being mass produced by large farming operations. Its great that they are providing us with that option, and I don't mind paying the extra money for the organic since I assumed it cost more to run an organic dairy farm. But looking at the chart at the bottom of this page, I don't understand why organic milk is so much more expensive than non-organic. Vet care is less, feed is less...all around it costs less to raise/feed an organic cow than one fed standard feed and receiving hormones to boost milk production. Yet I pay almost $7 for a 4 litre bag of milk at Costco. And it costs even more at Loblaws. Why? Supply and demand? I'm not complaining since its my choice to buy it and if money was an issue, I wouldn't bother. But I wonder how much of that goes back to the farmers?

We drank "farm milk" when I was a kid. It was hand milked into a bucket at a small farm down the road and delivered to our door in glass bottles. I have no idea if it was legal...according to some stuff I've read, the Federal raw milk regulations have been in use for decades and something like that would certainly be illegal. I'll have to ask my mom. Anyway, it was never an issue. If there was bacteria and bad stuff in the milk, we certainly never suffered. If anything, we were pretty damn healthy. I rarely had a sick day from school. The farm eventually went under, so we started buying milk at the store. It wasn't a big deal...and we were still healthy.

For me, its not even a health issue. Its not that raw milk is any better for you than pasturized. To me, its a choice. If I want to risk salmonella or e. coli exposure by drinking milk that hasn't been super heat treated to kill all bacteria, good and bad, its my choice. Hell, its possible to get e. coli from raw fruits and vegetables...doesn't mean you're not going to eat them.

6 Comments:

Blogger Amy said...

Love the new banner! Although every time I see the name "Sharp" without an "e" on the end it looks weird to me! LOL!

The milk debate. I grew up the same as you, only I went to my grandfather's barn and milked the cow myself before school. But we were the healthiest I ever remember being. The only "treatment" it got was a good shake before we used it to mix up the cream that floated to the top with the rest of the milk. We took the milk to our house, and my aunts and uncles also got their milk from Papa's cow. Illegal? I never knew. I think the DFO needs to back off a bit. We don't really have the raw vs. pasturized debate here cuz we use organic soy or rice milk. But still. I totally agree with you - I think its a personal choice. What's next, the Spinach Scandal? And that stuff was supposedly "treated".

15/1/07 19:47  
Blogger LauraJ said...

And there are groups that want to legalize pot!!

One day in the future ... which would more harmful legalized pot or illegal raw cow milk?

Outrageous I say!!

16/1/07 10:51  
Blogger themikestand said...

To properly find out why organic milk is more expensive, you should would have to look into the price management for milk (overall), as it's under price protection in most provinces (couldn't tell you for sure if QC is managed that way, but I presume it is). The mechanism for pricing is often very different from the cost structure.

Secondly, looking at Burgoyne's information, it also appears that "organic" cows also have a higher cost per hectare of farmland (likely just fewer cows on organic farms without a corresponding drop in acreage, so maybe it's inconclusive) and a significantly lower output (1,000 kg per cow) -- so on the cost side for management, it might appear that it's cheaper and easier to farm organic milk, but looking at the revenue per cow, farmers are getting $360 and $602 per year less for their organic cows. That may have something to do with it.

16/1/07 11:31  
Blogger Tanya said...

mike, i saw that, but the total cost per cow is less and the net return is more! what's the difference between revenue and net return? i so don't have a financial mind...

i'm sure there are other factors. like paying a fee so they can use the certified organic label...

laura, exactly! it seems milk is more controversial that pot lately...lol!

amy, i remember having to shake the hall out of the bottle too! unless mom wanted to skim the fat off for cooking. but usually it went into our bellies!

16/1/07 12:10  
Blogger themikestand said...

Good catch. I didn't take those numbers into consideration at first (don't ask me why). Now that I do, strangely enough, I get a different revenue per cow than they do:

$50.99 / HL * 5,936 kg milk output per cow....gives an approximate value of $3,026

not the stated value of $3,602.

If I'm right about this, the net return per cow is $349, less than either of the other two groups, and the return on assets drops.


From an environmental economic standpoint, however, there are many unaccounted for environmental benefits here -- but that's another lecture.

17/1/07 12:40  
Blogger Tanya said...

mike, i'm glad i wasn't seeing things! and re. the environmental benefits...absolutely. i don't mind paying the extra for organically farmed products.

17/1/07 12:59  

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