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Sure, Growing Push for Raw Dairy Standards Faces Major Hurdles, But Going Through Process Will Expand Market

Posted on Wednesday, January 19th, 2011 at 12:00 pm by David E. Gumpert

Relax. No one’s in control.”

A Buddhist teacher, speaking about our insatiable desire for predictability, made that off-hand remark during a talk I attended recently. He was arguing that such a desire for guarantees is unattainable, a mirage in a world that is always changing. Instead, life is just the opposite, he maintained, full of unpredictable occurrences–always has been and always will be.

Despite so much evidence to the contrary, we continue to think we can gain control of events around us. Last evening, I watched an ABC Nightline segment about how the parents of a Boy Scout are suing the organization because their teenage son, working for his Eagle badge (the highest level of achievement), had died from complications of heat exposure during a twenty-mile hike in Florida. The correspondent said the segment had been prompted by the parents’ lawyer bringing the suit to Nightline’s attention (gotta love those enterprising lawyers).

Based on Nightline’s account, it seemed that the scouts in charge had taken appropriate precautions, packing plenty of water. When the boy working for his eagle badge encountered problems, they stopped. Then, when the boy collapsed, one of the leaders spent 45 minutes on resuscitation, before calling in a medical helicopter.

What was most striking to me was the questioning by Nightline’s correspondent of three Boy Scout representatives. He asked, or rather demanded, “Can you tell me with complete certainty and security that I can put my kids into a scouting program and something like this isn’t going to happen?” One of the Boy Scout reps told him what he wanted to hear. “Absolutely. This is a safe program.”

Later in the interview, the Nightline correspondent asked again, “Are you saying the scouts have never been at fault? No Scout master has ever made a mistake in terms of preparation ahead of time?”

Those are the kinds of questions, really accusations, increasingly made in our society’s growing obsession with guarantees of predictability.

And I wonder if food regulators view segments like the one on Nightline and envision themselves sitting on the hot seat reserved last night for representatives of the Boy Scouts. No one wants to be there. With food, it’s a cinch to avoid the problem by simply requiring that foods be zapped. Maybe the regulators understand our cultural obsession better than I do and are smartly trying to feed it.

Zapping at least reduces the chances of immediate contamination. We understand less about the impact on people’s overall health and immune function of altering the nutritional composition of food via zapping, but that’s a problem for others to worry about years down the road, in the view of the regulators.

All this by way of suggesting that, as hopeful as the expanding movement for raw dairy standards might seem, it faces a rough road. As Milky Way put it following my previous post, “The reality that standards are even controversial shows the complexity of implementing them. Furthermore, there are many unknowns relating to those ‘end points.’”

As the standard-setting process for raw dairy continues to move forward in Colorado and California, and gets launched this week in Wisconsin, so does the consumer education process. That, in my view, is more critical than trying to win over the regulators. Some of the things consumers learn could be uncomfortable for farmers, such as the reality that all raw milk isn’t created equal–some is richer or tastier or lasts longer before souring.

As farmers establish standards, they focus more ever more on the key ingredients for quality, and consumers learn in the process that there’s more to high-quality raw milk than simply feeding grass to cows. Blair McMorran, executive director the Raw Milk Association of Colorado, points out following my previous post just a few questions that come up as part of establishing standards: “What kind of sanitizers are used? How often do you clean the ice-water bath? How much grain do you feed? Where do your animals come from? Where does your feed come from? What is your stillborn rate? What kind of medical interventions are used? Every step of their process has learning opportunities.”

As part of the process, the benefits of raw dairy in nutrition and cooking will become better known, and even raw dairy cookbooks like that envisioned by Violet Willis can become a reality (and congrats to Violet for almost making it to MasterChef.) All these things help expand the marketplace. The link Don Neeper included following my previous to an article out of Texas is just another example of how much demand for raw milk is expanding.

And in the meantime, the national culture hopefully moves away from fairy-tale-like guarantees of complete protection from adversity to informed decision making. 

***

Here’s an example of how the notion of raw milk as part of a healthy lifestyle is beginning to get past the censors and permeate the mass culture…via an interview of celebrity chiropractor Joseph Mercola by conventional celebrity physician Dr. Mehmet Oz (the mention is near the end of the four-minute segment).

Read the original post at The Complete Patient.

rawmilkrevolution David E. Gumpert is the author of The Raw Milk Revolution.
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