Howard- The Texas Health Dept is trying to tighten the sale of raw milk and r.m. products. They are soliciting comments before they make recommendations. Below are the comments we sent to Gene Wright, Manager, Milk and Dairy Group, Texas Department of State Health Services, P.O. Box 149347 MC 1987, Austin, Texas 78714-9347. Tony
March 2, 2009
Dear Mr. Wright,
Thank you for soliciting comments on the draft proposed rule changes affecting milk and dairy.
Like many of my friends and neighbors, I am very concerned about health and food quality and have educated myself on the most healthful foods for my family. I am a raw milk and raw cheese consumer. I am concerned that the changes you are proposing will make it much harder for families like my own to obtain this very valuable food. And I am equally concerned about the impact on the these changes will have on the numerous small producers.
First, I would like to say that I am in favor of making raw milk more easily available to consumers. The current rules that require buyers drive to the dairy farm location to purchase their weekly allotment is a great hardship and, in my opinion, out of step with the efforts to reduce fuel consumption due to economic and climate concerns. I am in favor of allowing the producer to make deliveries to his customer base, to pick up points in the city, customer's homes or farmer's markets. So, you can imagine that I am very concerned about the proposed requirement that the sale be made at the farm and only to the final buyer, not an agent or member of a whole food cooperative who is picking up for all the members. In my opinion, this doesn't make any sense and appears to be intentionally targeting producers and consumers of raw milk. I urge the agency to amend section 217.22 to allow Grade A raw milk producers to sell and distribute raw milk to consumers off the farm. and to delete the requirement to sell only to the final buyer.
I am also disturbed by the notion that the farmer will be required to provide a list of his buyers to the government. I imagine that this seems like a simple way to find all the consumers in the event of food contamination. But if so, I wonder why grocery stores are not required to collect the names of all the persons who buy peanut butter, or ground beef or hot peppers or any of the other food items that have, in recent times, have sickened thousands of consumers. Why pick on the few raw milk producers and raw milk consumers? I urge the agency to delete section 217.17(g).
I also would like to see Section 217.13 amended so that possession of misbranded or ungraded milk is not illegal in any location (not just the home). Those of us who feel strongly about the health providing benefits of raw milk take this milk with us as a source of food when we travel. I just returned from a short trip to the Texas Gulf Coast and carried in my cooler repackaged raw milk and raw milk products. This should not be illegal!
It appears that some of the requirements for cheese producers may not be appropriate for small, artisan cheesemakers. I urge you to re-examine these requirements for the small producer so that they are appropriate to the size and complexity of operation. Safe cheese should be determined by analyzing the final product and inspecting the facilities and processes to assure hygienic conditions, not by number of different rooms or the specialization of the cheese making equipment. Often, in cheesemaking as in other types of crafts, the highest quality is produced by the smallest operation because of the time and attention to detail paid when making the product. We should be proud of our many outstanding artisan cheesemakers in Texas and attempt to support them. Therefore, I urge you to eliminate requirements for additional cheesemaking rooms and specialized pasteurization equipment, allow for a single permit for small producers and kept the current feed schedule based on gross sales.
I live in Arlington, TX. I tried raw milk once from Nors Dairy and was unaccustomed to the taste. I thought it was going to be awesome according to the woman who had the milk coop. However, it had a weird aftertaste to me. (I've been buying the homogenized (dead) organic milk.) I also made a visit to his farm & saw his production. His method of hygiene was to wipe the cow's udders with a baby wipe (not a fresh one by the way, but was stuffed in his pocket.) Is that standard? Somehow this didn't seem clean to me and I'm no clean freak either. We use only non toxic cleaning options i.e. d-limonene/orange oil, vinegar, baking soda, hydrogen peroxide, Soil Mender's Plant Wash, etc.
I know that you have goats, but what dairy would you trust for raw milk from cows? I contacted Sand Creek Farm via email about it's milk early in February, but never heard back.
Thank you kindly for your insight,
Gaylene Tierney Ground Crew member/Dirt Doctor fan since 1997
We have nigerian dwarf dairy goats and have offered a taste to many folks. Usually the preconception is that the milk will taste bad or different, but to a person, all have agreed that it tastes just like store bought milk, only better.
We have a friend with a Jersey cow and have tasted this milk. I find the taste varies somewhat with the season and quality of forage. When the grass is really green, the milk has a very yellow color and there is a massive amount of cream. I think the milk has a somewhat grassy taste. Of course, when the milk is yellow and there's a lot of cream is when the quality is at it's best. When the forage is poor, like in the winter or when we haven't had rain, the milk color is much whiter and the taste is less pronounced.
If you read about the milk used for some of the great traditional artisan cheeses around the world, the comment is often made that the taste of the cheese is influenced by the types of forage or browse that the dairy animals eat. So, clearly milk will be influenced by the type of feed/forage available to the animal,
Taste can also be affected by milk handling after leaving the dairy barn. If the milk is not filtered or chilled quickly and kept cold or if it is agitated too much (like on a bumpy ride), the taste of the milk may be affected.
Also, if the cows have health issues, the taste of them milk might be affected.
You ask about how the animal's udders are cleaned before milking. What did you expect to see? We use baby wipes, but a clean one for each doe. I wouldn't want to reuse, because if one animal is developing mastitis, you might possibly spread it to the other. Others I know use a wet rag to wipe any dirt from the teats and udder. A more conventional approach would be to used a disinfective teat spray or dip. I don't do this, nor do I want to do this. But by the same token, I know folks who simply brush the teats and udders off before milking and only wash if the udders or teats have matter on them.
If you have a healthy animal, I think it's best not to use a disinfectant. This will kill the beneficial microorganisms on the skin (just like the soil there are both good guys and bad guys). Pathogens usually reproduce faster than beneficials and when the beneficials are gone, it leaves an opening for the pathogens. So that's why I don't do it. I don't know what the dairy inspectors require for licensed dairies.
Also, the issues are somewhat different if the cow is being machine milked versus hand milked. Machine milking keeps a lot of debre out of the milk such as hairs, dust, etc that will fall in when the animal is hand milked. We filter our milk to get out any of this debree and rapidly chill it.
The best measure is the lab analysis of the milk. As the dairy how often they get their milk tested for pathogens and somatic cell count. If the labs are good, I wouldn't worry about how they clean the teats. But if you don't like the taste, the issue is moot.
If you don't like the taste of the milk, look around for another source. Try out some goat milk or milk from another cow or a different breed of cow. Some folks don't like the taste of Jersey because it is too rich for them. Others don't like Holstein. Or try the milk again during a different season of the year. It may taste different.
I'm sorry, but I don't have any recommendations about dairies. We don't buy from a dairy nor do any of our friends. You might check on http://www.realmilk.com or with your local chapter of the Weston A Price foundation. You might be able to find some small local sources that way.
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