I was just reading in this piece that Whole Foods has indefinitely ceased the sale of raw milk. I called their national headquarters to see if it was true, and it is; they’ve decided to cease all raw milk sales until there are “national standards” instead of state-by-state ones. I gave them my opinion on the matter, which is that I’m grateful to be living in a state where raw milk sales are legal and I have no interest in seeing that held back by a large company like Whole Foods, nor by waiting for change in the many other states where raw milk is not legal.
Whole Foods was the only carrier in Seattle proper of milk from Dungeness Valley Creamery, which I happen to really like. I’m a big fan of all the local raw milks (I count four available in Seattle), and because I like buying direct from the farmer or from smaller stores and co-ops anyway, it’s not the end of the world if I can’t get it from Whole Foods. Still, it was a nice treat sometimes and I disagree with their choice on principle because it limits some people’s access to raw milk and because waiting around for national standards is not going to benefit raw milk consumers. If you disagree too, you can call their headquarters at (512) 542-0878.
I also called and spoke with Debbie from Dungeness Valley Creamery. She confirmed that this had happened and that it has affected sales (the milk is still available outside Seattle and at a few drop points). She also confirmed what the initial article suggested, that the Department of Agriculture has been difficult for local raw milk producers. Earlier in the winter, a press release went out suggesting a link between DVC’s milk and E. coli bacteria, whereas E. coli was only found in an old cow patty in a pasture where some non-milking cows had been a few weeks before, and never in the milk. There’s a pretty good article on it here.
Considering what a loaded term E. coli is, and considering it was never found in their milk, and that it’s been found in vegetables that don’t become illegal to sell (spinach, tomatoes), the issuing of a press release feels like a targeted and intentional way to maintain a public fear of raw milk.
We’re lucky to live in a state where raw milk is readily available, even if, as a number of farmers have told me, it’s not easy to be a producer here. The Whole Foods situation is a reminder that we shouldn’t take what we have for granted, as is the current struggle in Wisconsin to legalize raw milk, where nearly 500 people showed up for a hearing recently on the subject.
To avoid getting complacent locally, continue supporting the local farms that sell raw milk. If you’d like to let the WA Department of Agriculture Food Safety program know how grateful you are to live in a state where raw milk is legal, or any other opinions on the subject, their number is 360.902.1876. It also never hurts to spend two minutes calling the helpful WA legislative hotline at 800.562.6000, where your opinion on anything relevant to the legislature can get recorded for your state representatives, senator and, if you’d like, the Governor. All you need to know is your address.
Thanks to upyourego for the flickr CC photo.