Have you walked into PCC lately and noticed the absence of raw milk? I have, and was disappointed to learn PCC has followed the steps of Whole Foods and halted raw milk sales. Their media blurb about the change is here.
Nobody in Washington State has, to my knowledge, recently gotten sick from raw milk. But something’s going on. First, raw milk producers were suddenly getting a lot more attention from the health department, with subsequent media insinuations about raw milk and E. coli. This culminated in a Seattle Times article written in pretty menacing language, and trying to make raw milk drinkers sound like crazy people. Pressure is coming from somewhere, and it’s unclear where.
To my knowledge, Madison Market and the Pike Place Market Creamery are the only stores left in Seattle selling raw milk, although as two independent stores, one of which is a co-op, these are stores I like to support.. And, of course, you can still buy it at farmers’ markets from Sea Breeze and St John’s Creamery (for goat milk). Dungeness Valley Creamery also still does drop-point sales, as does St John’s. St John’s is looking for new drop points in Seattle and I imagine Dungeness would be as well. Please help keep these farms in business!
If you’d like to comment, call PCC between 9-5 at: 206-547-1222. Ask for Trudy Bialic, Diana Crane, or Goldie Caughlan. I strongly encourage readers to do this. Be polite, and be clear.
I called and spoke with Diana, who was open to listening. She said that this is the direction they’re planning to go at the moment, but if they hear from enough customers that the tide is really going a different direction, they will reconsider. Some points I made that you may want to include:
- PCC is a large chain of co-ops and thus, a leader in issues like this. As a supporter of local foods, PCC must realize their actions affect the sustainability of small farms, the accessibility of local foods, and the opinions of consumers. By dropping raw milk, PCC is likely to hurt the operations of these farms, to reduce the store availability of raw milk in Seattle to two neighborhood stores, and to convince more people that raw milk is harmful.
- PCC has decided raw milk, more than any other product, has been the subject of recalls, and so they just felt it was too high a risk to sell it. That’s understandable, but it’s also important to note that a high number of recalls doesn’t necessarily mean it’s an unsafe product, it means it’s subject to more scrutiny and, frankly, politics. Especially lately, when the state seems to be increasing pressure on raw milk producers.
- PCC positions itself as a health food store. Raw whole milk, which is often produced by small farms raising cows on grass, is a source of animal-based fat-soluble vitamins in which we’re increasingly deficient as they disappear from modern diets. Unpasteurized, the milk also contains enzymes that help with digestion and absorption. PCC sells sugar and sugar-filled items, sells vegetable oil, sells processed food; these foods also kill people, and far, far more than raw milk — but a slow death from diabetes or cardiovascular disease is less dramatic and media-attention-grabbing than someone suddenly dying from E. coli.
- Customers should be able to make decisions for themselves based on accurate information. If raw milk were truly sickening everyone who consumed it (like, say, high fructose corn syrup), I could understand leaving it off the shelves. But, in reality, it’s a nutritious, unique product from small farms, that some people choose not to consume because they believe it to be higher risk. Leave it there, leave the warning up, and sell it for the customers who want it.
We’ve been pretty lucky in Washington State, compared to other states which limit or ban raw milk sales, and we’d like to keep it this way. Having raw milk available in stores makes raw milk production more financially realistic for small producers, and I’m worried this latest push is meant to drive producers out of business. And, while it’s true that occasionally there is a case of illness linked with raw milk, there are also many cases of illness linked with industrially produced foods, or widely-distributed foods, and we don’t see any long-term regulation on, say, bagged spinach and raw tomatoes. Nor do we see banning of foods that are, in the longer term, more insidiously harmful, like high fructose corn syrup or sugar.
There are a lot of voices against raw milk out there, many of whom have gotten their opinions straight from alarmist news articles. If you read enough articles saying raw milk is dangerous, or see enough signs in PCC saying raw milk sales have been canceled in the “interest of our customer health and safety,” you’ll likely also believe raw milk is an unsafe food. Countering this is difficult, but that makes it all the more important to try.
By the way, this would also be a great time to support Madison Market and Pike Place Creamery for selling raw milk. And, as always, to buy direct from farmers at the farmers’ market.
Thanks to Just Chaos for the flickr CC photo.