Why Raw Milk?

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ROCKWELL: Good morning, this is the Lew Rockwell Show. And how great to have as our guest this morning, Mr. Mark McAfee. Mark has been involved in organic – I would say, truly organic dairy farming, his family, since the 1950s. He’s CEO of Organic Pastures Dairy Company in Fresno. He’s a champion of raw milk and other raw dairy products, as being good for the customer and good for the cows, too. I know he doesn’t give his cows any hormones or antibiotics or GMOs, and uses sort of naturopathic ways of treating them. It’s known as a healthy cow herd.

So your customers appreciate you, Mark, but my guess is people in the parasite central, there in Washington, D.C., don’t appreciate you.

MCAFEE: (laughing) – I think they go beyond not appreciating.

(Laughter)

I don’t think they like me at all.

ROCKWELL: Well, that’s a medal on your chest, isn’t it?

MCAFEE: It is. It’s a target and a medal at the same time. But I try to ignore them as much as possible and just focus on one thing and that is taking really good care of our customers. And we have a very intimate relationship with them. They come visit us constantly. I’m invited to their homes and churches and schools to talk to them. And there’s nobody between us and our consumers when you do raw milk. And it’s a beautiful thing because I’m not cheated out of the money that we’ve earned and the consumers are not cheated out of any of the nutritional benefits of the raw milk because there’s no processing going on.

ROCKWELL: And isn’t there just a recent study showing some very significant nutritional and health benefits for children who are raised on raw milk as versus the government milk?

MCAFEE: I think that the world “nutrition” is kind of a light statement. I think that you have to go beyond saying “nutritional” and say – we’re talking about immune-system function here, which is a step beyond nutrition.

But you’re absolutely right. There’s been some huge studies done, especially in Europe. The most recent study was an Amish study done in Europe that showed that thousands of children that drank raw milk on a regular basis had a decrease in asthma, eczema and allergic rhinitis. And that was confirmed in two other huge studies in Europe, the PARCIFAL study, done in 2006, and the GABRIELA study, done in 2010 – 23,000 children studied in the Steiner schools across Europe, finding a dramatic decrease of asthma, allergies and allergic rhinitis. So we have three huge, peer-reviewed international studies that back up all the testimonial data we have in California. And we have 65,000 people a week drinking raw milk and watching their asthma go away.

And you have to remember that pasteurized milk is the most allergenic food in America. On the FDA website, it’s right there. Raw milk is exactly the opposite, making your allergies go away. So there’s dramatic differences in the immune-system functions as well as nutritional benefits of raw milk.

ROCKWELL: Well, Mark, given all these things, and given the fact that, really, shouldn’t customers be allowed to drink the milk they want to drink, why is the government engaged in arresting people and having SWAT teams visit –

(Laughter)

– an Amish farmer in Maryland, and I’m sure there are many other horrible examples of this stuff –

MCAFEE: Yeah.

ROCKWELL: – and putting people in jail for the crime of selling willing consumers the wonderful product they’d like to buy?

MCAFEE: The FDA has positioned itself in alignment with corporate interests. If you look at who runs the FDA, if you’ve seen the movie Food, Inc., it’s very clear. It’s very clear that obviously the experts about industry come from industry. And if you’re going to regulate industry, you get the industry experts. So our administration or whoever we elected, whether it’s a Democrat or whether it’s a Republican or anybody in between, generally, kind of ignores the regulatory regime. It’s kind of consistent. I mean, with who we had under Reagan and who we had under Bush and who we had under whatever president, Obama, it’s kind of the same thing going on. So what you’ve got is the FDA being regulated by people that have favors to be done on a revolving door.

And the National Conference on Interstate Milk Shipments, which is the organization which runs all the processors, has their buddies in the FDA that do favors for them and keep the market under their control. Remember that raw milk bypasses the processers. Processers hate raw milk because raw milk is not processed. So the consumers get a whole, unprocessed, wonderful food where the farmer is responsible for the condition of the product, the safety of the product. The processors get no money from it. The processors have been ripping off farmers like you can’t believe for the last 50 years. And, in fact, in 1982, there were 600,000 dairies in America. Now, there’s just a couple more than 49,000. So you can see – and there’s been no decrease in the number of cows. So you can see that this is about consolidation and about market control; not about food safety. It’s not about that at all. The data does not support the argument one bit about raw milk being unsafe. Yes, there’s been some illnesses, but no deaths from raw milk since 1973. And there’s been over 77 deaths from pasteurized milk, including eight children that died from the allergies to pasteurized milk. So it’s all about market control and greed and the processers’ voices being very dominant and the lobbyists and the regulatory regime, which is in control of everything right now.

ROCKWELL: Mark, I want to mention something else about raw milk products. I buy from a farmer who, in another part of the country, does the same sort of thing that you do. Whether it’s cottage cheese made from raw milk or cream, raw cream or other raw dairy products, the butter, they’re so much more delicious.

MCAFEE: Yes. They are better.

ROCKWELL: I mean, not only are they better for you, but they taste good.

MCAFEE: That’s the first thing that people say about our products, “It’s delicious! I love it! The flavor is incredible”! Yes, it’s the first people say. Great!

ROCKWELL: So what got you involved in this? What got your family involved in it? You’re sort of – I was going to say “pioneers,” but, of course, this is the way human beings always lived so I guess it’s not really –

MCAFEE: Yes.

ROCKWELL: But, I mean, what – what –

MCAFEE: Well, I have to give a little credit to Alta Dena Dairy that had raw milk in California, a huge hundred-million-dollar business for 50 years, from the ’40s through the ’90s. The Stueves really kept raw milk legal here in California as big agricultural interests tried to get rid of it. But the Stueves and the Alta Dena brand, which is a huge California brand, went out of business in May of 1999.

I did not know about Alta Dena. I was actually a certified paramedic for about 15 years, until 1996, and my wife’s in the medical field. And we inherited our family farms, and my grandparents had passed away and my brothers didn’t want a farm, so I got the privilege of taking over our 60-acres of farm. And I didn’t want to farm like everybody else. I wanted to connect directly to our consumers. I wanted to be vertically integrated. I wanted to be organic and local and all those good things. And with the development of our farming operations, I developed a small dairy. And people – we were actually selling our milk to be pasteurized to Organic Valley. But people started showing up from Los Angeles in 2000, literally six months after Alta Dena had gone away in bankruptcy – or not in bankruptcy, but sold – saying we want your milk raw; it’s organic, unprocessed; we want your milk raw. And they started paying $10 a gallon for it instead of $2.50 a gallon. And the economics of it made a lot of sense.

And then the stories that people told me were very, very compelling. Whenever I would go on a paramedic call, I would take all my equipment and the heroes would arrive at the house, the 911 call to go save somebody’s life, whether short of breath or unconscious or god knows what, and we would always find a pile of FDA-approved drugs sitting right next to them, and nowhere in the house is there ever any good food. And that is something that has always been very compelling to me in my life. And I’m very pleased now to be, you know, preventing disease through good nutrition and immune-system function to prevent 911 calls and the use of only drugs to cure disease, which is really a misnomer. When you think about FDA policy that they say you can make no claims on anything other than the FDA-approved drug for health, that’s an outrageous, egregious misstatement of the way Mother Nature works. You know, all diseases start in the gut basically. If you mistreat your gut and you abuse it, antibiotics and sterilized foods and preservatives, you’re going to have disease in your life at some point, some kind of disease process. If you have a really healthy immune system, which is 80% of the biodiversity of your gut bacteria is your immune system, then the odds of getting a disease or illness are very, very low.

So we are really, really privileged here at Organic Pastures Dairy to be connected to our consumers and preventing disease through nutrition. And that’s kind of the genesis of how I got to where I am now.

ROCKWELL: Mark, what’s happening to the industry as a whole in the country? Is the reason that they’re stepping up the crackdown because you’re more and more successful, and more and more customers, or do they feel that they can stamp you out from the other end of things?

MCAFEE: Well, it’s interesting because there are 50 different states and 50 different states of chaos – (laughing) – in America with regards to raw milk. The national standard for raw milk is there shall be no raw milk. And that’s the FDA. You can’t take it across state lines. And they’ve left it pretty much up to the states to have individual rules and regulations on raw milk.

In California, raw milk is 100% legal. It always has been. But it’s highly regulated and it’s tested and it’s very much under the scrutiny of the regulators for sure. We’re very intensively monitored here. And it’s not something that many dairymen want to do because the last thing a dairyman wants to have is an inspector around his neck all the time. So we live with inspectors around our neck constantly here. And we’re very introspective about our food safety plan.

So where you go to other states, raw milk is not legal, then you have a regulatory scheme which aligns with the FDA and in agreement with the FDA, then you have a real problem, the fact that the FDA policy becomes state policy. In California, the FDA policy is not the state policy. We have our own regulatory regime.

So at this point, what we’re finding is a tremendous amount of success in raw milk across the United States, especially in small dairies that are locally connected to consumers. It’s very exciting because farmers are doing well with raw milk. Consumers are thriving. I think the threat is that the processors are feeling it by the decrease in pasteurized milk consumption where they’re seeing a decrease of 1% to 3% per year in terms of pasteurized milk consumption. However, even pasteurized cheeses are doing well and pasteurized yogurts are doing well because they’ve added bacteria and enzymes back into that product to make it a more digestible product in terms of life. Pasteurized milk is basically dead. And very few people can digest it. We have 30% to 40% of the population who are lactose intolerant now that can’t even drink pasteurized milk. And it being the most allergenic food in America, doctors are steering away from consumption of pasteurized milk products.

So I think there is a thriving testimonial-based, word-of-mouth back and forth on the Internet sharing that’s going on that’s supporting raw milk markets. And we saw a 22% growth last year in our markets alone in California without advertising.

ROCKWELL: Of course, we also have the factor that people don’t like to be told what not to do.

MCAFEE: Right. It’s a freedom issue.

ROCKWELL: So prohibition encourages a lot of people to try – they want to try the product that’s being prohibited.

MCAFEE: You’re exactly right. In fact, we’ve kind of seen this where there’s an inverse relationship between harassment of raw milk and its popularity. The more the government advises you not to drink it, the more people want to get it. So there’s kind of an – (laughing) – interesting thing going on there.

ROCKWELL: Well, my own view is you should always do the opposite of what the government tells you to do in all areas.

(Laughter)

MCAFEE: That’s pretty good advice – (laughing).

ROCKWELL: So that would certainly be true in the case of raw milk.

MCAFEE: Yes.

ROCKWELL: So you’re finding your own business successful and you’re able to negotiate the regulatory waters in California. The feds are not directly oppressing you. You have a successful business.

MCAFEE: We have a successful business. It’s thriving – 60 employees, 18 trucks, 400 stores, almost $9 million a year now in sales, and growing at 20% a year. I’m begging other farmers to please participate and help us in this market because in a couple of years there’s probably going to be a shortage of raw milk here in California where we won’t be able to produce enough or we’ll have to build another dairy of something. But this is a people product and it should be something that all of us participate in. It’s not something, we’re going to feed California. There’s 35 million people here. And, you know, we need to have more small, raw-milk dairymen connected and being responsible doing this.

But it is a thriving business. It’s an exciting business. And we’re not only paid well monetarily but we’re paid in social dollars as well. People come by and give us a hug and say, would you take a picture with us, and, thank you so much for the fact that my kids don’t have ear infections anymore and asthma’s gone away, and I don’t have to give the kids steroid pills and asthma inhalers. And this is something where tears come to the mother’s eyes. And that really goes to my heart, where the money aspect is not as essential at all in the sustainability of what we are – the sustainability is the social responsibility we have for our customers. And that’s something that American farmers just don’t have anymore because they’re so disconnected from their consumers. The brokers and the brands are the people that take all that away and don’t appreciate that social responsibility, the philanthropic kind of endeavor, where we get a full dose of that, and it’s beautiful. It’s beautiful to have that food-chain relationship.

ROCKWELL: Mark, one last question. How many cows do you have?

MCAFEE: We’re milking about 425. We own about 600 here, including all the calves and bulls and everything, but we’re milking about 425 today.

ROCKWELL: Well, thanks so much for coming on the show and telling us about your business and the work you’re doing. And, of course, we’ll link to your Facebook page and to your website. And all I can say is keep it up.

MCAFEE: Thank you so much, and I appreciate the time.

ROCKWELL: Great, Mark. Bye-bye.

MCAFEE: Take care. Bye-bye.

ROCKWELL: Well, thanks so much for listening to the Lew Rockwell Show today. Take a look at all the podcasts. There have been hundreds of them. There’s a link on the upper right-hand corner of the LRC front page. Thank you.

Podcast date, August 3, 2012

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