Most consumers are used to pasteurized milk – the rapid heating and cooling kills most of the organisms, good and bad, and prevents disease-causing agents such as campylobacter, salmonella, E.coli and listeria from building up during the time the milk is handled, processed, packaged and shipped to stores. Colorado regulations currently require that milk must be pasteurized.
However, a group of dairy farmers are proponents of raw milk – milk that is unpasteurized. David Lynch, Colorado’s chief advocate for raw milk and the inspiration behind Guidestone Farm, a tiny organic co-op tucked in a little valley near the Big Thompson River, maintains that raw milk has been a human staple for almost 10,000 years. Lynch and others argue that raw milk contains a suite of enzymes and bacteria that the body needs. It’s a healing food, he said.
Lynch, 56, and several other raw-milk producers and drinkers found a loophole in the law: They buy and sell shares in the cows and pay for their upkeep, then get the milk for free. State health officials have known of the cow-share arrangement for several years but never sought to regulate it. Lynch is now pushing a bill that would make it legal for investors in a dairy herd to obtain raw milk from their cows. The measure, sponsored by state Sen. Steve Johnson, R-Fort Collins, survived a state House committee vote after passing the Senate last month.
Colorado dairy producers don’t think much of Lynch’s raw-milk program. They feel one bad outbreak of milk-borne disease from unregulated raw milk could taint their food-safety image.
“The thing our dairy farmers support is rigorous testing and oversight by the health department and FDA (Food and Drug Administration),” said lobbyist Cindy French of the Colorado Dairy Farmers.
Lynch’s bill would require producers to identify standards to maintain herd health and register with the Colorado Department of Agriculture. Lynch preaches a model of agriculture as it used to be: small organic plots tended by a landowner who sells a variety of products directly to local customers.
“The minute you get to large-scale production, the risk to human health increases rather dramatically,” he said. “But a person doing small-scale dairy can make it work. My goal is to see other small dairy farms with raw-milk operations in every county of the state.”