Eric Flowers of the Oregon Bulletin reports that although the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and state regulators strongly discourage the consumption of raw milk because of the possibility of disease, local dairies and raw milk advocates still decide to sell the product through cow-share programs.
Because much of the raw-milk trade happens below industry and regulatory radar, there is no firm count on the number of raw-milk drinkers or raw-milk dairies.
Under Oregon state law, commercial dairies are prohibited from distributing raw milk. The only exception is for small operations with three cows or less, which are permitted to sell raw milk on-site but cannot advertise sales or ship off the premises. Herd shares, or condominium cows, are an attempt to bypass those regulations by allowing the customer to purchase the cow rather than the milk.
The Oregon Dairy Farmers Association strongly opposes the practice, out of concern for the possibility of E.coli and salmonella outbreaks.
In Washington, the state permits raw-milk dairies to market and sell their product to the general public. But dairies must register with the state and submit to monthly inspections. Producers also must label raw milk with a warning sticker.
Officials in both states are starting to crack down on dairies that provide raw milk illegally to customers willing to pay premium prices for the product regardless of the potential health hazards.